Author: Jordan Dane (author website)
Release Date: December 27th 2011 from Harlequin Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Part Vertical Limit and part Meet Joe Black, comes Jordan Dane's On A Dark Wing. Beautifully written, and set against a gorgeous Alaskan backdrop (seriously, it had me at Alaska), I loved everything about this book... except (at times) the main character.
Five years ago Abbey Chandler cheated Death. She survived a horrific car accident, but her lucky break came at the expense of her mother’s life and changed everything. After she crossed paths with Death—by taking the hand of an ethereal boy made of clouds and sky—she would never be normal again.
Now she’s the target of Death’s Ravens and an innocent boy’s life is on the line. When Nate Holden—Abbey’s secret crush—starts to climb Alaska’s Denali, the Angel of Death is with him because of her.
Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets
Five years ago, Abbey Chandler survived the horrific car accident which killed her mother. And this girl has major survivor's guilt. Abbey is still haunted by memories of the ethereal boy with gorgeous blue eyes who held her hand in the wreckage. Well, as it turns out, Death hasn't forgotten her, either.
Now fifteen, Abbey has an all-consuming, passionate, earth-shattering crush on golden boy Nate Holden... who doesn't know she exists. Like, literally, wouldn't know her from a bar of soap dressed in jeans and a parka. Thing is, Nate's about to climb Alaska's monster of a mountain, Denali. And Death is watching very, very closely. Abbey and Nate's lives are inextricably drawn together when Death decides watching isn't quite enough anymore.
On A Dark Wing is told in shifting POV, from Abbey's first person, to Nate, Tanner (Abbey's BFF) and a few other characters' third person. This raise warning flags for you? Put them down. Because it really works. You get to see all the action, from every angle, and oh my goodness, it's amazing. It allows Dane to tell a wholly unique and utterly riveting story, and here's the thing: she can write. In Dane's hands, this is magic. I loved the characters in this book.
There were moments in the book that were so very, very beautiful I caught my breath. Others were edge-of-my-seat gripping and frightening. In others my stomach had butterflies. I fell breathtakingly in love with Dane's writing.
Abbey, Abbey, Abbey...Abbey is bitter, cold and isolated--a lot like the place she calls home. After her mother's death, Abbey is left with a major case of survivor's guilt, and given she was ten at the time, it's really shaped her perception on life. Her mother was the butter to her tiny family's bread, and with her gone, she and her dad don't know how to connect.
Abbey has this 'me and my BFF against everyone else in the world' thing going on. She is quite obviously miserable, but rejects every offer of help and support. She acts like she hates her father, because he doesn't 'get' her, and flies into fits of temper or sulks for reasons I never understood. Here's the thing: I never 'got' her, either. In a book, I need motivations for actions, words, feelings... and something about Abbey's felt off. Aside from vague suggestions she might be suffering clinical depression, I could never quite follow why she behaved and felt the way she did.
But watching Abbey find a way to connect with her Dad over the course of the story, and coming to terms with her grief after five long years, well, that was magic. And ultimately? I liked her.
Nate Does Denali:Fact about me: I love the mountains. I love snow. I love the biting cold of the alpine air, the dead still, and the roaring winds. In Australia, that's one thing, but Alaska is almost a holy place to a skier. No, there's no skiing here, but there are mountains and mountaineering, and here's where my Vertical Limit comparison comes into play.
We get to visit Nate's head as he prepares for, and begins his ascent of Denali (Mt McKinley outside of Alaska). Dane weaves in little facts about the mountain, about mountaineering, about the planning and preparation that's gone into this climb, and I was hooked. I even managed to get my husband to read this bit of the book, and that's a massive achievement.
Nate's point of view gives us a chance to meet him, beyond Abbey's slightly obsessive-creepy crush on him. We get to connect, and care for him as he fights for survival. And Nate is a really cool guy: He loves his family, loves his best mate, and lives the mountains... which basically meant I loved him.
Death:Death... well Death was... unique. I felt for him--ached for him. You could feel his longing to belong, love, be loved. And I loved how Dane imagined his role in the scheme of things... his guardianship of the souls he carries.
Looking For Alaska:As I've mentioned, the real winner for me in On A Dark Wing was the backdrop. Dane painted a picture of Alaska so real, so beautiful, and so vivid, I was lost in it. I felt the slushy snow under my boots, I was there with Abbey watching the rippling light of the aurora borealis, and I smelled the crisp mountain air. Everything about this Alaska was vivid, beautifully described, and so, so real.
The Verdict:Part Vertical Limit and part Meet Joe Black, I loved this book. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it, even if I can't reconcile my Abbey-issues with how very much I liked it. On A Dark Wing is beautifully written. It's intriguing. It's set against the most incredibly gorgeous backdrop imaginable (Alaska! Nothern Lights! Snow! Mountains!). At times it was exhilarating and exciting, at others quiet, sweet and sad. On a number of levels it just... worked for me. I want more. Now!
On A Dark Wing was kindly provided by Harlequin TEEN via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks you guys!