Black Wings (Black Wings Series #1)

Black Wings (Black Wings Series #1)

by Christina Henry

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Black Wings (Black Wings Series #1) by Christina Henry

The first novel of the Black Wings urban fantasy series, by Christina Henry, author of Alice and Lost Boy.

As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It’s a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.
Maddy’s position may come with magical abilities and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn’t pay the bills. And then, there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.
Things starts looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy’s building. It’s probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in, demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven, and the fires of Hell…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780441019632
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/30/2010
Series: Black Wings Series , #1
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 262,568
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Christina Henry is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I hate it when a soul goes all stubborn on me. It doesn't happen as often as you'd think. Most people understand that they're dead and want to move on. Maybe it's because they think heaven is waiting for them. Maybe it's because they believe they'll be reincarnated as the Princess of Monaco—does anybody want to be reincarnated as the Princess of Monaco anymore? Maybe it's because they're just tired of this world. When I show up to escort them to the Door, they know why I'm there and they're ready to go. But sometimes, like today, a soul doesn't want to leave its earthly body.

Mrs. Luccardi didn't want to leave her cats—all fifteen of them. People get very attached to their pets. In fact, I've seen a fair number of people more attached to their pets than to their children. I understand that they feel like their little four-legged buddy is part of the family. What I have to make them understand is that they are dead, and can no longer feed, groom, or cuddle little Muffy, Flopsy, or Fido. It can be a delicate job, convincing the recently deceased of their new status.

"Mrs. Luccardi, you're dead," I said. "You can't take care of your cats anymore. Someone else will have to do that now."

I fought the urge to cover my nose as I said this. Mrs. Luccardi was recently deceased and therefore immune to the reek of cat piss that permeated her doily-covered living room, but I was very much alive and getting tired of breathing through my mouth.

Aside from my burning need to breathe air unscented by eau de cat urine, I had two other pressing reasons for getting Mrs. Luccardi out of there. First, I had a potential tenant coming to look at the empty apartment in my building in twenty minutes, and I didn't want to piss off a possible source of income by showing up late. Second, some of Mrs. Luccardi's precious darlings were contemplating her cooling body with "buffet" in their eyes. I did not want Mrs. Luccardi to see her babies gnawing through her flowered housedress to flesh and bone. That kind of thing tends to traumatize the newly dead and prevents an Agent from an efficient escort to the Door.

If the soul doesn't enter the Door, then it becomes a ghost. Agents don't like ghosts. They're untidy. The presence of a ghost means you can't close your list, and if you can't close your list, you have to file extra paperwork to explain why you can't, and I absolutely hate doing any paperwork at all, period. So I really wanted Mrs. Luccardi to leave her carnivorous little fuzzballs and come with me, pronto.

I hadn't even untethered her soul yet. Her incorporeal self floated above the body on the plastic-covered sofa, bound by a thin strand of ectoplasm. I was supposed to cut this strand with magic or my silver knife and release the soul. The knife, along with my Agent status, had been passed to me by my mother when she died.

In life and death, Mrs. Luccardi was a small, thin woman with a head of white curls—the kind of old lady my mother used to call a "Q-tip." She glared at me through red plastic spectacles.

"I don't care if I'm dead, missy. I'm not leaving my babies," she snapped. "Besides, look at you. I'm supposed to believe you're an Agent of death? You're covered in flour."

"I was in the middle of making a pear tart dotted with gorgonzola. You're an unscheduled call. Besides," I said, pointing to my back, "don't you think the wings are a clue?"

She continued to eye me with suspicion. Okay, so a ten-foot wingspan of black feathers probably looked a little incongruous with my "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" apron and my fuzzy blue house slippers. Patrick was always telling me I would have less trouble if I presented a more imposing image, if I looked a little more Reaper-like. I always tell him that it's pretty near impossible to be imposing when you're only five feet tall and generally described by others as "cute as a button."

Of course, if Patrick had shown up for his scheduled escort of Mrs. Luccardi, I wouldn't be here at all. He'd called me fifteen minutes ago, said he had a "personal emergency" (read: a date with a hot guy), and begged me to take this pickup for him. I'd agreed because I owed Patrick a favor or two, but I couldn't be held responsible for my appearance.

"Listen, Mrs. Luccardi," I said through gritted teeth. "You're going to a better place. I'll make sure that someone comes to take care of your…; babies."

"Oh, no. Harold, my son, will come and have them all taken to shelters. I'm not going anywhere. I have to look out for them." She crossed her arms, set her jaw and looked for all the world like she had no intention of moving in the next millennium. I wondered how, exactly, she expected to prevent Harold from having the cats taken away when she didn't have a corporeal self.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to argue points of logic with the illogical dead. I glanced at my watch, a slender, silver-linked affair that had been a thirteenth birthday present from my mother. I really had to go. The potential tenant was scheduled to knock on my door in fifteen minutes. It would probably take me that long to fly home.

