Title: The Girl with Borrowed Wings
Author: Rinsai Rossetti
Frenenqer Paje feels utterly constrained by her father’s rules. He is determined to have the perfect daughter, but no amount of training can drive out her imperfections. Then a tiny act of rebellion opens the door to incredible adventure. Frenenqer accidentally rescues a Free person, someone to whom the rules do not apply—a shapeshifter, a worldwalker, an adventurer. And at night he shows her a little of what it would be like to live without her rules. But which world will define her?
I generally avoid romances, but I picked this one up because of Sangris. His shapeshifting spans a fascinating range, from a grumpy cat to gargoyle to feathered dragon and more. As a Free person, he’s free of all kinds of rules, including what shape he ought to inhabit at any given moment. Or what world he ought to be in. Yet for all that, he’s amazingly restrained around Frenenqer, especially when it’s clear he’s fallen in love.
Frenenqer, for her part, is a perfect foil. Although both of them share a wandering, rootless past, her life is dominated by her father. His subtle humiliations and manipulations drive her back in line whenever she tries to break the mold he lays on her. In response to him, to her family’s inability to put down ties, she’s grown detached. Unable to process her own feelings. Unable to recognize that she has any. I like her as a narrator because it’s so easy to see what she can’t see herself—and easy to see why she can’t see it.
I’m also enormously impressed that the author not only dared write a girl with detachment issues, but she nails it. Having gone through much the same myself, I recognize the thought process Frenenqer engages in. And near the end, the trip to the grocery store, was the best scene in the book, as Frenenqer finally realizes what made her father who he is, and how much she’s in danger of becoming exactly the same way. And how the solution she’s been given is actually how this works, as hard as it is to do.
So, a brilliant execution overall. Both the real and fantasy life will be somewhat strange to the typical reader, as the non-fantasy bits are set in an oasis. The characters have so much depth, and the romance blossoms naturally as well as nearly runs itself aground on Frenenqer’s issues. (Don’t worry—HAPPY ENDING. I got so mad at one point wondering if it had just thrown away the chance, even though I completely agree with how Frenenqer saw herself. See again her general lack of awareness of her own internal being.) I rate this book Highly Recommended.