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
Expert archer Aleksy has his heart set on joining the elite hussars at the Battle of Vienna.
Countess Krystyna turns his heart in a different direction.
As an outsider, Aleksy knows that both dreams are forbidden. And yet, one day he finds that he must choose between the two.
~2017 GOLD MEDAL IPPI WINNER ~ ~Romeo and Juliet with a Twist~
~"A pitch-perfect follow-up to his Poland Trilogy"~Historical Novels Review
Aleksy, a Tatar raised by a Polish peasant family, wishes to become a Polish winged hussar, a Christian lancer who carries into battle a device attached to his back that holds dozens of eagle feathers. As a Tatar and as a peasant, this is an unlikely quest. When he meets Krystyna, the daughter of the noble who owns the land that his parents work, he falls hopelessly in love. But even though she returns his love, race and class differences make this quest as impossible as that of becoming a hussar. Under the most harrowing and unlikely circumstances, one day Aleksy must choose between his dreams.
That day is September 11, 1683.
~For fans of Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell~
"History comes alive in this captivating saga of a desperate war to stave off conquest and extermination. A young man with dreams of greatness is swept up amid the deadly clash, but will he have to sacrifice love itself to become an elite defender of his homeland? The Boy Who Wanted Wings is a powerful, emotionally moving story, highly recommended."
~MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"Characters are complex, well developed, and consistent. Their emotional lives are exposed even as the horrors of war loom. The Boy Who Wanted Wings is an excellent read whether one’s preferred genre is historical fiction or not."
~PORTLAND BOOK REVIEW
"In the tradition of Eric Kelley’s The Trumpeter of Krakow, James Conroyd Martin’s novel The Boy Who Wanted Wings tells the story of a heroic young Polish boy. Aleksy Gazdecki, a native Tatar raised by a family of Polish peasants, is a skilled archer who dreams of someday joining the ranks of the famed Polish hussars and riding into battle against the forces of the Ottoman Empire that are rampaging all over Europe in the year 1683. Aleksy’s simple life is complicated when Countess Krystyna, the daughter of the local lord, returns from years away at convent school and quickly captivates Aleksy’s heart. 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. Recommended."
~Historical Novels Review
"This is a very well researched and authentic-feeling novel set in 17th century Europe. A unique perspective comes via the hero, Aleksy, being of Tartar descent but having been raised with a Polish family. As the Turks lay siege to Vienna (culminating in the battle of September 11 1683) he finds his military and amorous wings.
The author impressed me with the detailed depiction of warfare, military operations and equipment, class, culture and societal norms. While such details can be distracting in other novels, here they were spot on and served their purpose well. I learned a lot about the era, about Poland, the Tartars and the siege of Vienna.
The characters with their unique situations, individual ambitions and the obstacles they need to overcome provide a solid base for the plot: Love at first sight, lovers against the obstacles, political turmoil and war - it sounds like a stereotype but all feels real and comes together perfectly in a gripping, educational and enjoyable novel."
© Christoph Fischer for Discovering Diamonds