Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Kanji is the last royal Kuro swan, an ancient race who once served the demonic Sidhee. The Kuro were betrayed and given as slaves to the Dryma fairies. When a Dryma is born, his soul attaches to a tree and to sustain their lives, the Dryma conscript the Kuro to protect their woods. In their servitude, the Kuro are languishing and dying off. Kanji is desperate to reunite his people with their stolen wings, but the task seems impossible.
When Kanji discovers a plan to unite the Sidhee and the Dryma, he tricks the Sidhee prince and attends a masked ball in disguise. There he meets Prince Tristan, who is nothing like the other fairies. Kind and compassionate, Tristan has a plan to free the Dryma from their dependence on the trees—and their need of the Kuro’s protection. It could mean freedom for Kanji’s people, but it might also mean choosing between them and the life of the fairy who is—impossibly—his mate.
When Tristan is wounded in battle and left for dead, his survival depends on the success of his experiments. Can Kanji dare to believe, or must he come to terms with the loss of his mate?
Hidden Wings by Ana Raine caught my attention primarily due to the inclusion of swans in her fantasy story, well that and the fae. I have long admired the species as much for their deadly attack skills as for their elegance and loyalty. So I had high hopes for seeing such natural history characteristics included as part of the plot and folded into the character of Kanji, the last of the royal Kuro Swans. What I ended up with was a interesting mixture that didn’t always make sense but still managed to be entertaining none the less.
Ana Raine set a huge task for herself with this tale, specifically creating the two species, their individual cultures and collective histories and then bringing them together in the forms of Tristan and Kanji. I think that in putting her attention towards the Dryma and the Kuro, the characters of Kanji and Tristan came off as pale comparisons. There is a richness in the mythology that Raine has created that just is so lovely, the dependency on the trees, the need for sacrifice that runs throughout many ancient cultures, and then threading those elements through her story that pulls you in and makes you forget some of the other aspects that might otherwise have you shaking your head. I’ve seen swans take out foxes and dogs. Swans are deadly. Where is that here?
Also, for many of you, this is not your happily ever after, nor is it meant to be. Hidden Wings is part of Dreamspinner Press’ Bittersweet Dreams titles which states in part that “… these stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.” Note the no traditional happy ending. So, you wouldn’t go into this book expecting to get one and you don’t. I didn’t mind that, but I know many readers will.
No, what bothered me was that I thought the characters and their relationship as mates needed more substance, at least as much as their species and cultures got. Hidden Wings has so much promise, enough that the author could easily pull more stories from without having to establish a base universe once again.
If you are a fan of fantasy, pick it up and decide for yourself.
Cover art by Anne Cain is lovely and works for me