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Book: “Wings Once Cursed and Bound” by Piper J. Drake
Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Casablanca, April 2023
Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!
Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat
My wings unbound, I am the Thai bird princess
And no matter the cost,
I will be free.
Bennet Andrews represents a secret organization of supernatural beings dedicated to locating and acquiring mythical objects, tucking them safely away where they cannot harm the human race. When he meets Peeraphan Rahttana, it’s too late—she has already stepped into The Red Shoes, trapped by their curse to dance to her death.
But Bennet isn’t the only supernatural looking for deadly artifacts. And when the shoes don’t seem to harm Peeraphan, he realizes that he’ll have to save her from the likes of creatures she never knew existed. Bennett sweeps Peeraphan into a world of myth and power far beyond anything she ever imagined. There, she finds that magic exists in places she never dreamed—including deep within herself.
Review: First of all, thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, for sending me an ARC of this book! I can say that the cover is just as fantastic in person as it seems from the small image above. Very unique and vibrant, just the sort of cover that would make me pause when browsing the aisles of the bookstore. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t enjoy the actual book itself nearly as much.
When a fellow dancer hands Peeraphan a box with beautiful red dancing shoes, she can’t resist their magnetic appeal. Now, however, she finds that these are not in fact ordinary shoes, but slippers that have been cursed to compel their wearer to dance themselves to death. Luckily for Peeraphan, her own magical heritage has given her some level of protection from the shoes themselves. But there are those who are hunting artifacts like these, and they don’t seem to care that the shoes are currently attached to a living woman. Another artifact hunter, a vampire named Bennet, has also been tracking the shoes, but after meeting Peeraphan, he realizes that much more is at stake than a simple recovering mission.
I initially requested this book because of the very intriguing premise of the Thai legend of the kinnaree. Urban fantasy has long been entrapped by the classic monsters like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. So I was incredibly excited to see a story focused on a lesser known legend. I also know next to nothing about Thai folklore or the legend of the kinnaree. Unfortunately, I still don’t. I’m not exactly sure what happened here really. I feel like I was sold on this very specific premise, but then I started reading the book and it turned out to be…not that. Our main character, who also goes by Punch (dislike), knows next to nothing about her own abilities. And then as the book goes on, very little is added on to that. Instead, we were once again bogged down with vampires and the typical “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” ilk.
I also never felt like Punch was given much characterization. The shoes show up with in the first few pages, far too quickly for any good character work to have been established prior. And from there, the action quickly sweeps her along, but I’m never given any reason why I should care or be particularly invested in her story. Instead, I was mostly just frustrated from the start! She senses something strange about the shoes right off the bat, and then, of course, just puts them on anyways. It wasn’t a strong start for the character, and the story never seemed to recover from there.
I also didn’t really care for Bennet or the romance as a whole. Again, his character and story felt incredibly familiar, with very little new to say about vampires or any of the other beings we encounter. The love story also felt rushed towards the end, and I couldn’t tell exactly who the audience was for this book. It didn’t feel as if it could commit fully one way or another, reading at certain points as very YA and then at others trying to take on a more gritty, adult tone.
Overall, the entire thing really didn’t work for me. Part of the problem was that I had fairly high expectations going in. I was really excited by the idea of a new urban fantasy story that was pulling from lesser known legends, and then when the book failed to deliver on that, it was hard to latch on to anything else. I think there will be readers who enjoy it, however, especially those who really enjoy urban fantasies as a whole. It just wasn’t for me, sadly.
Rating 6: While it’s an acceptable urban fantasy on the whole, I feel like the primary premise, that of the legendary Thai kinnaree, was a complete let-down.
“Wings Once Cursed and Bound” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on Fairytale Retellings in Contemporary Romance.