Bound into slavery since before his birth, Kanji dreams of finding a way to free his people. Once beautiful swans, the Kuro have been trapped in their human form, their wings taken and their freedom denied by the Dryma fairies. Kanji is the last of the royal Kuro line and carries the weight of leadership on his shoulders. Without their wings, the Kuro can never be free and Kanji understands all too well that the Dryma will never release them. The Dryma have bound their life force to that of the trees and, in turn, the Kuro are forced to protect the trees or suffer the consequences.
When a Dryma plan threatens the already tenuous existence of the Kuro, Kanji decides it’s time for action. Supported by a core of his most trusted swans, he disguises himself and sneaks into a Dryma masked ball to meet with the youngest of the crown princes, Tristan. Instead of a haughty fairy, he finds a kind, caring soul who happens to be his mate. But as the Dryma prepare for a war with an old enemy, Tristan and Kanji must find a way to save the fairies and to free the Kuro from bondage. The course of true love is never easy, but for Tristan and Kanji it may end up being fatal.
The blurb to Hidden Wings really intrigued me, so I was ready to dive into this book once I received it. Unfortunately the plot was so excessively and unnecessarily convoluted that I nearly walked away without finishing.
Let’s start with the positive though. I applaud the author for using swans as the focal point of this non-traditional shifter story. Oft time avians get lost amongst the more traditional werewolves, so a race of swans offered up a wonderfully elegant option for readers. Additionally Kanji and Tristan, though not particularly well-developed characters, do seem like a potentially strong couple. Both are striving to free their people from different forms of bondage and to save one another in the midst of it all. As a reader you have to admire their dedication and passion even when their actions don’t always make sense.
When I read a book for Joyfully Jay, I keep a running page of notes about the plot or characters or whatever else catches my interest and I use it to write my reviews. My note page for Hidden Wings is a scratched out mess of arrows that crisscross one another, lots of question marks and vain attempts to make sense of the storyline. There were mini-plot points that either went nowhere or seemed utterly unnecessary and ended up slowing the pace to a crawl. As a result Hidden Wings couldn’t seem to decide if wanted to be a tale of star crossed lovers, a fairytale, or something else altogether. A good example of this is when Kanji sneaks into the Dryma ball. He does so pretending to be a Sidee prince, an enemy/potential ally of the Dryma, in the hopes of preventing Tristan from becoming a sacrifice to the Sidee. Which doesn’t make a great deal of sense and neither does the resulting fallout from this play acting, which is actually too complicated to try and explain in a couple of sentences. The big reveals were always fairly predictable or simply addressed and never integrated into the wider plot. There were a lot of good ideas in Hidden Wings, but they never coalesce into a strong narrative.
Perhaps more frustrating than the plot of Hidden Wings, is the book’s lack of fully dimensional characters. Be they main or secondary, the characters of this book tend to read as either flat or cartoonishly over the top. Tristan and Kanji are saved from a little of this, but even they seem like incomplete creations. As a result, while I was intrigued by many of the characters, I wasn’t particularly interested in any of them.
Hidden Wings had an interesting theme and great potential, but became a victim of an overly complex plot and characters that never emotionally grabbed the readers. If you’re a fan of shifter novels, you might enjoy Hidden Wings but this one just didn’t work for me.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.