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review 2014-12-30 15:37
Wings of Destruction by Victoria Zagar
Wings of Destruction - Victoria Zagar

I bought this, after considerable internal debate, because it was tagged “asexual romance.” The reasons why it took me a while to finally hit the “buy” button included reviews that said it wasn't very good, its price-to-word count ratio (it cost about twice what I would normally be willing to pay for something this long), and angels (I don't read much angel fiction).

Anyway, this novella takes place an indeterminate amount of time in the future. An economic collapse plunged the world into chaos, and now everyone is either affiliated with a gang or living in fear of the gangs. If you're with one of the gangs, you're either a sex slave or you have a mate and are marginally protected. Martin, an asexual man, is scared and depressed. He's just been left by his latest mate – every one of them ends up wanting more from him than he's willing to give. Seeing no other acceptable options, he decides to kill himself by jumping off Spire Rock. He is saved by the angel Anael, who has been sent to evaluate humans and determine whether it would be best to destroy everything with Black Rain, thereby wiping the slate clean for God's next new world. The angel decides that Martin will be his guide as he makes his final decision.

I'll start with the good. I was interested enough in the story to see where the author was going to go with all of this, so the 59 pages weren't as much of a slog as I'd feared they would be. Also, it was nice that both the asexual character (Martin) and the transgender character (that one's a spoiler) got happy endings.

Now for the bad. According to the copyright page, this had two editors. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they checked for typos and did little else. This needed a lot more work than that. There were phrases and word choices that needed tweaking, and world details and character interactions would have benefited from someone going over it all and asking “Does this make sense? Is any of it contradictory?”

Some examples:

“A tormented expression and the rings around his sad, blue eyes had made him look older than he actually was.” (9)

I'm pretty sure the author actually meant “circles under his eyes” rather than “rings around his eyes.”

“Matching red uniforms finished their costumes, a red that signified the color of the Scrapers, the gang that ruled these parts.” (13)

This is redundant, as we're told twice that their uniforms are red. Also, red doesn't signify a color, it is a color.

As far as the world went, I have no clue how it was able to function. George R.R. Martin's Westeros is less brutal than this place – neither adults nor children were safe from being turned into sex slaves by the gangs, and it didn't seem like anyone did anything but hide (if you weren't in a gang), fight, or rape. How was everyone staying fed? Readers were told that the gas had run out long ago, so I wouldn't think there'd be much canned food left, but at the same time no one seemed to be producing any new food. Where were the gardens, the livestock, and the people to take care of it all? Oh, and where did the gangs get all those bullets? They used them like they were playing a video game with unlimited ammo.

Another thing the author didn't think through very well was time. Readers were told that God slept on the Sabbath, “one day in Heaven that spanned a thousand years in Earth time" (6). However, later on we saw characters in Heaven looking in on people on Earth, 25 years later in Earth time. We were told that the people in Heaven had had “enough time to build a life" (56). Now, math is not my strong suit, but even I know that those numbers don't work out. The characters in Heaven got only a tiny fraction of a day together while those 25 years sped by on Earth.

Now I suppose I should talk about the whole “asexual romance” aspect. Anael and Martin's love for each other was very sudden and bland. I think Martin fell for Anael primarily because Anael didn't have sex organs and was therefore the “safest” romantic partner possible. Anael fell for Martin because Martin saved him, and also maybe because he was “pure.”

This touches on something that made me a little uncomfortable. It felt like readers were supposed to see Martin's asexuality as making him better and purer than others. Sexual feelings were dirty and corrupting. I also didn't like the mention of Martin having been raped “twenty-or-so years ago,” because that came a little too close to indicating that he was asexual because he was raped.

Zagar's efforts to write Martin as an asexual person sometimes felt like being smacked in the face with the exact opposite. For example, here is Martin noticing Anael's appearance: “For a non-sexual being, he was the perfect sculpture of a man. Martin felt the stirring of a yearning that had nothing to do with sexual hunger.” (15) And here's one I cut short to avoid spoilers, although I'll mention that it made my skin crawl in context: “His tender hands moved the sponge over Anael’s body without the slightest hint of wanton desire . . .” (22) By repeatedly telling readers there was nothing sexual about his actions, Zagar managed to make it seem like Martin was thinking about sex all the time.

There are a lot of other things I could write about, like the utter lack of details about characters' lives (What were the names of Martin's mates? No wonder they all left him, if he never bothered to talk to them like they were people) and my discomfort with the magical changes everyone needed to go through in order to be happy, but this review is already long enough. All in all, while I'm glad I wasn't expecting much, I still feel a bit disappointed. The story did manage to hold my interest, but the writing and world-building needed lots of work. I can't see myself ever recommending this to anyone.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2014-12-29 15:35
Reading progress update: I've read 12 out of 59 pages.
Wings of Destruction - Victoria Zagar

"You [humans] have been a troubling experiment. Even more so than the dinosaurs."

