The latest installment in Kaylin McFarren’s Gehenna series offers readers plenty of epic narrative threads and no shortage of action.
Dragons, demons, archangels, Lucifer, and all-out war between the forces of heaven and hell figure into McFarren’s ambitious tale. Within the first dozen pages the author sets a dizzying narrative pace, no doubt stemming in part from the fact that Black Wing Sky is the fourth and final book in McFarren’s fantasy series and first-time readers must be quickly brought up to speed.
At the center of the action is the half-angel, half-demon Samara Daemonium. The story opens in the middle of the conflict, a battle between the forces of heaven and hell, and Sam, Lucifer’s former slave and mother to a wayward dragon named Papillon, plays a key role. She’s also tasked with leading the charge against another dragon intent on destroying the planet Nexus, where the story is based. And she’s facing a crisis of the heart, as she must choose between two suitors.
McFarren writes with a frenzied approach that gives Black Wing Sky plenty of action, a host of memorable characters and a lurid quality that feels appropriate for a book featuring Lucifer in a central role. That pace, however, is also the novel’s biggest downfall. The author’s ambitious storytelling and updating sometimes get in the way of clarity, as plot points and motivations get muddled. The action can also be stymied by poor writing, such as overuse of passive voice (“Dragons were attached to the ship’s chains and were gorging themselves” instead of “Dragons attached to the ship’s chains gorged themselves”). McFarren also includes several graphic sex scenes, which might dissuade more traditional fantasy readers.
Even so, McFarren is committed to her characters and their motivations, a consistency that pulls the story through even the most convoluted stretches. Fans of gritty fantasy who also appreciate elements of romance and mythology will find plenty to latch onto in this book.