CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2005
It has only been six months since Maighdlin discovered her true identity and became Queen Galea of the Blue Mountains. Previous to that, she was a mere servant in the palace, working as a spinner and just struggling to stay alive. During her short reign, the respected Queen Galea has greatly improved living and working conditions for all of the servants in the palace, but recently the Queen's power has been threatened by someone or something within the kingdom.
On Wings of Evil begins in media res, with the action starting six months after the first book ended, carrying the assumption that the reader will have read and already have been introduced to the bird woman Kour'el, the great dragon Api'Naga, and the newly crowned Queen Galea. As in On Wings of a Dragon, the chapters alternate between the narratives of Maigdlin and Kour'el, thereby giving the reader two varied perspectives into what might be happening in the kingdom. Evil forces have entered both the Blue Mountains and the land of the dragons, threatening to destroy the link between the two lands. The working relationship between dragons, bird women and humans in Taylor’s novels is a well-developed one – while countless other fantasy novels have focused solely on corrupt kingdoms or powerful dragons, Taylor successfully combines the two here in a complementary way.
Strong protagonists prevail in On Wings of Evil; in addition to Kour'el and Queen Galea, Mala, Maigdlin's friend and lady-in-waiting, and Talun, the captain of the royal guards, also have major roles in the novel. Talun, who is twice seriously injured, is also discovered to be the rightful heir to the kingdom of Teresita, following the same pattern that saw Maighdlin become Queen Galea at the end of the last book. Assuming that there will be a third book in the series, it will likely follow the story of Talun's rise to power and the developing love interest between him and Maighdlin.
Mala's character is also a compelling one with whom young readers will sympathize. She is seen in her transformation from the fiery-tempered and fiery-haired servant girl in the first book to an equally fiery-minded lady-in-waiting here. Now in her mid teens, Mala attracts attention from male suitors young and old. Also a talented actress; when Maighdlin disappears into a magical tunnel, Mala is quick to assume the role of queen as she impersonates Queen Galea, both to protect the integrity of the kingdom but surely also because she enjoys playing queen.
Her impersonation of Maighdlin's "queen look" brings up an important theme in Taylor's books – the conflict between appearance and reality that many of the characters face, as though plucked straight from a Shakespearean comedy such as Twelfth Night. Maighdlin may be the queen of the Blue Mountains, but, at many times, she wishes she were back in her small village with her grandfather and brother. She fears she is an ineffectual queen, and unless she has her royal skirts and jewels on, she does not feel much like a queen. Likewise, Talun's role as humble captain of the guards will likely be developed into an equally questioning king in the next novel, and while Mala may not be a queen, she can certainly act the part. This theme makes the characters very believable and helps demonstrate to younger readers that not only can kings and queens be the most ordinary of people, but many of them are also reluctant to be royalty as well.
Although On Wings of Evil is a fairly quick read, the high level of bloodshed suggests that a level of grade 5 and up would be most suitable for the novel. It will work well with reluctant readers of fantasy as each short chapter ends with a mini climax that makes the reader want to keep turning to the next page. With echoes of the Anne McCaffrey “Dragonriders of Pern” novels, On Wings of Evil will also appeal strongly to girls who crave fantasy novels with strong female protagonists. Kour'el, Mala and Maighdlin all portray strength in the face of adversity and are positive role models. As in all fantasy novels, evil plays a strong role in this novel in the reincarnation of Queen Mariah (who will likely re-appear in the next novel as well), but does not triumph over these strong women.
Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.