Review: Wings Once Cursed and Bound – Piper J. Drake

Review: Wings Once Cursed and Bound – Piper J. DrakeWings Once Cursed and Bound
by Piper J. Drake
Series: Mythwoven #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, Solaris
Publication Date: April 11, 2023
Genres: Romance, Non-Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

For fans of Sarah J. Maas and Jennifer Armentrout comes a bold and captivating fantasy by bestselling author Piper J. Drake.

My wings unbound, I am the Thai bird princess
The kinnaree
And no matter the cost,
I will be free.

Bennet Andrews represents a secret organization of supernatural beings dedicated to locating and acquiring mythical objects, tucking them safely away where they cannot harm the human race. When he meets Peeraphan Rahttana, it's too late—she has already stepped into The Red Shoes, trapped by their curse to dance to her death.

But Bennet isn't the only supernatural looking for deadly artifacts. And when the shoes don't seem to harm Peeraphan, he realizes that he'll have to save her from the likes of creatures she never knew existed. Bennett sweeps Peeraphan into a world of myth and power far beyond anything she ever imagined. There, she finds that magic exists in places she never dreamed—including deep within herself.

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4 stars icon m/f paranormal romance icon

First off, I have no idea what is going on with that marketing. This is a straight up paranormal romance, urban fantasy set in Seattle. It’s also the most refreshing vampire and werewolf book I’ve read in a long time.

Peeraphan is getting ready to resume rehearsing for a community dance recital when an acquaintance offers her a beautiful pair of red dance shoes. Enthralled by them, she can’t help but put them on – and ignore the niggling sense of disquiet she’d felt a few minutes before. Unbeknownst to her, she’s now become involved in a power struggle between two groups of supernatural beings: one who wishes to locate and safely store magical artifacts, and one who wishes to sell them to the highest bidder. Both expect her to now be cursed to dance until she collapses, except that’s not what happens because Peeraphan has a secret of her own. And for someone who for so long has been the only supernatural being among humans, suddenly being embroiled in their world – even with a deadly curse hanging over her head – may be what she’s been waiting her life for.

“There are no hand-me-down notes for the self-taught diaspora, especially when one is a supernatural no one realized actually existed[.]”

The book is told in the third person and from multiple POVs, but the most common one was Peeraphan’s. A child of Thai immigrants, very little is known about her own kind, the kinnaree, even by her own family, and it reminded me of real life issues faced by diaspora kids. Peeraphan’s also acutely aware of how different she is. I felt her frustration, her need to prove herself independent from her family, how even as a child she preferred to hide away and read rather than spend time with them. But while that could make her bitter, instead she’s left yearning to fit in somewhere. Which means that once she encounters Bennet and the rest of his organization, well, let’s just say they’re not getting rid of her easily.

Despite, ya know, having a pair of really awesome MURDEROUS shoes stuck on her feet, she still exhibits a child-like wonder and excitement about each new supernatural experience, whether that’s flying or meeting a sidhe or commenting on how vampire’s fangs work. And that last one – there were so many times I wanted to yell “Girl, PRIORITIES” at Peeraphan, but rather than being frustrated I was honestly amused. Another usual source of frustration – the insta-lust between the main characters – was also assuaged by the humor. Peeraphan herself comments on how quickly she’s falling for Bennet, frequently reminds herself not to make “Too Stupid to Live” heroine mistakes, and generally seems to not take herself too seriously.

Refreshingly enough, everyone acts like grownups. All of Bennet’s colleagues accept Peeraphan and treat her with a sort of briskly efficient “well, let’s see how to solve your problem” with sympathy but no pity. It’s delightful found family goodness, though given the amount of characters introduced and the obvious focus on Peeraphan and Bennet, not enough of it. There’s no jealousy, no love triangles, none of that. The closest is Bennet and Thomas’ alpha grumpiness at each other, which Peeraphan hilariously pegged from the first minute. There’s some particularly adorable bonding over food.

Another thing I really liked is the blending of lots of folklore. While the red shoes are Western European, Peeraphan’s origins are obviously Thai, as is Thomas the werewolf. Marie the human witch is part Chinese and part Korean, there’s a sidhe butler, and some other southeast Asian-inspired creatures. There’s also a particularly ingenuous and thought-provoking take on how only a person “free from sin” could remove the red shoes. And overall the plot, if a bit predictable, is enjoyable enough that I basically read this in a few hours because I couldn’t put it down.

There are some places were the book goes off the rails and it’s obvious that Choices Were Made. Peeraphan literally calls Bennet out on his straight-from-the-movies “come with me if you want to live” introduction. She muses about comparisons to another book containing vampires and werewolves. There’s a scene where Peeraphan schleps a wounded Bennet through Seattle on an electric scooter. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously. The whole book is sort of relaxing, which is perhaps not the word you want applied to, you know, a book involving cursed magical artifacts and heists and possible death. It sometimes felt like a tonal mismatch, but on the whole I enjoyed the whimsy.

There are some giant plot holes, most of which can be hand-waved away, but the ending frustrated me. There were several bits of what seemed like very important information dropped by the villains. And then good guys don’t even mention in passing that they’re going to follow up those leads. I mean, it’s perfect sequel bait right at the end of the book! I really do hope there’s a bit more information about supernatural society in general in the next book.

Needless to say, I want more stories about magical artifact retrievals and can’t wait to see what happens next in this series (and if Marie happens to see a certain pair of kitsune again!)

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