The main thing I noticed after the first book in the “Black Wings” series is the main character has no friends. Her gay BFF co-worker is quickly killed, and then it’s just her and 2 men fighting over her affections, a fiance forced on her, and 2 father figures fighting over who gets to control her. I feel like this is the genre “innocent country girl comes to the intrigue-filled court”. She’s even a virgin. Her main hobby is sharing junk food at home with her talking ca-, errr, mini-gargoyle.
Secret world premise #1 is her job, which is meeting people when they die and escorting them to the afterlife portal. It’s pretty easy — the office tells her who, when and where ahead of time. You just have to fly there using your free pair of black wings which also turn you invisible. You may recognize this from the 2003 TV show “Dead Like Me” (but no wings). I was excited — the TV show had funny deaths with life-lessons from the departed. But this has 2 routine deaths and then drops the idea. Drops it hard — everyone in the office is killed by the bad guy. Secret world premise #2 is “court intrigue with demons”. All of the fallen angels from millennia-ago have courts, and ancient feuds and complicated bloodlines. It’s revealed our heroine is 1/2 demon on 1 side, and the only living great-great-great offspring of the demon king on the other, so demon court is the big through-plot.
The baddie in this book is a mindless thug demon. We never find out much about his deal. Early on he dismembers her BFF to make a point. Dialogue is roughly: “his soul didn’t taste as good as your mother’s when I killed her 15 years ago, but better than the other souls of people I routinely kill”. So I guess her mom is dead. Not to be one-upped, we get to know her sometimes-friendly witch contact, who is then murdered by her long-lost demon father to make a different point.
Romance-wise, her boss is a total jerk to her, but we find out at the end it’s because he’s in love with her; and is also a wizard with a mysterious non-human parent. More important, a mysterious super-sexy stranger (OK, a half-angel/half-demon sent to protect her) rents the downstairs unit and flirts with her. She’s angry when she finds he enspelled her ca-, errr, mini-gargoyle, but only so she can forgive him later. Sadly, he’s so low-status in the demon world that their love is forbidden. Her demon father then assigns her a foppish arrogant husband, but clever thinking on her part puts off the marriage for a year. We also meet her new demon 1/2-brother, and her great-great … grandfather on her mother’s side. To sum up: 6 dudes are fighting over her.
The plot with the brutal demon seems disposable, like a romance plot. It kills scores of people – way too many for this genre. In a change-up near the end we get a lovely vision from her first demon ancestor, reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s “fun” prose. We learn the evil angel (not a demon — an evil angel) who killed that ancestor is now the lover of Crude Demon Bad Guy (this is the only sex scene in the book). In the final scene our heroine incinerates the bad guy with her magic (somewhere in there she’s learned: blue flame blast, white sunforce blast, and a third with unknown color). That’s followed by her monologueing, getting her heart ripped out as the bad guy comes back to life, using her regeneration power which works on everything but hearts, discovering she doesn’t need a heart after all, and killing the bad guy for real this time. While we puzzle over that, her 6 lovers/fathers/??’s walk in and say how much they all really want her now.
I saw the author “Tina” Henry at a SciFi convention. Seemed very nice. Said she was upset this series was dropped by the publisher, but was onto a new series with a different take on Alice in Wonderland. Here’s the weird part: as I bought “Black Wings” I got a free copy of another one of her books, “The Mermaid”. It was great! Not hot-romance-great or cool-monsters great either — it was legitimate-book-you-wouldn’t-be-embarrassed-to-let-people-know-you-read great. Who gets a cheesy series cancelled and says “well, I guess I’ll write a terrific book while I think of another silly series to start”?