Review: On A Dark Wing by Jordan Dane

Sunday, December 4, 2011
Title: On A Dark Wing
Author: Jordan Dane
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 384 (Nook NetGalley ARC edition)
Published: expected late December 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

The choices I had made led to the moment when fate took over. I would learn a lesson I wasn't prepared for. And Death would be my willing teacher.
 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 stalks him because of her.

And Abbey finds out the hard way that Death never forgets.

On A Dark Wing is obviously eye-catching and interesting novel, just judging by looks alone: from the vaguely foreboding tone of the title itself to the scattered murder of ravens across the letters of the title, and the ominious, "Death never forgets. . . " ominously taglined in front of the Grim Reaper, this is a hard to miss title. It's a readable book that veers from normal to supernatural to creepy thriller almost: one thing that can be honestly said about On A Dark Wing is that it is never predictable. This is the story of a girl named Abbey, yes like Abbey Road of Beatles fame, her obsessive crush, her mom, a paralyzed but lovable hacker and Death. Yes, Death with a capital "D" - the Man himself appears and is the crux around which the rest of the book - and characters - must revolve.

Abbey is from Palmer, Alaska. It's immediately clear that miss Chandler is fairly damaged goods: her guilt and issues over her mom's death is immediate and obvious from the get-go. I had to shave off rating points for such a heavy-handed introduction: I like when the author eases the problems in so it's not overwhelming every page. She's also constantly around death: her dad runs a crematorium so death and dying are more personal and familiar to Abbey than most people. By page thirty, Abbey has begun obsessively regaling the reader with her obsession with a boy named Nate. From the way Abbey talks and acts, it's obvious her feelings veer into stalker territory: she plans openly, without any kind of embarrassment, to radio-eavesspydrop on a trip of Nate's that he doesn't even know she knows he is going on, not to mention the tiny fact that Nate has no idea who Abbey is. It's fairly uncomfortable to read Abbey waxing lyrical over a guy who literally couldn't pick her out of a line-up. I mean saving, "Nate, give me strength" when in a bad situation? Just.. what? Who does that? I certainly wanted to like Abbey - I definitely came closer the closer to the end that I got in the book and she grows up quite a bit- but her stalker tendencies, coupled with her piss-poor treatment of her father made it nearly impossible for much of the novel. 

Other than Abbey, there is of course, Nate himself. I felt no real connection with Nate as an individual character, nor is it apparent for a while why we are supposed to care about a random boy going on a trip for the first few chapters. Nate is far too generic, too perfect for me to really buy into: I want a flawed man over a too-good-to-be-true archetype any day. His plot-line, though I liked how it intersected with Abbey's eventually, just failed to garner my interest from the start.  Even his scenes on Denali failed to catch my eye - they were too bland and encompassing to create much emotion. I was much more interested in the paralyzed, funny and smart Tanner Lange than Nate. He is a much more flawed, real character than Nate, and carried the pages he appeared upon. Even when I found his cooperation with Abbey's stalker plans to be bemusing, I liked him immensely. He doesn't rag on Abbey for substituting food for love, he doesn't constantly rehash her guilt over her mother, he's just a best friend: supportive, loving, kind, there when he is needed the most.

The random shifts in POV, from Abbey's personal and most often-used first person to the third-person omniscient for any other (Nate, Jackie, Tanner, Bob) were very very annoying. I'd have prefered it all be first person: Abbey, Nate, Tanner, everyone, or all third person. It's disconcerting and just weird to be in a characters head one minute and passive observer for another the next. I also felt that some POVs visited, like those of Jackie, were needless filler instead of advancing the plot further.  I would've taken more action/adventure and less insight if that was the trade-off there. It's also worth noting for me, an admitted over-hyphenator and enthusiastic parenthesis user, that Miss Dane uses ellipses a lot . . in her writing. . . for stress. I can understand the urge: it's a useful tool to convey stress and importance or hesitance, but it was way way overdone.

Using Death as a character seems like a fairly risky gamble for a writer. It's hard to create empathy and sympathy for such a feared and unknown and unknowable force, but like Markus Zusak's triumphamt The Book Thief, (admittedly to a much, much lesser extent) On A Dark Wing makes its Death.. human, if not exactly humane. Touched by Abbey's tragic past, this world's version of Death seeks to experience more: love, loss, life, death, happiness. I'll leave it to you to see if/how he does, but other than his relative humanity, I was intrigued by Jordan Dane's version of death, dying and what happens after. While I can't say this incarnation of Death has been my favorite in literature (Terr Pratchett's DEATH will win that contest hands down, any/every time), he/it is understandable, even inspiring sympathy and pity from me. I felt he dragged on a bit too much into the ending, but Death pulled off the feat of coming across as more than just the Grim Reaper of legend.

I wish I could hand On a Dark Wing a higher rating than a mere 2.5 out 5 stars but numerous problems with the novel overwhelm the good. Some elements are handled quite well (Death himself, his personal wants, his individual mythology) while others lacked authenticity (the whole Nate-stalking fiasco) and yet others felt unfulfilled (Abbey and her father). I wasn't a fan of the climax/resolution of the book at all: for all the drama and the tears, it seems both too easy and too simple. It's at least an interesting read, and one that is surprisingly creepy and dark for young-adult novel, but I'm not sure if this is an author I'll keep reading in the future.


  1. This book sounds good, but the weird point-of-view throws me off. I may try it in the future if I come across it, but not completely sure. Thanks for the honest review. I'm sorry it didn't work for you.

  2. I was sadly let down. It had some good parts, but I'm serious Abbey was almost a psycho stalker. It's pretty creepy - and not in a good way.

  3. I completely agree with you on every point especially with Abbey's character. That alone was almost enough for me to put the book down and walk away. Wonderful review.

  4. Why thanks Shortskie! Glad to see I wasn't alone in my antipathy for Abbey - I just wanted a more rounded, real character! Oh well, but thanks for stopping by :)


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