Book – The Black Feather (The Angels and Demons of Babylon #1)
Author – J.M. Wolf
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 308
Cover – Stunning!
POV – 3rd person, omni present, multi POV
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Romance, Angels/Demons
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
WARNINGS: domestic physical/mental abuse, violence, mental abuse/illness and attempted rape.
This debut novel from J.M. Wolf really packs a punch.
To start off, the presentation is utterly gorgeous, from cover to the dreamcatcher chapter headings, the chapter titles and the feather scene dividers; there's nothing about this book that isn't pretty to look at.
On the inside, there's an original take on the Angels/Demons theme that begins right on page one with Scott, our MC. Right off, we get an intriguing first chapter and a view into Scott's life, from relating to his struggles, feeling sympathy for his situation and the very serious issues that plague his life (see warnings). These are all really serious issues handled in a very sympathetic and respectful way, but they're not ignored or over-emphasised, either. They are a part of Scott and his life experience, but they're also something that he has to try to overcome, both alone and with the help of new friends.
Leaving the serious aside, because I don't want to spoil the story, I have to applaud the genius of stepping straight into the thick of the story, with the first meeting between Scott and “Blue Eyes” Bastion, as well as the mysterious Angel's Haven cafe that appeared out of nowhere. Not only did it draw my attention, keeping me intrigued about how the issues would be resolved, how Scott would discover who his hero might be and where it might lead, but it also allowed us to get to know Scott properly, before we were expected to care about him and his life. There was no boring beginning here.
The story doesn't make the mistake of some other debuts that I've read. It isn't overloaded with description, but it doesn't forget it, either. There's a really nice attention to detail, a balance between descriptive showing/telling, as well as a subtlety in the writing style that focuses on what's important to the story and the characters. Which really showcases the characterisation, because the entire story was built upon the foundation of the characters and their lives.
As characters, I loved Scott. For a 21-year-old, he's down to earth, logical and street smart. He's been pushed down his entire life and his journey into emotional and physical independence was beautiful to read and follow, even as he faced struggles he could never have imagined being part of his life. His skills aren't over-the-top and perfect for what he's going to face throughout the story; what he's able to do, the parkour and gymnastics, are normal things for a man of his age to be capable of. He doesn't suddenly have all of these skills that no one in their right mind would have at his age; he's like any normal kid thrust into a world he never expected to exist, trying to find his way, including learning how to function and adapt what he knows.
Bastion is an interesting guy. He's got a hint of the old Angel, from Buffy; dark, brooding, but with a softer side that keeps him a constant mystery. He's also a bit of a worrywart, but with good reason. His abilities aren't thrust in our face, making him the most perfect MC love interest possible. He's a normal guy, who just happens to be a little different. But, he's not the biggest baddest mo-fo in the world, either. He's capable of being beaten, of feeling depression and fear; he's real and relatable.
The POV is omni-present in places, but about 80% dual POV. Normally, that would really frustrate me, but it made sense here because it's done with a purpose. Bastion gets his first POV at Chapter 4, where it's most logical to see his POV, because it's only at this point that Scott first meets him in person. And, again, later on there are aspects of omni-presence where it's important to know what both Scott and Bastion are seeing/feeling, even a few scenes where Ariel and Luc get their POV, or where Emmanuelle and Ornias need to let us know what they see/think. There are some places, after Chapter 11, where the omni-POV is split a little more obviously, giving a one line gap between the various passages/scenes/paragraphs where the POV has to split between Scott and Bastion. But, this is done for a reason and has a really good effect of only revealing things at the right point.
It's this multi-, omni-POV that allows the reader to formulate their own opinions and guesses about the plot and the big secrets yet to be revealed. There are a trail of hints and clues throughout the story and the character's observations that help us, the reader, figure things out along the way, and leave us feeling completely immersed in every detail and occurrence, as well as letting us feel connected to the story and the characters.
Negatives? Nothing, really. For a debut novel it was very well written, excellently plotted and the editing was pretty good. This is an unedited arc, so the minor issues I found will definitely be spotted before publication. What were they? There was one or two slips into present tense, one single instance of 1st person POV (literally one “I” instead of “he”) and a few capital letters in odd places. But, that is it and that's not a lot for an unedited novel.
Overall, this is a story packed with action, romance and secrets. The story – and the author – aren't afraid to jump right into the thick of things. The novel begins with that all important first meeting, while giving us time to get to know Scott and to think about the secrets he's trying to unravel.
This is an impressive debut with clear storytelling ability that drew me in right from the first. I can't wait to read the next installment of the series.
“He'd reluctantly gotten used to seeing the bruises and cuts on his body. Abuse must also be what he was attracted to because every relationship he had always ended with Scott either mentally or physically strained. For Scott, Babylon was a cage, in which he was the lonely bird. Trapped inside with no way out.”
“Was there ever a good time to tell your human boyfriend that you're a demon?”