Book Review: Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury

“And if you’re wondering if I’m sad about it, because it means we’ll never get to mend our broken friendship: no I’m not. I’d wished for it.”

Buckle up for another ride on the “Charlotte fangirls about Melinda Salisbury” train. I know I say this every time, but Her Dark Wings is my favourite Mel book ever. It’s so good that not only have I read it twice to form coherent thoughts, but I also keep getting lost in the story whilst going back to the bits I tabbed to help me write this review.

Her Dark Wings is Corey’s story told from her perspective following the death of her former best friend Bree. Corey absolutely hates Bree now, and with good reason: Bree starting sleeping with Corey’s boyfriend (Ali), which I think we can all agree is an unforgiveable offence. Corey’s story is one of hatred and vengeance, but also friendship and hurt. There’s so much hurt in this book, because whilst Corey absolutely knows the rituals to follow when you lose your boyfriend ( a particularly excellent bit of writing from Mel), there are no such rituals for losing your best friend. Mel absolutely nails how heart-achingly difficult it is to have to let go of a friendship you thought would last a lifetime, even if what the other person did is completely unforgiveable. Corey’s hurt and rage is palpable, it leaps off the page. You don’t just read Corey’s pain, you feel it. You hate Bree with her and then Bree has the audacity to die at the Thesmophoria, and suddenly Corey is expected to just let it go, as though Bree’s death wipes out all the hurt she caused. We see Corey battle with this expectation, her confused feelings about Bree’s death, the intensity of her hatred, and her sadness that Bree is no longer holding up her end of the bargain of being alive to be hated.

There are good people in Corey’s life on the island too. Her Dad is lovely. He’s a quiet kind of guy who just gets on with things but clearly would do anything for his girl. He changes the taps and the pipes and later,  buys her bottled water because she can’t stand the taste of the water. He knows what she loves and accepts her choices even when they must be impossibly sad for him. She also has Merry, her step mother, who is bloody lush and always there with a coffee and the right words at the right moment. There’s also the Oracle who is a bit less home comfort and more home truths. She knows things and always seems to be there with exactly what’s needed at the exact time it’s needed. We don’t get a lot of her presence, but I would absolutely sit and drink vodka and pomegranate juice with her in a graveyard to find out more. It is her who Corey speaks to when she needs to make sense of things that happened at the Thesmophoria. Corey also kissed a dark and mysterious stranger (quite a feat on a tiny island where everyone knows everyone else) whilst trying to prove that she is absolutely, definitely over Ali. She wished Bree dead, and it happened. Even though you know Bree dies, it’s still a shocking moment, which is testament to Mel’s storytelling skills. Later, she discovers the mysterious guy she was kissing was none other than Hades himself and things take a delightful turn with Corey getting a message from Hades, not doing what’s expected of her, and finding herself plonked in the underworld, living with the Furies.

The Furies are so brilliantly written that they are utterly captivating and also terrifying. I have a soft spot for Alecto, she’s different to the others; adorable, a little dorky and somehow more caring despite being, you know, an actual Fury. They give Corey space, a home and become very attached to her, possessive even. They see the hate and vengeance in Corey, they think this is her power and they want that for themselves. I can see the appeal of being a Fury: fabulous wings, sharp claws, wreaking vengeance and then popping off home to put your feet up. Corey has an almost pleasant life with them until she discovers what they’ve been hiding and what they really do and they force her to make a decision. The situation makes us stop to think about the difference between revenge and justice, and how even though those two things might look the same, one is more hateful and violent.

When it really comes down to it, Corey has to choose between those things, and her strength in that moment blew me away. I admired her so much. She had a lot of bitterness and hate in her heart, but she finds her limits and learns to embrace her darkness as well as her light. She learns the answer to the Oracle’s questions: “Can you not be both? Can you not have two faces? Can you not belong to two worlds?” and in doing so, she finds her power.

Mel has a special knack for writing about young women in a variety of fragile situations discovering their power – Twylla, Sorrow, Alva and Corey all have this in common. Their power comes from discovering who they really are and living their life on their own terms. For Corey her power is in growing things, from coaxing shoots of life in impossible situations, in owning that gardening is what brings her peace, that it is who she is and how she thrives in both worlds and it leads her to make decisions about how she will find her peace and live her life after all that has happened.

I know I say this every single time I write a Mel review, but Her Dark Wings really is my favourite thing Mel has ever written, and if you haven’t yet picked it up, you absolutely must.

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