Megan Hart’s Black Wings is a gothic thriller that focusses on the lives of a seemingly ordinary family. Marian Blake lives in a typical street with her typical – if a little dysfunctional – family. There is her husband, Dean, and her daughter, Briella, yet, every so often, she must also accommodate for her ex-husband, Briella’s father. Marian finds Tommy’s return to her life distracting, and spends much of her time coming to understand the dynamics of their new relationship. As a result, she isn’t always able to give Briella the time she deserves, and so is surprised when Briella’s school suggests that she starts attending Parkhaven, a private school for extremely gifted children.
The hope is that Parkhaven will help Briella to work through her… extracurricular activities. She’s always thinking, always problem-solving, and always working alone on her ‘project’. Yet Briella’s devotion to her work quickly turns into an obsession, and, encouraged by the teachers at Parkhaven, she begins to question things that no ten-year-old child should be questioning. Marian has only the occasional glimpse into her daughter’s mind, but even in these fleeting moments, she finds herself unsettled. There is something wrong with her daughter – something that involves the mysterious raven, Onyx, that seems to follow her wherever she goes.
Black Wings is a dramatic thriller that questions the power of the human mind, unpicking the mother-daughter relationship to uncover a supernatural world of adventure – and extreme danger.
When I first began Black Wings, I was expecting to read a story that would unsettle me. The book’s premise, along with its subject, suggested it would tell a story that was truly chilling. For the most part, I believe Black Wings lived up to its reputation; any gothic novel involving a child sets itself apart as a story which has the potential to make its audience feel distinctly uncomfortable. Throughout the novel, I felt a sharp curiosity, wanting to uncover Briella’s mysteries, but I was restricted by the ignorance of her own mother. We see through Marian’s eyes, and so when Marian doesn’t question her daughter’s behaviour, we, as readers, are unable to understand what the mysterious girl is planning. This makes for quite an effective narrative technique, because it means that a sense of mystery can be maintained throughout the story. The downside of this is, of course, is that the narrative can, at times, come across as a little frustrating.
Yet Marian is not a totally despicable character; it is easy to understand why she is unable to give her daughter the attention she deserves – she doesn’t understand her, and although she tries her hardest to connect with her, it may just be that no one can understand Briella. The result is a somewhat morally ambiguous character; I disapproved of the way Marian seemed to neglect her daughter, but I also understood her actions; she is a mother placed in an impossible situation, and so it is easy to redeem the way she decides to handle it. This moral ambiguity resulted in a character who was compelling and interesting to read about.
As for the supernatural aspects of this novel – they were of good quality, but I must say that I was expecting more. Onyx made for an interesting character, and he was certainly eerie, but I feel as though I wanted more of a focus on him, and less of a focus on Marian sneaking off for a cigarette in the middle of the day. It’s also worth mentioning that, as the book is written from Marian’s perspective, many of Briella’s actions – as well as her motivations – are concealed. I expected many of these to be resolved towards the end of the novel, but I was left a little disappointed. I liked the ending, but it didn’t offer many explanations as to what Briella had actually been doing. This may have been a purposeful decision, as it did help maintain the mystery of the story, but I can’t help from wondering whether there are a few loose ends still lost somewhere around the middle of Black Wings.
Despite a few negatives, I cannot deny the fact that I really enjoyed reading this novel. It is exceptionally dramatic, capable of keeping its readers engaged even during the slower parts of the narrative. There is a tension that runs throughout this story, and it is impossible not to admire it. The book is well-written, too; there were a few periods of odd phrasing, but, for the most part, I was pleased with the style of writing. In fact, I was pleased with most of this book; it didn’t outstand me, but it certainly engaged me, and I have had a pleasant time reading it. Despite its connections to the gothic genre, I would argue that this is quite a light read; it has relatively short chapters, and is sure to delight anyone interested in a story filled with drama.
Thanks for reading! For those of you who are following my January 2019 reading challenge, this was one of the books I wanted to read before the end of the month, which means that I now only have one more book to go.
You can click here for an A-Z list of all my reviews (so far)!