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Reviews of The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills

The Wings Upon Her Back

by Samantha Mills

The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills X
The Wings Upon Her Back by Samantha Mills
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  • Paperback:
    Apr 2024, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sara Fiore
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About this Book

Book Summary

A loyal warrior in a crisis of faith must fight to regain her place and begin her life again while questioning the events of her past. This gripping science-fantasy novel from a Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Locus Award-winning debut author is a complex, action-packed exploration of the costs of zealous faith, ceaseless conflicts, and unquestioning obedience.

Zenya was a teenager when she ran away from home to join the mechanically-modified warrior sect. She was determined to earn mechanized wings and protect the people and city she loved. Under the strict tutelage of a mercurial, charismatic leader, Zenya became Winged Zemolai.

But after twenty-six years of service, Zemolai is disillusioned with her role as an enforcer in an increasingly fascist state. After one tragic act of mercy, she is cast out and loses everything she worked for. As Zemolai fights for her life, she begins to understand the true nature of her sect, her leader, and the gods themselves.

Excerpt
The Wings Upon Her Back

There is a question which has preoccupied me for many years:

What is Radezhda?

I can already hear your complaints. Why, it is a city, of course! In that case, I ask you: what is a city?

Creator Stasia wrote that a city is a related network of roads. But this cannot be true. Some of our roads extend clear through the mountains, and we do not claim all the land alongside them there, nor the municipalities where they continue on the other side. This is clearly the musing of an engineer—I built it, therefore it is mine.

Is a city a cluster of homes, then? This answer seems satisfactory when considering an isolated community such as ours, but there are many more cities in the world which neatly abut one another. We find ourselves in the same situation as we were with the roads—where to call an end to it? We include the farmers in our cityhood, and they do not even reside within the city walls.

Borders, then! That is the purpose of borders. To mutually ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This extraordinary book examines the faith of one woman at two different turning points in her life. The child Zenya renounces familiarity and family to answer the call of a god she believes in with every fiber of her being, only to learn that there is still more she must give up to prove herself. The jaded, broken warrior Zemolai, cast off after one misguided act of mercy, is faced with a reckoning that threatens to shatter her once rock-solid faith entirely. What Mills does so expertly is elicit the same level of empathy from the reader for a woman at two wildly different life stages. In alternating chapters, we watch both journeys: the child learning that her fantasies of heroism are not everything she dreamed and the woman coming to terms with those dreams finally and forever breaking up around her in the face of a darker but necessary truth. The reader pines for Zenya to allow room for doubt into a worldview rapidly spiraling into zealotry and for wounded Zemolai to allow herself to grieve for the faith she is losing...continued

Full Review (883 words)

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(Reviewed by Sara Fiore).

Media Reviews

Foreword Reviews
The Wings Upon Her Back is a masterful fantasy novel in which a powerful woman confronts the threats of fascism, zealous faith, and disillusionment.

Parade
Mills delivers her first novel, and its universal acclaim mark this as one of the most notable debuts of the year.

Washington Post
As Zemolai was manipulated and gaslit, so in turn does she try to manipulate the revolutionaries who have captured her, but she slowly comes to recognize the cycle of abuse she's trapped in. Her journey makes for a near-perfect novel that we'll be hearing about for a long time.

Booklist (starred review)
The Wings upon Her Back is a triumphant debut novel. The complex narrative examines the intricacies of blind devotion, self-image, and the hidden motivations behind martial control.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
An absolute must-read—fantasy fans will find themselves in literary heaven." —Kirkus

Library Journal (starred review)
Mills's debut novel is complex and haunting, filled with beautiful prose and timely themes of political and religious upheaval and personal journeys.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This cathartic adventure will stay with readers long after the final page.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Religious Deconstruction

The heart of the story in The Wings Upon Her Back lies in Zenya's hard-fought battle with her faith. Indoctrinated into the service of the mecha god in her youth, she has only ever known faith without question. The deconstruction of that faith and the rebuilding of her identity as a freethinking woman with agency isn't entirely assured by the book's end, but she has taken her first steps toward a worldview based on her own choices and ideas.

Part of what makes Zenya's deconstruction so difficult is her firm belief that anything, be it thought or written word, that even suggests a lack of faith in the mecha god is heresy and therefore dooms her to be cast away from the light of her deity. Deconstructing, or taking apart and examining...

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Read-Alikes

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