Sunday, August 14, 2011

Broken Wings by L-J Baker

Publisher:                Bold Strokes Books

When is a fantasy not really a fantasy? When it is a book that appears to be a fantasy, but really deals with some very serious themes. If you have not read Broken Wings because the write up says it's about fairies and dryads, it would be a good idea to rethink your decision. 

Rye Woods lives a precarious life. Years before, she escaped from Fairyland with her younger sister Holly and now she lives in terror that they will be discovered before Holly can reach the age of maturity. Fairyland is dominated by religious fanatics who tolerate no deviations from the "norm" and won't hesitate to use abuse to enforce their beliefs. Rye wants to spare Holly from having to deal with that, so she painfully binds her wings every day to hide the fact that she is a fairy, lives a life of poverty, and works two and three jobs as a laborer to put her sister through the best school available. Holly, like many typical teenagers, doesn't always appreciate what Rye is trying to do for her and, because she was young when they fled, doesn't understand Rye's great fear about keeping their identities secret.

Holly has some talent in the field of design and that brings her and Rye in contact with Flora Withe, a dryad who is a wealthy and respected artist living a life of privilege. Although Flora is obviously drawn to Rye, Rye is convinced that Flora is just having a fling, slumming with a woman who is so different from what she is used to. Rye can't accept that a woman who has so much can be interested in one who has so little. As their relationship grows, so does Rye's fear of discovery and her concern that Holly's irresponsible behavior may ruin everything. To have a future with Flora, Rye has to overcome many barriers, maybe more than are possible.

A reader might wonder why Broken Wings was written as a fantasy. Although the book is populated with fairies, dryads, gnomes and other mythical creatures, they behave just like human beings. They have no special powers or abilities that make a fantasy world necessary. The answer may be that the book deals with some very serious themes. Rye's experiences in Fairyland deal with slavery, abuse, discrimination, and religious intolerance. She faces the consequences of homophobia and classism on several levels. The fantasy aspect might make these themes more palatable, but it isn't necessary. The themes are handled in a very deft manner, making their points without being preachy or heavy-handed. It's a worthwhile telling of struggle, adversity and the possibility of the good person winning in the end. Even if you're not a fan of fantasy writing, you should give Broken Wings a chance.

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