The Boy Who Wanted Wings
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About the Author
Historical Novels Review
"This classic different-worlds love affair provides the human grounding for a larger story replete with well-researched period details about the struggle of 17th-century Europe against the forces of Islam, and Martin is a skilled enough storyteller to keep the whole narrative moving forward briskly to a very satisfying conclusion. The author has written a pitch-perfect follow-up to his Poland Trilogy."
"A poor archer in medieval Poland takes aim at the love of his life in this epic novel from Martin. The anxious Aleksy Gazdecki, a young farmhand, embodies the ethnic and political tensions of Europe during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Born to a Tatar family, he was taken in by Poles and raised a Christian, living with his adoptive family under the leadership of Lord Halicki. Despite his background, Aleksy longs to showcase his talent in archery as a hussar, or soldier, in the service of King Jan Sobieski. He has an unfortunate run-in with Lord Halicki's sons and realizes that the alluring girl whom he'd seen earlier is their sister, Lady Krystyna. He and she exchange words during a chance encounter; her brothers, though, don't take kindly to him, and a fight ensues, leading Aleksy and his family to fear Lord Halicki's wrath. But after a frightening summons, they learn the Lord's mind is elsewhere, on the incoming siege of Vienna-and by extension, the rest of Christian Europe-by the Muslim Ottomans. Aleksy is assigned to a humiliating role as retainer for Krystyna's brother Roman, and he's plagued by the prospect of being unable to fight for Poland on his own or pursue Krystyna's affection. Meanwhile Krystyna tries to avoid her arranged marriage to Lord Nardolski long enough to find Aleksy again. The believability of this novel, which is sprinkled with period-specific details, is never in question. Martin sets the stage so tidily that the plight of Aleksy and Krystyna, who desire to move beyond the social classes that keep them apart, transcends the historical moment. Underneath the story of the sweethearts' labyrinthine struggle lingers the question of what it means to fight for one's country but against one's relatives-a situation in which Aleksy, as a Tatar, finds himself. Sprawling but never slow, the plot moves naturally from battle to intimacy and back again. "A gripping, transporting story of self-determination set against fate." Kirkus Reviews "Amidst class and religious warfare, this alternately romantic and brutal love story is also a reminder that the struggle between Christianity and Islam is a great deal older than 2001. Culminating in the re-creation of the Siege of Vienna in 1683, where monstrous killing was perpetrated in the name of God and power, this is a meticulously researched and convincingly written tale of love's triumph that will surprise historical fiction readers with its little known historical backdrop. In an ethnically diverse Poland that is now long gone, the main characters struggle with loyalties to family, race, and country as they come to understand that no fear or evil is unchangeable." Leonard Kniffel, Past Editor in Chief of American Libraries Director, Polish American Librarians Association