"Polly Frances Luccardi, will you permit me to untether your soul and escort you to the Door?" I asked.


"Polly Frances Luccardi, will you permit me to untether your soul and escort you to the Door?" I asked again.

"I already told you, no!"

I felt the familiar buildup of pressure in my chest that accompanied a magical binding. It was what I imagined it would be like to drown. My lungs and heart felt as though iron bands squeezed my organs; my rib cage felt like it was collapsing. If I asked again and she refused, the binding was sealed. She would never be escorted to the Door, but would haunt this Earth forever.

"Polly Frances Luccardi, will you permit me to untether your soul and escort you to the Door?" I asked. The pressure increased and I gasped for breath.

"For the last time, no!"

My heart and lungs reinflated; my ribs sprung back into place. A surge of power pushed out of my fingertips and snapped the tether holding Mrs. Luccardi to her body. A lot of Agents untethered agreeable souls using magic, but I didn't like it. I don't know what a binding felt like to anyone else but it made me feel like elephants had been tap-dancing on me. Give me a silver knife and a straightforward cut any day. Unfortunately, I could only use my knife on the cooperative. No one knew exactly why, but souls that refused the Door had to go through the rigmarole of a binding.

"Polly Frances Luccardi, by your own words and of your own volition, your soul is bound to this earth for eternity," I said, a little breathless.

"Fine. My babies!" she cried, holding her incorporeal arms out to the cats that were now starting to nibble her corporeal body's ankles.

Whatever. I got out of there before she realized that her little Snoogums was about to make her former shell into breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I had more time, I would have tried harder to convince her to go to the Door. Now I would have to file more paperwork, and Patrick would have to file more paperwork, and he would bitch about it and I would bitch about it and J.B., our supervisor, would be an annoying bastard about the whole thing because he's very insistent on closed lists. But I'd deal with that later. First, I had to get home in time to show the apartment, and I had only a few minutes.

Death is just another bureaucracy, and in a bureaucracy so large, sometimes people fall through the cracks. There are plenty of reasons why people don't get an Agented escort to the Door, and they don't all have to do with kitty love. If a person suffers a violent death, they may leave their body involuntarily—snap the tether that binds them to their mortal self and flee in anguish and madness before an Agent arrives. Sometimes a soul will allow itself to be untethered, come along quietly and then break away from the Agent before they arrive at the Door, fearful of what lies behind it.

Sometimes an Agent is hurt or killed and that person's list may lie dormant for an hour or two until replacements are notified. If that happens, the window of opportunity may close—souls might break their own tethers and wander free, or just refuse to be escorted, like Mrs. Luccardi.

Any of these possibilities creates ghosts, souls that will never pass through the Door. Ghosts have an annoying way of begetting other ghosts, showing up when an Agent is trying to work and convincing the confused deceased that they're better off haunting this mortal coil than taking their chances with the Door.

The thing is, you can't force a soul to be untethered and escorted. The soul has to choose the Door. Like so many mystical things, three is the key number. If the soul is asked three times and refuses the Door, then the Agent metaphorically wipes his hands and the soul becomes a ghost. The Agent is magically bound to leave them alone.

Of course, there are lots of ways around the "asking thrice" rule. You can tell people whatever they need to hear for as long as it takes to get them to agree to be escorted—like Heaven exists and that's where they're going, or they will join their beloved Ethel, or whatever.

I can't attest to the veracity of any of that. All I know is that every Monday I get a plain white envelope in the mail. In that envelope is an ordinary piece of white paper with a typed list. The list has the names, locations and death times of people I'm supposed to escort. I go to the appointed place at the appointed time, take out my knife and untether the soul. Then I tell them something pretty and take them to the Door. I don't even know what they see when they open the Door. My vision goes black as soon as they touch the doorknob, and returns when they're inside. The only time I'll get to see what's behind the Door is when I get escorted there myself, and someday I will. Nobody outruns death. Not even death's lackey.


Excerpted from "Black Wings"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Christina Henry.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Henry shows that she is up to the challenge of debuting in a crowded genre. The extensive background of her imaginative world is well integrated with the action-packed plot, and the satisfying conclusion leaves the reader primed for the next installment." —-Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

