Review #3: The Wing Collection by Eilis O’Neal

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 7, 2010 in Reviews |

Author Website: http://www.eilisoneal.com
Published by: Fantasy Magazine,
January 4, 2010

The Story:

The Wing Collection is a delightfully creepy story about Emily and her cousin Jeffery, who has recently come to live with Emily and her parents. Jeffery is a bookworm, and Emily is decidedly not, but they put their differences aside after school one day when they come across a magnificent storefront that houses an impressive display of disembodied wings. The wings vary in size and type, coming from birds and bats and insects, including some suspicious specimens that belong to endangered species.

The wings become Jeffery’s obsession, though Emily tags along on their frequent trips to the shop, not sure what to make of her cousin and his odd behavior. She takes it easy on Jeffery though, since he’s dealing with recent abandonment issues, but when his reading habits shifts suddenly to the occult, Emily decides she can no longer let Jeffrey keep his secrets to himself.

The Craft:
SPOILERS

Reading this story is like opening up a series decorated gift boxes, each one bigger and more mysterious. Its characters are both approachable, and I enjoyed seeing Jeffery through Emily’s eyes and I shared in her interest to find out what made her strange cousin tick. The stakes rise constantly in this story, starting off with the odd store and its even odder owner. Then when Jeffrey gets the idea to start dabbling in magic, suddenly the sky is the limit, and the anticipation of what’s to come really builds.

The importance of physical objects stood out to me in this piece: the postcards, the feather, the books. Each packed a lot of emotion to be such small things, and it’s obvious how important they are to the characters. I think this physicality came into play in the absence of emotional relationships between the characters. Emily was on the verge of connecting to Jeffery as a real person with her almost accepting him as family, but I got the sense that Jeffery was too focused on finding his mother to reciprocate that feeling.

I think the ending worked for me, as ambiguous as it was. It disappointed me some as I read, but after pondering it for a day, it’s starting to grow on me. The image of the postcards is effectively repeated here, and the story’s focus shifts to Emily and her interpretations of what she meant to Jeffrey. She’s living in the aftermath of his disappearance, which has a direct impact on her own life, and still she keeps his secrets. It’s sort of sweet, sentimental, and deep in a way that encourages the reader to think through the story again.

If there’s one thing to learn from this piece (and there’s a lot more than one, but I’m just saying…) it’s how the author structures the scenes, building up suspense and mystery, then ending the scene on a tease. She shows us the pretty box, then lets us shake it, maybe take a peek, but you’ve got to keep reading to find out what exactly is inside.

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