 

Both mentions of the dinosaurs so far have made me laugh, and I don't think they're supposed to. 

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text 2014-12-29 06:23
Reading progress update: I've read 3 out of 59 pages.
Wings of Destruction - Victoria Zagar

This one's short, so I may very well manage to finish it before the start of the new year. It's romance between an asexual man and an angel. The reviews I've seen have been lukewarm at best, so I'm not holding out much hope for it. But it can't possibly be worse than the badly written fantasy romance I read where the asexual guy's boyfriend stewed in his own sexual frustration, cheated, and then was killed by his asexual boyfriend. Right?

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review 2014-10-17 04:54
Wings of Destruction - Okay book, but still bought it
Wings of Destruction - Victoria Zagar

Wings of Destruction is a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novella about Martin, who is asexual in a world built around fulfilling carnal desires. He is unable to keep relationships (or Mates as it is referred to here), and tries to survive on his own while trying to stay off the radar of roving gangs who rape and pillage whatever they can find.

At the beginning of this story though, Martin is at the end of his resilience, and he decides that dying would be better than anything this desolate world can offer him, so he prepares to kill himself, and when trying, he meets the angel Anael who has been sent to judge whether those on earth should remain or be destroyed.

What I liked:

Wings of Destruction is an imaginative story, and went into a couple directions that I hadn’t expected, which was a nice twist. I also very much appreciated how some of the characters weren’t all that they appeared.

I went into this story primarily because I was looking to read something with an asexual character. Being ace myself, it’s really rare to find romances with ace characters so I wanted to check this out.

I have complicated feelings about fantastical pairings with ace characters. Here Martin is happy to find someone, a literal angel, who can love him for him, and won’t pressure him for sex. A part of me is, “Yay!” because Martin deserves love. A part of me is wary because of the (not intentional) message that ace characters can only find love with those not of this world. I think it’s hard for authors now writing ace characters because there is so little available in romance now, and so anything that comes up is looked at as an example of representation, and asexuality is really complex, and there are so many ways to write about it.

For those who want a quick primer on asexuality, I’m going to steal what I wrote for my City of Soldiers review:

“Asexuality is the orientation when a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction. They can feel romantic feelings, and they can fall in love. They can like touching and kissing and cuddling. Some are into kink, some aren’t. Some can like sex and be aroused while others can be repulsed by sex. There are hetero-romantic and homo-romantic and pan-romantic and aromantic asexuals. I’ve come to understand that it’s a really wide spectrum of people, where the real commonality is the lack of feeling sexual attraction towards others.”

Martin is ace and also suffers from depression, so overall really devalues himself, especially since no one will stay with him because he doesn’t want to have sex. Meeting Anael is for him, like finally feeling what love can be, even for him, which was nice.

Was the Asexual character “fixed” in the end? No, he’s not. And I bring it up because my worry with reading ace romances is that the ace character will be changed somehow in order for there to be an HEA that is considered more “normal”. But, no, Martin’s asexuality is not changed or erased.

What was harder for me: The writer’s style felt simplistic, and felt like an early work. I’m really psyched that the author wrote a story with an ace lead, so I encourage them to continue writing and working on their craft. There was a lot of ideas here in a short amount of space (20,000 words), and for me, the execution felt too simple or bare for what being called within the fantastical plot.

Do I recommend buying it? This is partially an activism issue with me. For me, who sees so few stories with ace characters, I feel the need to buy them when they do come out to send the message to keep writing more.

The market is very cyclic--so if you want more diversity in your romances, whether it’s more trans*, bi, or gender fluid characters, more characters of color or diverse backgrounds or characters with disabilities, the cycle is this: Write  Publish  Buy. If a part of that cycle isn’t working, it can encourage the other parts to also stop. So, if you want it, people got to write it, people got to publish it, and people got to buy it, and that’s how it gets into the market more.

So, although this story was just an okay read for me, I’ve already pre-ordered my own copy, and my encourage to the author is to keep writing, and to the greater field, I’d love to see more ace characters getting their Happily Ever After. (I see Alex Beecroft has a book on the horizon.)

And there are a couple lists over at GoodReads, Asexuals in Fiction and Queer Romances with an Asexual MC. If you know of other titles, feel free to add!

 

Reviewed first for Boys in our Books.

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