Saturday, August 1, 2009

Broken Wing, by Judith James - Review

Late on the Bandwagon, As Usual
Between Orannia's Challenge and Kristie J's tireless promotion, it was only a matter of time before I picked up Broken Wing by Judith James. As it happens, I was offered a review copy so of course I jumped on it!

The book has been out for quite a while now and if you'd like to see a long, long list of reviews, do check out Kristie and Kati's sidebar at Ramblings. Most reactions have been positive, ranging from "pretty good" to OVER-THE-FREAKIN'-MOON.

I think one reason this book falls out of the ordinary fare is in its scope. In my opinion, it's equal parts adventure, coming-of-age, and romance, and in many ways reminds me of a more old-fashioned genre-less mainstream novel.

The Premise
I think most people by now know the basic setup -- Gabriel is sold into prostitution as a child, and escapes as a young adult by grace of the heroine and her family, because he has been instrumental in protecting their young sibling. Broken Wing shocks the readers' sensibilities with its graphic portrayal of the cruelty and hopelessness of Gabriel's life up to the opening moments of the book.

Short Answer
I liked this book very much, though I didn't fall into the paroxysms of delight that its most ardent supporters experienced, and sticklers for the rule that the romance must be the main focus of the book may have more trouble with it. I'd recommend it, but be forewarned that it is not at all light or breezy. I did think it dragged a bit here and there but overall a great read.

"Do Go On," you say...
Well. If you insist. I've skimmed quite a few reviews and I could probably do nothing more that string together eight or ten paragraphs from my favorite reviewers along with a lot of head-bobbing. But where's the fun in that? So, since there are a huge number of excellent reviews out there already, I'm just going to ramble a bit about some perhaps slightly random things that this story stirred up for me.

First off, I particularly liked the way that the interest in star-gazing brought the hero and heroine together. My all-time favorite bit:
He came often after that, no longer hesitant of her welcome. He stayed for hours on her balcony, watching the stately dance of constellations as they spun slowly overhead. It struck him that there had always been other worlds surrounding him, just outside his reach, unexpected and unseen.

However, it was a little disappointing to me that after bringing them together in such a deeply romantic way, the whole astronomy/stargazing thing was more or less dropped once the Big Adventures got going. There were a few things like that, little threads that I found especially moving or interesting that were dropped without too much ceremony.

Swashbuckles Ahoy
Right from the beginning, there are hints that this is a different kind of romance. Even the cover of this book looks more like an old-fashioned adventure than a current romance. Compare:

If you're a romance purist, you might not love this story. My feeling though, is that it really is a HELLuva good story, and without the sexual nature of Gabriel's harsh past, would be very similar to the classics like Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe. In fact, the story that it most reminded me of is A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter. It's a bit obscure, I think, but I discovered GSP around 5th or 6th grade and devoured as many as I could find. In this book, Elnora was raised by an emotionally damaged single mother. The story takes us through her high school years and into a romantic HEA, so it's sort of a cross between young adult and romance.

Do You Ever Wonder
...about things like cutting, that seem to be a recent phenomenon, but then you think, they probably aren't recent; they probably just weren't much spoken of before a certain time. Some things like Aspergers' Syndrome,* I think we only recently have the language and the tools to see them as a type of pathology vs. someone being unintelligent or willfully ass-hole-ish.

I was first introduced to the problem of young people cutting in the early 90's, when my roommate's son was diagnosed. One lay explanation that I got from people who loved him was that cutting was a way of "making the physical pain match the emotional pain" that he was in. Another, with more physiological roots, is that the rush of endorphins act as an anaesthetic -- and I can believe in the 19th century, that might be far preferrable to pain remedies available from the medical community. The song Iris, by the Goo Goo Dolls came out around that same time frame, and the line "you bleed just to know you're alive" always had particular meaning when I thought about my roommate and his family.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I have certain curiousity about how things like this were handled before doctors and professionals had any frame of reference to help, and I think James presented a sensitive and shall we say, sufficiently believable scenario here.

*I bring up Aspergers' because The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is high up on my TBR list.


mrsshukra said...

Thanks for your BW's review. I bought the book a couple of months ago and it is on my TBR pile!

Kristie (J) said...

I'm really glad you liked it - even though it you didn't fall into the paroxysms of delight *laughing*
I found it to be a romance + (a great adventure) story. I can't say why this one rocked my boat so much as others have pointed out it's flaws. And while it did have them - I just didn't seem to notice them I was so captivated.

M. said...

I'm continously amazed when reading the reaction of others to this book at how everyone picked up on something else

Nicola O. said...

etirv, after you read it, come back and let us know what you thought! If you blog (can't find a link..?) feel free to leave a link in comments, I love that.

Kristie, I think that Tumperkin really does a good job explaining why some fabulous but still imperfect books can get your teakettle whistling-- and IIRC, you and BW were part of the inspiration for it. I think about that post a lot when I'm reviewing.

M -- vive la difference, eh? I will say that my post might have been more, umm, standardized? if I weren't so late in the game. I tried to cover a couple of points that I hadn't seen much about already. Maybe my next Thursday 13 will be "Points that other people made about BW that I agree with," LOL.

Kristie (J) said...

Nicola: Oh - she does do a wonderful job of explaining it. Since I'm a 90% emotional reader - I judge everything by emotion and tend to miss the more technical errors of a book. That's why I hesitate to call what I do 'reviews' since to me, in order to do a proper review, I would have to go into a book more 50/50 emotional/technical. And for ME being the kind of reader I am, that would kill many books for me to look at them on a more technical basis. I think that's also why Broken Wing works so well for me - because as an emotional read - it does have it's fair share of tugging at those emo strings.
And I meant to say in my first post - I'm anxious to hear what you think of The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie 'cause that's another one that this 'emotional' *g* reader really got hooked into.

Kristie (J) said...

Oh - and I LOVE that song!!

Teddyree said...

Nice review, I think Broken Wings is one I'd enjoy so thanks.

I've just come across your blog, courtesy of the wonderful Mandi of Smexy books so I'm going to have a look around.
BTW get yourself off to read The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, I absolutely loved it and speaking of 'cutting' I read a brilliant YA novel recently called Willow by Julia Hoban

Heloise said...

I just finished this one, also late to the game, so it's nice to read your take on it. Funny, it annoyed me that meteor showers seem to happen so often! :)

I loved the story and the redemption but I did have to wonder if anyone could be that much of a well of acceptance as was the heroine. It wasn't what she had to accept, it was her position of always know?

Nitpicky for sure. Mostly I loved it. :)


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