Rating: 4.75 stars
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After stumbling upon some men in an alley beating a dog, Dylan Broderick can’t help but jump in and try to protect her. But soon he finds himself on the receiving end of the men’s abuse and knows things are about to get bad. Suddenly, however, he finds himself rescued by a gorgeous guy who takes down the bullies and saves both Dylan and the dog. Dylan definitely wants to get to know his sexy rescuer better, but figures the guy won’t want much to do with him. After getting kicked out of his home by a homophobic stepfather, Dylan is pretty much just hanging on, with a tiny apartment in a bad side of town and a part-time job at a vet to make ends meet. But while he doesn’t expect his shy, sexy, ninja savior to want much to do with him, Dylan definitely isn’t ready to let him go.
Cam Coburn feels drawn to Dylan as well, but knows it would be a mistake to get involved with him. Cam has secrets that he can not share, including the fact that he is not human, but a cockatrice shifter. Although he has been allowed a little more freedom from his mentor of late, Cam has lived a very sheltered and protected life of training and service to the religious brotherhood that supervises the trices. Getting involved with humans is strictly forbidden. But Dylan’s seduction is just too much for him, and Cam gives in to his incredible desires to be with the kind and sexy man.
One stolen night turns into more and Cam and Dylan begin to fall harder for one another. And Cam’s barriers keep falling one by one as he finds that Dylan is a rare person who can stare into his eyes without fear or nightmares. Somehow Dylan can also sense that Cam is more than human, being able to see his soul and the shadow of his wings even in shifted human form. The men both open up to one another, Dylan about his past on the streets and Cam with small bits about his secret life. But even as feelings begin to turn to love, Cam’s other life begins to threaten. The brotherhood is insisting he leave town to continue his training and he is obligated to obey. Especially because he is sure if Dylan ever really saw his true form, he would be repulsed. And evil threatens Cam as enemies seek to harm him and eventually Dylan as well. But when danger comes, their commitment to one another may be just what it is needed to save them.
I picked up this book as part of my goal to branch out from reading so many contemporaries this year. And this story of such an usual shifter definitely seemed like a good way to diversify. For those of you who are not familiar with the cockatrice, it is basically a mythical being with a rooster head and a two-legged dragon body. In A Shadow of Wings, the last cockatrice was saved by a knight centuries before and the trices now owe their allegiance to the church, who uses them to help find gold. They have eyes that can induce fear, nightmares, and even death, and so they must remain covered or averted at all times. The church trains and controls the cockatrices and can keep them in human form through a gold chain around their necks. Cam is a bit different from the other trices in that he loves being among humans and in his human form. He also has a special calling; instead of finding gold, Cam has a sixth sense alerting him to those in need of rescue, which is how he finds Dylan. All Cam wants is to live a normal life as a human, but he knows his obligations to the church make that impossible.
Gayle really does an amazing job with the world building here. This is a creature with which most people are unfamiliar and she manages to build it seamlessly into the story in a way I had no trouble following. I loved that Cam and Dylan somehow have this special connection that no one else shares, that Dylan can see parts of Cam’s true self and can look into his eyes with safety. It creates such a great connection between these two men and allows them to bond in such a special way. And I really loved both these guys. Dylan is a bit street hardened, but a good guy trying to make the best of his bad situation. After being kicked out of his home, he was forced to live on the streets, turning to drugs and making other bad decisions until he finally got his life together. After struggling himself, he has such a sense of empathy and compassion for anyone lonely, hurt, or abused. It is what draws him to try to rescue the beaten dog, and that same compassion makes him determined to protect Cam when he realizes the unwanted control the brothers have over his life. And Cam is such an interesting combination, both shy, sheltered, and a bit naive, but also someone raised to be a warrior and a fighter. He is so torn between the life he wants and the obligations he can not avoid. Here we see him just testing the waters of independence after a lifetime of total obedience. He knows getting involved with Dylan is absolutely forbidden, but he can not help himself.
Which brings me to the point that this book is also full of yummy hotness. You all know that the shy virgin hero is one of my hot buttons and Gayle does an amazing job with those early scenes as Cam first begins to explore his attraction to Dylan. It is the perfect mix of shy sweetness and incredible hotness. These two are such a good match for each other, both emotionally and sexually, and their chemistry is really amazing.
My only real complaint here is that the story needed better copy editing. I probably notice these things more than most because of my day job, but I ran across lots of small things — mixed up words, incorrectly spelling McDonalds, swapped names, a gun that appears to jump from one character to another. I also think the book needs more consistency on Dylan’s language. Most of the time he speaks perfect English, but occasionally there is a line where he uses oddly bad grammar (“whatever happened, it don’t matter”). I’m not sure this makes sense in the first place, as we know that Dylan had a traditional upbringing and education before being kicked out. But the bigger problem is that it is not consistent and only comes and goes throughout the book. Again, not everyone might even notice this stuff but I think the book would have benefited from a closer edit.
But overall I thought this one was wonderful. I love discovering a new author and picking up a book I know nothing about only to find a real gem. And I think this one was just great. It is a nice mix of wonderful world building, well developed characters, super sexy, a thrilling ending, and very romantic. I am excited that the author’s web site suggests that a sequel is coming and I am already impatient for it! I really loved A Shadow of Wings and would highly recommend it.
P.S. I wavered a bit on this rating between a 4.5 and a 4.75. In the end I decided to push it up because it is such a creative and unique story. Not just an usual shifter, but really interesting characters in really unusual circumstances. Plus, that first scene where Cam experiences sexual activity for the first time? Crazy hot.