The people of Uztar rever the birds of prey in the sky, and no one is more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.
Brysen strives to be a great falconer–while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war with its cause in falconry is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.
Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen will go for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.
Fantasy is one of the genres I’m the most picky with, and this one just ended up being not as perfect for me as I expected.
Black Wings Beating is an extremely well-written fantasy debut filled with falconry and magic and all sorts of political strife. It was basically set up for me to love: it had diverse characters, it’s an #OwnVoices novel for queer characters, and it had a solid premise.
So, I’m honestly left kind of confused as why I wasn’t “OMG THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.” But I think I’ve gotten down to the bottom of it.
I wasn’t really invested, which was largely a cause of low-key despising one of the characters. #sorrynotsorry, but Brysen, man, I really disliked you.
And it’s not like he was a terrible person at the beginning or end of the book! His character grew and he had a solid and understandable backstory and had flaws that were eventually worked on. His growth was done really well, but he just had qualities that personally nag on me, like being ungrateful.
It’s all really justified and London does an amazing job shaping his character arc, but wow that kid was a serious mood killer.
He was ungrateful for his sister, he was reckless, too proud, but also he’s a boy and he’s flawed and he has a lot to learn in life. And he does learn, and it turns out to be a great story, but I just wanted to bang my head against the wall for some of the things he did.
BECAUSE UGH WHY. It’s like watching a trainwreck happen as Brysen does reckless things and Kylee has to clean up his mess.
And I can’t emphasize enough how Brysen’s arc was written really well! I just personally didn’t like him as a character for most of it. And it’s possible to write books with unlikeable characters, but in Black Wings Beating, it felt like my dislike for Brysen seeped into the other parts of the story because of his actions.
At this point, it probably seems like I despised this book, but I actually ended up really liking it in the end. Sure, Brysen got on my nerves, but I also understood why, and also believe that his character won’t bother other readers as much as it did with me.
(I just find ungrateful narrators even more irritating than angsty love triangles ones.)
Kylee was a totally awesome character, and I loved reading about how she kept denying her power, which is something we don’t really see in fantasy. I enjoyed reading how this was different from the norm.
Plus, the politics and political machinations were SO ON POINT. I thought London did an amazing job building this book up, and I so loved how the world is being built and how much is in store for us.
Because of how Brysen changed throughout the book, I’m actually super excited to read book 2. There are so many good things in store for the characters (or, well, exciting bad things), and I am totally going to pick that up! (Also, Brysen has a new love interest who’s not a douchebag.)
It sucks, but me not connecting with Brysen was honestly why I didn’t love this as much as I hoped to. This was still a great book, and one I’d definitely recommend, but for me personally, parts of it didn’t click.
(Also, I guess I don’t like birds as much as I thought I did. They’re honestly kinda scary.)
I would recommend this if you’re looking for a diverse fantasy read feat. LGBTQ+ main characters and falcons and all sorts of avian goodness!
Thank you so much to Macmillan and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!