|Sad Wings of Destiny|
by Thom Brannan
$.99 Kindle version
Spring-Heeled Jack has reached that point. Not that he doesn't enjoy the way his nanotech-enhanced fists have made their mark on the underworld, but he knows he could do so much more. His partner, the Archon, knows Jack means well, but he doesn't have the answers he needs to make a decision, and the archangel Uriel, to whom he is bound, has been silent on the matter.
Their boundaries are stretched to the limit when a new supervillain appears on the scene and changes the way the game is played. Some bad guys want to be rich, some want to rule the world... the Tyrant wants to bring an end to everything... and he's got the means to do it.
Spring-Heeled Jack and the Archon will save the day, of that there is no question. But what will be the cost? Ideals and people will be cast to the side, and when the time comes, a terrifying choice must be made. This is what happens when the abyss gazes back.
About a week ago, I was on schedule with my reviews...and pretty much everything else that I had going on. Then I agreed to review Sad Wings of Destiny by Thom Brannan, which effectively train-wrecked my personal and professional life. Never have I spent so long reading any one novel, and never have I had so many mixed feelings about a story.
I hated this story so much in the beginning, I was trying to figure out how to break it to Brannan...how could I give a bad review to one of my favorite authors? Luckily, I have this policy: I do not write a book review unless I have read the entire book. (You would be surprised at how many reviewers do not complete the books that they review.) It seems only fair, but it's also been my experience that some stories with horrible beginnings have the world's greatest endings.
In the case of Brannan's latest masterpiece, the hook with Jacob/Stephen is one of the most exquisite character reveals that I've read in any genre. I was instantly drawn to that character, even though I had a lot of difficulty getting into the story itself. I'm not really into superheroes or supervillains in literature - movies, sure, but not when it comes to my reading material. However, between Brannan's reputation, the title and the unusual timeline (starts in present, jumps back seven years, then progresses forward one year at a time, until readers are brought back to the exact moment that we are introduced to the two main characters), I was expecting something dramatic.
What I was not expecting was the ridiculously slow pace. I don't know how it's possible to have that much action, and still feel like the story is crawling from one page to the next. During the first fifty pages, I tried reading as fast as I could, just to get it over with, kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. The characters are described well-enough, but I found their personalities to be lacking, and the initial interactions/relationships seemed superficial. It was like watching a movie that I couldn't get into...until I read a couple of years into the timeline.
It wasn't until Jack and Archon were trying to help Alien Grey that I finally began to care what happened to them. The more "Ultras" that were introduced, the more interesting the story became. At one point, I thought maybe it was the format...maybe this novel should have been a graphic novel. Regardless of my initial negative feelings towards this story, there was never any doubt in my mind that Brannan knows how to create heroes and villains. His originality is impressive, even by comic book standards.
About 100 pages in, the story absolutely rocks! From Part Five (three years before the starting point in the timeline) onward, it's as if Brannan changed his writing style. The second half of the book is far, far more exciting than the first half. If you're like me, and have difficulty digging into the storyline, have patience and you will be rewarded with a spectacular drama that incorporates science fiction, fantasy and horror in ways you've never imagined.
The ending was enough to make me howl in despair, but in a good way. I'm not likely to forget this literary journey anytime soon.