Review: Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Goodreads Synopsis: In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games. “Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghazan—a hidden island of magic wielders. Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghazan’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life. Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghazan—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighbourhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy

Date of Publication: January 26th, 2021

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 368 pages

My rating: 4/5 

Thank you to the author, Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the digital ARC of this book! 

Rue is a normal teenager living in East Row, getting on as best she can with her sister Tasha and her mother. Her life is upended suddenly when her mother is shot dead and her dad whisks her away to a far away land called Ghazan. It turns out that Rue is half-human, half-god, and is begrudgingly brought into Ghazani society and given access to their magical powers. When Rue finds out her sister Tasha is in trouble back in Houston, she breaks several of Ghazan’s rules to get back to her, and in doing so sets off a chain reaction of events that puts the lives of everyone she cares about in danger. As Rue discovers more about her ancestry and the history of Ghazan, she begins to realize that the problems in East Row are more connected to her new life in Ghazan than she thought. 

“Moms raised a diamond, and diamonds don’t crack.” 

What an absolute powerhouse of a debut novel. The author J. Elle manages to take the classic story of ‘human brought into a magical world’ and flip it on it’s head, bringing new life into the tried-and-true genre. Rue’s story is captivating right from the beginning, and the action-packed plot kept me hooked from start to finish. While largely a fantasy novel, J. Elle manages to inject a lot of real-world situations into the story, making this a very topical read for 2021. The way J. Elle mixes social commentary into the other-worldly plot of the book adds to the powerful message of the story and helps to form a deeper connection with the reader. 

As a main character, Rue manages to shine both as a powerful heroine and as a fun and relatable narrator. The book includes a lot of teenage slang which helps bring focus to Rue’s age and highlights her identity, and overall it fits quite naturally into the story. I really liked the side characters that made up the community of East Row, and I hope we get to see them develop more in a future sequel. I will admit I did enjoy the parts of the story that took place in Houston and East Row the most. While Ghazan was an integral part of the book, I found myself eagerly awaiting the next foray into the ‘real world’. 

Wings of Ebony was a great blend of fiction and real life, with a main character who fits well into both worlds. I’m looking forward to reading more from J. Elle, and especially a continuation of Rue’s story. I would recommend this book to lovers of Young Adult Fantasy, especially anyone who wants a refreshingly new take on the classic ‘Harry Potter’ style fantasy novel. Available for pre-order or purchase on January 26th, 2021. 

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