Taken from the cover: ‘The fields at Chickamauga, Georgia — America’s oldest national military park — claimed thirty-five thousand casualties during the Civil War. Any good guide will tell you that the grounds are haunted. The battlefield even has its own resident haunt, called Old Green Eyes for his telltale luminous gaze…’
‘Wings To The Kingdom’ is southern gothic meets ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ People remember Buffy, right? Eden Moore is the feisty heroine who sees dead people and she doesn’t like it. The second book to feature Eden, it has a gripping and immersive opening chapter that drops you right into the heart of the story. It hooked me completely and displayed Priest’s competence at setting mood and creating fascinating characters. It slows down somewhat after this and I think some of the minutiae of daily life could have been spared in favour of bumping the story along a little quicker.
Eden, the young psychic, is trying to live an ordinary life out of the public eye after a near fatal encounter with mad relatives both living and dead. We meet her some time after the events of the first novel, ‘Not Flesh Nor Feather’, when she’s trying to avoid the distraught relatives of missing people. Naturally she fails. After all, it would be a dull story if she succeeded.
As well as having to deal with the misplaced ire of bereaved people, Eden can’t help even if she wanted to, when the story begins she’s also learning to come to terms with the existence of an insane relative who, despite her better judgement, she can’t turn her back on. Then we come to the main lot of the novel to add to her woes. The dead of the nearby Chickamauga Civil War battlefield are getting restless and haunting the area because their guardian, Ol’ Green Eyes, has left them. Despite her best efforts to stay away from the mystery and leave it to TV psychics, Dana and Tripp Marshall, to solve, Eden gets drawn in.
Without going into detail in ‘Wings To The Kingdom’, Priest has drawn on myths, actual history and documented urban legends about Ol’ Green Eyes and the local area where the novel is set with particularly emphasis on Chickamauga battlefield and the ghostly shenanigans associated with the area. She has created an interesting character in Eden but I think, as I hadn’t read the first book, I didn’t get to know enough about her in this novel and indeed was surprised to discover she was (I think) a teen-ager as she comes across as very mature for a younger person. The story is told mostly from Eden’s point of view, but we do get a few chapters told from another character’s point of view, which I have to say, somewhat spoiled the mystery for me.
Aside from the spooky plot fun, Priest lavishes description on the areas where the novel takes place. In fact, she draws such a detailed picture that I feel that I could probably find my way around certain parts of the area. Having done a bit of research after reading the book, it is evident that Priest has either done a lot of research of her own or just knows the area like the back of her hand, either way I found it fascinating. There are a couple of plot inconsistencies that jarred with me or were not fully explained and I also think there was too much unnecessary description of mundane actions like opening car doors, stirring coffee, etc, which I felt slowed the pace too much for my liking. I wanted to find out what happened!
Having said that, ‘Wings To The Kingdom’ is a solid supernatural tale. It draws on several ‘real’ myths and ghost stories and gives them coherence, creating new myths out of the old. Echoing the southern way of life, it is at times a little too leisurely for my taste and a little light on pertinent detail about the main character, presupposing, probably quite rightly, that whoever reads it will have read the first book first. I intend to rectify that mistake forthwith as, despite my few misgivings, Priest spins a darn good yarn.
(pub: TOR/Forge. 399 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), $18.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-31309-X)