Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St Croix has never know tenderness, friendship, or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he's ever wanted is companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy facade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy's family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.I finished reading the book at the end of last month and have attempted to cobble together a few of my wayward thoughts. Where to start? Firstly, did the book work for me? Yes and no. I know I appear to be fence sitting, so I will try to explain. Broken Wing is at its heart Gabriel's story; the story of his path from darkness, despair and hopelessness. The writing is beautifully descriptive, creating a world at once alien and yet at the same time not:
Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother's disappearance. When he's located, safe and unharmed, despite where he has been living, Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.
Becoming a mercenary pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.
Gabriel crouched on bended knee, hunched against cold stone above an ancient alley fetid with the smell of piss and vomit and cooked sausage. A door slammed in the distance. The sound of cursing, a man's and a woman's, was followed by slaps, screams, and then silence. Far away, the sound of a guitar drifted to him, melancholy in the cold night air.The world described in Broken Wing I connected too; unfortunately, for the most part, the characters I did not. When we first meet Gabriel, he is simply marking time:
Again and again steel kissed flesh. Not too deep. Now now. Not yet. Dead inside, lifeless and empty, the crimson bracelets offered a needed proof that for now, at least, he was still of this world.Yet he still attempts to save a child from the fate he himself met:
Then the child had come, and something inside him, something weak and treacherous, had betrayed him. He'd wanted...needed...to protect the boy, to keep him safe and innocent.As hard as I tried though, I couldn't completely connect with Gabriel...there were fleeting moments, but it was as though I experiencing echos filtered and reflected, not the raw emotion I wanted, I needed:
'Gabe? Gabriel'?' Her voice floated above the water, insistent, concerned'. 'Gabe?', a little sharper now, cutting clearly through the hiss and swoosh of surf on sand. He turned slowly in her direction, swaying with the force of the water, confused, as if he didn't recognise her.I discussed this with Kerry, concerned that somehow I was obviously missing what was right in front of me. We hypothesized that perhaps the author was aware of the target audience and had deliberately not taken that step into detailing the true darkness haunting Gabriel, the darkness that I felt so strongly when I read Melusine (Sarah Monette). Then again, it may be that, this being the author's first book, such detail will be apparent in future novels. I don't know. All I know is that I didn't have the intimate connection with Gabriel that I longed for. The story was fascinating, but...I wanted to reach Gabriel's heart, and I wasn't able too. And I fully accept that it was more than likely me than the book..
There were parts though that tugged at my heartstrings:
He'd even started to believe that maybe she was right. Maybe he deserved to love and be loved as much as anyone else did, but he couldn't believe it anymore.The second half of the book I enjoyed immensely. I found at times that Gabriel and Sarah were too sweet (for me) when together, so the straight historical feel of the second half was a welcome relief. I loved the rich descriptions, the vividly drawn secondary characters. But I have to admit that Gabriel himself did have (dare I say it? ) Mary Sue tendencies. He was brilliant with horses, languages, musical instruments, tactics...the list is endless. Not that that is a bad thing, but something I noticed.
And I know many have queried why Gabriel stayed away so long - two sentence for me explained it beautifully:
'I couldn't return to you mignonne. I didn't know how'.However, IMO Sarah was very quick to understand and forgive. Humanity just isn't that patient or forgiving.
Will I read another book by this author? *nods* I think Judith James writes very well...I just don't think I connected with this book as well as others have. FYI -KristieJ has written a wonderful review of Broken Wing here!
The Broken Wing Challenge still runs until the end of July, so you still have *checks calendar* 18 days to go!