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What: Black Wings Beating (Skybound #1) by Alex London

Who: Farrar Straus Giroux

When: September 25th 2018

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia for review.

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one 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 for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war 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 goes 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.


1) The writing style

The writing style was super easy to sink into, and I found that I read Black Wings Beating in one day. There was just something about the style that was simple and enjoyable to read. There was nothing overly flowery about it but it wasn’t bare bones, either. It was a writing style I really liked, and it makes me keen to read more by Alex London.

2) The world

I really liked the idea of a world where birds are kind of revered, and where most people have a bird that is bonded to them. I thought it was an interesting concept, and unlike almost anything I’ve ever read.

3) The diversity

Both main characters are described as having brown skin, and Brysen is gay. Kylee was giving me some strong aromantic vibes but I don’t know if it was actual aromantic rep or the “to be a strong girl you can’t be romantic” trope. I guess we’ll see. There was also a side character who read as trans to me, and the boy who is in love with Kylee is black.


1) The world

Even though I did like the general gist of the world, I also didn’t like it. Because birds were at the hands of humans, there was copious cruelty and I hated that. Also, there wasn’t quite enough background lore on how this bird situation came to be, which I would have liked. Furthermore, the distinctions between the three semi-religious groups were never outlined clearly. It was like the opposite of an info-dump. The characters just talked about the three groups and the reader was supposed to catch on to what each one was about.

2) The child abuse

If something as heavy as child abuse is going to play a role in a book, I want it to be handled in a way that is sensitive. I honestly felt like the child abuse in Black Wings Beating was just a cheap trick to give the main characters a dark past to overcome. The long-lasting effects of child abuse were never explored, nor where the feelings of the children. I understand repression in children and young people, but in a book I think it either needs to be clear that the characters are repressing their feelings/memories or they need to explored. Neither occurred in Black Wings Beating and I honestly felt like the whole issue was handled badly.

3) Random chapters

Scattered throughout the novel were random chapters from random characters’ perspectives. I believe these were included so that the story of the next book/s could be introduced without actually being a part of the two main characters’ lives in this book. I thought these were a tad unnecessary because it made out like this big, scary war was coming and it… didn’t. Which is why it felt like a set-up for the next book/s. There was no war in Black Wings Beating, but obviously there will be in the series at some point. I just would have preferred a more natural timeline, I guess.

4) What romance???

From author quotes and the blurb/jacket copy I honestly thought there was going to be a romance (or maybe two, since there were two narrators in this book). There wasn’t. The journey begins because of a boy that Brysen is dating, and that’s the end of that. There’s some mild flirtation between Brysen and a boy he meets on the journey, and between Kylee and a boy but there was definitely no sweeping romance in this novel. I feel LIED TO.


Overall, I can’t say that I enjoyed Black Wings Beating. There were certainly aspects I liked, but the hefty doses of animal death and cruelty, and the lack of sensitivity regarding the child abuse just left a bad taste in my mouth. I am undecided as to whether I’ll continue the series, as I imagine the animal deaths would only increase.

© 2018, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

reference to self harm, torture, slavery, use of ableist language, graphic depictions of child abuse, multiple animal deaths, gore, multiple murders, animal cruelty, death of father, physical assault, murder of brother

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Posted on: October 30, 2018 • By: Chiara

2 Responses to Likes and Dislikes of Black Wings Beating by Alex London

  1. I’ve been seeing pretty similar thoughts around, which is a bummer! I love that it has some great diversity, and while I don’t mind books without romance, it would suck going in with the idea that there is romance and then not really getting it. Kind of weird how that happened. And animal cruelty is usually tough for me to read/watch, so not sure I’d handle that well.


    • Chiara says:

      Yeah, this one was a miss for me, which sucks because I thought I would absolutely fall in love with it! I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series because I think my time would be better spent elsewhere, since I only imagine the animal cruelty would get worse. Though maybe the romance would happen. haha.

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