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Black Wings 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 180 reviews.
NomadiCat More than 1 year ago
As a Chicagoian and an urban fantasy fan, I really wanted to like this book. The basic idea "Agent of Death has to deal with difficult clients and Something Else that is Coming" sounded fun, fresh, and interesting. But once I got into the book. Well. Stop me if you've heard this one before. Short, spunky woman with dark hair has to deal with bureaucracy that has taken over ancient magic field. She meets a powerful and mysterious tall, dark, handsome man, and as soon as he arrives on the scene strange occurrences and bodies start piling up. Fight scenes, dramatic rescues, and strangely intimate healings ensue. Her parents are either dead or MIA, but since she's tough and spunky, she's managed to pull through. Unfortunately, she's been so busy being tough and spunky, she's not really had much time to think about her potentially mysterious heritage. But not to fear, mystery man is here! Throw in a sarcastic sidekick and a world Not Like Ours that the heroine belongs to but has been heretofore unaware of and you've got, well, almost every other urban fantasy book on the market in the last three or four years. Personally, I'm fine with exploring stock characters and stock scenarios- If I wasn't, I'd never be able to enjoy any urban fantasy novel. But between the complete and utter lack of originality, the pacing that feels like it's following a checklist, and a protagonist who keeps telling me how much she's grown without actually showing me, I just couldn't enjoy it. I'm easy to please; give me a character, just one, who's really well written and fun to follow, or a fresh take on a world or a story line, and I'm happy. Just one of those things. Unfortunately, this book delivers none of them. This first book in a presumed series sets up future action that may break out of the mold and end up being quite interesting. If I can borrow a copy from my local library I might check in to see if any of that pans out. But between the yawning and eye rolling I did with this unimaginative first outing, I won't make it a priority.
bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
This book started out great, got a little slow and predictable, and ended with me wanting more. The heroine is a likable character and so is her sidekick/pet. The author took liberties with the Bible and most demon lore and in the words of Paula Abdul: Made it her own. The author kind of changed the job of Lucifer. I did have to go back and reread some of the family tree and who is a sibling to whom. That was confusing. I liked that the heroine was getting confused too. The hero needs some more backbone, but I have a feeling he is more than he seems. I did like the authors train of thought with the grim reaper/Lucifer scenario. One thing I did take note of is that some of the characters make mention of vampires, faeries, and werewolves, I dread the second book being too formula.
kitkat3ny More than 1 year ago
I have never heard of this author before, and decided to keep this book on my maybe later list. I'm so glad I decided that the time for later was now, because this book was fantastic! My interest was continually piqued. My spellbound attention in this book, reminded me of my interest of way-back-when, when I read my first Rachel Morgan book. When I was just a chapter or so into this book, I instantly knew I was automatically going to read the next book. I loved this book from beginning to end and I highly recommend his book to fellow dark urban fantasy readers and look forward to the next book Black Night.
bookfanaticCP More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It's well written and flows easily. The story is interesting without trying too hard and the plot and characters go well together. There is nothing I hate more than when the plot is great and the characters suck! I definitely recommend this book.
Sandra027 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. 4.5 stars. The story was original and dealt with different supernatural creatures than I'm used to seeing. I couldn't believe it when I realized I had only read 40 pages and already it seemed like so much had happened, but it didn't feel rushed or chaotic, it just seemed like Henry used her words well and had a lot of plot going on. Similarly when I only had 10 pages left I thought, "there's no way in hell she can end this to my satisfaction in 10 pages," but she proved me wrong and even with a little twist that had me so angry I was ready to bump her down a star (don't worry it was resolved). I thought the love interest was unique as well, so often it's the alpha male with all the power, and I can't wait to see how that will be resolved in further books. Her little sidekick Beezle was cute and good comic relief. I had a few small issues throughout of course but nothing so major it interrupted my enjoyment of the book. (Although my Nook dying while mid-sentence on a plane did interrupt my enjoyment!) There's a good love triangle looming on the horizon, as well as some minor and major villains, can't wait!
UrbanFantasyGuy More than 1 year ago
I have nothing but good things to say about this novel. It's about a woman called Maddy who is an Agent, a person who escorts souls of the dead to the "door" to make their choice. The mythology in this book mainly revolves around angels, demons, and nephilim. There are mention of vampires, werewolves, faeries, etc but I believe that is just set up for future novels as there are none in this one. Throughout the book Maddy is learning to control her new found magical powers and constantly getting her butt kicked, and occasionally kicking some butt herself. The best part of this book is her best friend and protector Beezle, a gargoyle. Beezle provides great comic relief all throughout the book and is definitely what moves this book from 4 stars to 5. I'm looking forward to the next novel to see how much more trouble Maddy can possibly get into.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been reading paranormal romance for at least two decades now. It's hard to find a fresh perspective. You start to feel like you're reading the same book over and over. This book gave me life and breathed new life into the genre!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story telling. Maybe a few too many twists for the first in the series, but well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. A little confusing at times with the names. Easy to read. It held my attention from beginning to end. I love reading about the angels. Good and bad.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and engaging story. I love her spunk.
RosienNookie More than 1 year ago
Great writing and great story. I love the characters and the humor!
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The story line was rushed but I liked the idea. I hope that if I read the rest of the series the author will have slowed down enough to let me become interested in the characters and what happens to them.
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Eclectic_Fic50 More than 1 year ago
It was like reading a great mystery with a supernatural twist. Madeline, the main character , is a strong and sometimes fragile young woman with a feisty attitude that both gets her into and out of deadly situations. Add in the grumpy, funny gargoyle and mystery men in her life, along with an unknown heritage and powers to Madeline's life and you get a "Can't Put It Down" novel. It was like reading a very good mystery with a supernatural twist.
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