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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times best seller!

“A remarkable, breathtaking, earthshaking, poetic thrillride.” (Daniel José Older, New York Times best-selling author of Shadowshaper)

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry and must save both the human and god worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games!

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon - a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon - an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

©2021 J. Elle. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Bahni Turpin nails her portrayal of Rue, a Black teenager who, upon her mother's tragic death, discovers that her long-absent father is a god, that she herself is a godling, and that she must leave her human half sister to travel to the magical island of Ghizon. Turpin brings a convincing emotional range to the story as she depicts Rue's parental resentment, grief and love toward her surviving half sister, suspicion toward her white Ghizonian peers, and rage toward the white gang members who are terrorizing what had been, until recently, her Black neighborhood. Throughout, Turpin also demonstrates a talent for making the great one-liners in this novel sing for the listener. Add this to your audiobook list!" (AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about Wings of Ebony

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Finally

THE Caveat: First, all the Black books we have are wins. From Toni Morrison to Tracy Deonn. It’s always a win. The things I say in this review are specifically in reference to 1) ya fantasy 2) a very particular story being called worthy, so it’s truly no shade to any other Black author or book. This is MY truth based on MY life so leave me be. I’m saying this here because I’m not about to put a bunch of qualifiers throughout this review. They’re here. I love a variety of Black stories. We need diversity in the TYPES of stories told. I’ve been waiting for this kind and I’m gonna celebrate it without restraint below.
RATING: 6/5. Yeah, 6, because J.Elle is exceeding the bar and critiquing it all at the same time and you’re just gonna have to stay mad.
Review!!!
So there’s a scene in Wings where Rue rushes back home for reasons I won’t say here to avoid spoilers but it’s tense. She’s scared; you’re scared. She opens The Door and Etta James’s “At Last” drifts out of the crack. That’s how I felt opening this book (well, pressing play on the audiobook ;). I have never read an Urban Contemporary Fantasy that takes up the real conditions of Black life in this country so unflinchingly. I haven’t. I mean not using retellings or stepping away to magical kingdoms but gazing at the harshness of home and making YOUR conflict the STORY’s conflict. This storytelling is elaborate in its simplicity: it’s Black life. Because J. Elle honors that, storying her experiences fantastic, Wings has so many departures and I don’t want this review to be unreasonably long so-- actually I’ve been waiting for this book for 9 years. This review will be as long as I want. Tap out when you need to.
The fact that Rue is offered a magical island-- offered magic itself-- and its like “nah, bruh. I want home” is already a major departure from the norm of what fantasy does. She’s not trying to escape. Her stakes are the stakes of Black people in real life. That is not in any way the norm. This book empowers a Black teen to worldmake in THIS world-- in the AMERICAN SOUTH. That’s. Not. The. Norm.
The focus on community in this book gave me such life. Rue’s so uncompromising with it. She’s loyal to fam and fam is the block. She risks it all for them because they’re WORTHY. This story elevates people who are so often erased. Black Americans ain’t popping. Anywhere-- just our culture and accomplishments. But us? Those of us who don’t know where in Africa or the Caribbean we were stolen from and only have our region, our state, our neighborhood to say that’s where we’re “from.” They don’t call us beautiful. But Wings is gorgeous. The people in it are gorgeous. The sisterhood between Rue and Tasha is gorgeous. Julian’s “You know I got you” is stunning. JULIAN is stunning because let me drop this too: we need more Black boys in fantasy. MORE. Their absence is erasure of frightening proportions. They’re here. ALL the love tensions/interests were with Black boys. BLACK LOVE FOR THE CHILDREN. I love it so. Oh! I love it so.
Pacing is wonderful. It’s very fast and I had to pace the reading myself because whooooo J. Elle tried to kill me. My heart almost stopped a couple of times and I was literally curled up in bed like “I need an out or a safe word or something.” She hits you. You’re not about to get comfortable or feel too settled or safe-- and the danger is familiar. Drugs, guns, beatings. Not light sabers or even swords. Most of us have never seen a real life sword. Oh, you have? Just me then, fine. Gun violence, though, is a familiar cross we bear in this country even if it didn’t riddle the communities we grew up in specifically. It’s all we hear about. It’s rocked this country from church shootings to school shootings to gang shootings to police shootings. You get triggered right along with Rue and tremble along with her.
Which leads me to trauma. Rue probably has PTSD from witnessing her mom’s murder but we don’t get a diagnosis, we get the reality of how she lives with it. The paralyzing fear, the random memories, the sudden onset muteness. It’s not spectacular. It’s quiet and easily overlooked from the outside but it’s everything for Rue (and that’s whose perspective we’re made to experience from). Which is another thing: the reader, whoever they are, HAS to get right up and personal with racism. Yeah.
The last thing I’ll talk about is just naming the themes that show up in this book because this review couldn’t possibly get it all. That’s what dissertations are for. Family, community, police brutality, state disinvestment, gun violence, drugs, antiblackness, devaluation of Black life, Black Lives Matter, white fragility, racial allyship, forgiveness, teamwork, fortitude, colonialism, historical deletions, ancestry. I’m sure I’m missing many things that will come to me as I continue to reflect but these are just some that popped out to me immediately. If you’ve gotten nothing else from this review, go read this book. We all need it.

