I’ve just been on a roll with great fantasy reads, lately, and today, I’m excited to talk to you about yet another one! Wings of Ebony by J. Elle is a book that first popped on my radar last year when I saw the magnificent color. When I discovered it was a new YA fantasy that features Black Girl Magic, I knew I was going to read it. That’s why I was so excited to be offered a spot on the book tour being run by Caffeine Book Tours! There are, of course, many other wonderful bloggers, bookstagrammers, and Booktubers on this tour. If you’d like to see the schedule and check out their content, click here.
Before we get more into my tour stop post, I want to thank Caffeine Book Tours and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for my participation in this tour. It is, as always, very much appreciated!
Alright, now let’s talk about this fascinating book!
“‘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 Ghizon—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 Ghizon’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 Ghizon—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 neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.”
- Author: J. Elle
- Series: Wings of Ebony #1
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: January 26th, 2021
- Genre: Fantasy
- Age group: Young Adult
- Cover artist: Taj Francis
- Content/Trigger warnings: Representations of gun violence (not graphic), reference to drugs, reference to murder, reference to genocide, on-page racism, violence
About the Author
J. Elle was born in Houston, Texas, and is a first-generation college student with a bachelor’s in journalism and MA in educational administration and human development. An advocate for marginalized voices in both publishing and her community, J. Elle’s passion for empowering youth dates back to her first career in education. She’s worked as a preschool director, middle school teacher, and high school creative writing mentor. In her spare time, she volunteers at an alternative school, provides feedback for aspiring writers, loves on her three littles, and cooks up dishes true to her Texas and Louisiana roots.
My Review + Quote Graphic
When I first heard of Wings of Ebony, I was beyond hyped to be getting another fantasy book featuring literal Black Girl Magic! In 2020, most of my favorite new fantasy books starred people who look like me and I’m ready for that representation to continue in 2021. So, seeing the title and reading the synopsis, I knew this was a book that I’d want to read.
The story follows a young Black woman named Rue, who has recently discovered that magic is not only real, but her long-absent father lives in a place where it can be bound to you. Rue grew up in East Row, a neighborhood in Houston that is more family to her than the strange people in her new ‘home’ can ever be, and she is desperate to get back to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death. When she finds a way back, however, not only does she break one of the cardinal rules of the Ghizoni, but she sets off a series of events that will change her, her neighborhood, and the secret island of magic users, forever.
Y’all, when I tell you this story drops you into the action and keeps you running until the very end! This was such an engaging, exciting read that completely captured my attention as soon as I read the first page! I will admit that it took me a second to get my bearings. There isn’t a ton of explanation, at first, and most of it gets told through flashbacks as you get deeper into the story. But, once I adjusted to the way the story was being unfolded, I was engrossed. The writing is punchy, making the pages flow by at such a pace that you don’t realize that you’ve been reading for hours when you come up for a breath. Not that you’ll want to… this is a book that could definitely be read in one sitting because you just need to know what happens next!
In conjunction with the great writing, I think the author does a fantastic job with the world-building. She creates an incredibly rich world and mythology that sets fire to the imagination! I will admit that, at the beginning, there were moments when it felt a bit info-dumpy, but, in the context of Rue being dropped into the middle of this society she knows nothing about, it kind of makes sense. We’re learning along with Rue and it’s utterly fascinating. I have to admit, I loved the mythology and background we learn of later in the book way more and I wish we had gotten more of it! Thankfully, this is just the first book in a series, so I’m hoping we get more in future books.
Moving on from the incredible setting, though, I have to talk about our lead character, Rue. I absolutely adore Rue! Did she make me want to shake her? Frequently. But I blame that on the fact that the author did an excellent job of portraying a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood forced to make a lot of very hard decisions. All while trying to protect the family and the home that she loves. That’s a lot to place on any young woman’s shoulder and, when you add the fact that she’s one of the only Black people in Ghizon where she’s treated with suspicion and distain, you begin to understand her motivation. Still wanted to shake her, though 😂 J. Elle has crafted such an incredibly real and complex character, who feels like someone I could bump into on the street. It’s beautiful watching Rue on her journey of growth and magic and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here! The supporting characters are crafted with just as much care, though I will say that Rue’s potential love interest(s) could have used a bit more fleshing out.
Speaking of love interest, there is a splash of romance in this story that kind of took me by surprised. It seemed to come out of nowhere and threw me off just a tad, at first. I found myself more or less on board as the story advanced, but I honestly was so wrapped up in the action that I kept forgetting about the romance until it was right in front of my face, lol. I’m hoping it gets more interwoven into the story as it progresses because I thought it was sweet! Just kind of sudden.
Final thoughts: Black Girl Magic strikes again! Wings of Ebony is a beautifully imagined and fast-paced fantasy that asks a lot of questions about what one is willing to do for their family. It’s a love letter to tight-knit Black communities. And it’s a fantasy filled with magic and danger that features a beautiful Black young woman with all her flaws and strengths on full display. I loved the nuance of our main character, Rue. I loved that we learn about this new world along with her, though it can be a bit info-dumpy. And I loved the way this story sucks you in and will not let go! If you’re looking for a fantasy that digs into the concept of family, of racism, and features Blackness front and center, I think you would enjoy Wings of Ebony!