Before I start my review of a book that pleasantly surprised me, I have some fantastic news to share with you all. I’m happy to say that I became an official reviewer for a new publisher: Dutch Venture Publishing. A Dutch publisher that aims to make the young adult genre and its Dutch authors more widely known and popular. Because I really support this goal I wrote an email to Jen Minkman the head of this publishing house telling (or begging just a little bit 😉 ) her that I really wanted to be part of her reviewteam. And to my good fortune I was picked as one of her official review members!!! The first book that I got to read in my new capacity is Tweedehands Vleugels (Secondhand Wings in English) by Vanessa Gerrits and boy what a surprisingly good book! Let me first summarize what the story’s about and then I will tell you what I liked about it.
Anna-Lucia is a guardian angel tasked to protect her charge Cathyryn, a young woman that’s pregnant for the first time. Due to an accident Cathy is in the hospital fighting for her own life and that of her unborn child. Anna-Lucia, Lucy for short, decides to break angelic rules and goes to the hospital after curfew to help her charge and the innocent, little baby. After a long time of watching over Cathy and her early-born baby boy Lucas, Lucy drags herself out of the hospital to go back to the angelic hive. But things take a wrong turn for Lucy when she steps outside of the hospital.
Max is a crow, a hybrid being: part human and partly engineered out of parts of mythical beings like werewolves. His stolen angelwings are failing and he needs a new set if he wants to keep flying. Lucky for him, and his friend, a reckless angel is out on the streets past curfew. Stealing body parts from mythical beings has never been a problem for Max, but something about this angelic girl touches his heartstrings and won’t let go. Not even after he cuts her wings off…
Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The worldbuilding is really surprising. The story takes place in an imaginery world that looks a little bit like a 19th century steampunk Belgium (although the story takes place in an alternative future) mixed with supernatural elements. Eventhough the author doesn’t give too many details about her world the reader can nevertheless imagine what Lucy’s and Max’s city looks like. Zeppelins, pocketwatches, comics, engineered beings, angels, regular people, mythological creatures are some of the details that make the story world come to life.
The main characters are really well developed. Anna-Lucia is an angel in every way, she’s nice, compassionate, forgives easily and can’t stay mad or hurt people. She is a very likeable character that crawls under your skin from the beginning of the story. Max, on the other hand, is a bit of a rebel, he’s witty, rough around the edges, does what he has to without remorse or apologizing and lives life to the fullest. Max is also a character that sneaks up on you and really gets under your skin. The romantic relationship that develops between the two is really sweet and believable. Both can’t forget each other because of the wing theft. Max because, for the first time in a long time, he feels guilty and Lucy because she’s scared but at the same time curious why someone would steal the wings of another being. When Lucy sees Max again after he stole her wings she’s scared at first, but she learns pretty soon that Max is not a monster and has a big heart. Max learns that Lucy is not some pretty princess on her high horse, but a girl that genuinely cares about humans and someone who is impulsive and friendly. Despite everything they discover that a crow and an angel are not so incompatible as they first believed.
Obstacle to the romance between Max and Lucy is the angel J.J. A friend of Lucy’s who is hopelessly in love with her. When Lucy loses her wings he sweeps in to rescue her and proposes to her. In her fragile state Lucy agrees to marry him, but she regrets this decision soon afterward. I would have liked it if this love triangle would have been resolved a bit sooner, but unfortunately it drags the entire book long. Personally I hate love triangles and would rather see them disappear from YA stories, but alas writers seem to like them very much. Luckily the triangle in this book wasn’t too annoying and Lucy didn’t do the whole ‘Oh my who should I choose’ routine too often or long so that helped a lot.
The pace of this book is at times slow and other times a bit faster, but never really suspenseful. This may sound negative, but that’s not the case. The hook of the book (the first event that sets everything in motion) is fast and really grabs the attention, then the story unfolds slowly, giving the reader the chance to get to know Lucy and Max. Only when the main characters are properly and thoroughly established does the book pick up a bit more pace again and the reader gets to see how the two characters get to know each other and fall for each other. The main focus of the story is the love between Max and Lucy. And this is where one of my problems with this book comes in. I really like the story and love the relationship between the two main characters, but the ending seems unfinished and quite abrupt. Lucy discovers something horrible about her wings and Max feels guilty for putting her through all the ordeals that having no wings pose for Lucy so he decides to give up her wings, but that’s where it ends. We don’t see what happens next. I assume Max and Lucy will stay together, but it’s not clear. It seems as though the author didn’t know how to write the final emotionally charged scene between Lucy and Max and left it out all together, leaving me, the reader, with a bit of an unsatisfied feeling. I want to know how it really ends. Can Max give Lucy her wings back? Can Lucy forgive Max for stealing her wings leaving her without a vital part of herself maybe forever? Can Max forgive himself for the same thing and does he dare to face the love of his life again?
Another problem I had with this book were the faults. There are quite a few sentences that stop in the middle without a proper ending, or sentences that start over in the middle. Words that are put in double, words that are not finished properly, words that don’t exist in the Dutch language, names that are written incorrectly. And I don’t know if it was a flaw in the e-book but instead of comma’s there were small rectangles with x’s in them, which was rather annoying. I always think it’s a bit of a pity when things like that are not filtered out of the story because it pulls me out of the story instead of letting me drift away on the currents of the imagination of the author.
Nevertheless I really loved the story, especially because it had a really original world and characters, and a sweet love story! This is definitely a must-read :).