70 people found this helpful

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Rue is NOT racist. (*NO SPOILERS*)

This is actually the first review I’ve ever written, but since this is a YA novel I decided to set the record straight because it is a good book for teens. I read another review that stated the main character is racist and that’s not the case at all.

The main character, Rue, is a young Black American girl born and raised in the inner city of Houston and the story is told from her perspective. For the majority of her life she’s been around people who look just like her, then she’s thrust into a situation where no one looks like her. Also, I’m guessing her so-called “racism” is based on her point of view based on poor inner city residents and their relationship with the justice system. She doesn’t rush to judgement and she’s not prejudiced toward anyone.

39 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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The Hood Has Never Sounded So Corny!

The verbiage/dialect is horrible! It honestly reads as though it’s someone who is almost mocking urban dialect rather than embracing it. I’m definitely from “the hood” and we NEVER spoke like this. It was hard to keep reading/listening because of it. It easily could’ve been the narration of it as well (which was not, at all, impressive).

It also could’ve been a bit “tighter” for lack of a better description. There are quite a few plot holes. Where was Tasha at the end? Ms. Leola? Wassup with Jamal? Is there a part two (can I even listen to a part two).

And, Rue was one of the absolute most “hard to like” main characters I’ve come across in a long time. Her personality left A LOT to be desired. I spent the majority of the book wanting to pop her in the mouth for her rudeness. I read this book because it was an option on a reading list for a teenage mentoring group I run...It no longer is an option. Manly because of Rue’s attitude.

22 people found this helpful

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So good!

1) I was so mad at the amount of times I felt hopeless listening to this book! I’m mad at the author for putting my heart through that!! But she brought it back so well that I forgive her.
2) This story is so heartwarming in the best ways. It’s heartwarming because it really created a whole new world to explore, but still brought relevant issues into it. I loved the sister and family dynamics in this book.
3) I wish I had books like this when I was a kid, and I’ll give it to my kids. The way she talks about racism made me feel seen in a way that I didn’t as a kid. I was crying at points and so mad at others. But it also made me feel strong. Kudos!
4) I love the writing, her use of imagery and dialect was seamless!
5) The narrator put her foot into that performance! All the voices were perfect! Every single one
6) It was very well paced and easy to follow.
7) There’s a lot of cussing, so maybe it’s more for 17 y/o and up if you’re a kid, but young adults will love it! (I’m 24)
8) Bryan! His name was Bryan!

19 people found this helpful

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Blah

struggled to finish, narration was terrible. I want my hours back.....sigh.
tell the truth on these reviews LOLOLOLOL

12 people found this helpful

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Great story

I loved the story! Docked one star bc daaang is the main character stubborn. There were some parts where her demands were unrealistic but I understand that with what she’s been through Ofcourse she would be guarded. I just wish she was a little bit kinder to her friends. Like she calls the ones back home “fam” but her new friend is constantly being tested even though she has proven her loyalty time and time again. Other than that this book was refreshing and being a Houstonian 🤟🏼 myself I loved all the Easter eggs the author sneaked in the book. I recommend it and the narrator does a great job too

6 people found this helpful

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Wish I'd DNFed

Reading Rues point of view was like nails on a chalkboard. Rues is just as racist as nearly every white person in this book seems to be. Your mother is shot on your porch and absolutely no one come to investigate? Even in the worst parts of town the police will investigate a murder. If this was really happening their would be riots. Finally, she makes a friend in magic school, who was born in the magical community, she does everything for Rue. Then Rue tells her friend that everything she ever knew was an absolute lie, then gets incredibly angry when her friend doesn't immediately start thinking about the wide spread implications of this. And just casts her out until Rue needs her again. When her friend has a solution but can't make what Rues needs appear out of thin air, Rue waves her aside as useless. I think it was here that my last shred of respect dissapeared and I really wished I had DNFed this book instead of pushing through.

5 people found this helpful

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Wow

This was absolutely amazing! I highly recommend this book especially to hesitant readers to help them fall in love with reading.

4 people found this helpful

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  • JW
  • 01-27-21

Great story and a great new hero.

Really enjoyed this one. The story is unique and there has never been a hero quiet like Rue. Bahni really brought the energy and made the audio version of this highly entertaining book a fast paced joy ride.

3 people found this helpful

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loved it

Not only is it magical and fun, it's funny, true to teen dialect, the characters are open and honest. This book was truly a good listen. my class will be reading this over the summer.

2 people found this helpful

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  • paul nolan
  • 01-30-21

Perfection

Loved this story so much. Cannot think of a single fault. Voice shines through amazingly