Lucy Brightwing is the last of the Tequesta people, an ancient Native American tribe from deep in the Everglades in Florida. She dreams of being able to gain her own land for her people, to rekindle her heritage and secure the future of the Tequesta, so pulls off a multi-million dollar gem heist to pay for it all.
On her way back to her land, she meets brothers Edgar and Mallory Battle, who themselves are fleeing from the police after a prison break and the string of murders which lie behind them. The Battle brothers are a liability for Lucy, but she feels drawn to them - can she really risk the entire security and future of her people just to help these criminal brothers? To find out what happens, you'll have to read it for yourself!
Sullivan Lee has written several traditionally published books for children and YA under the name Laura L. Sullivan, but `Brightwing' is her first self-published novel aimed at adults. She is a former Deputy Sherriff so is able to give an insight into how things would have gone on with the police and fleeing criminals, which is great as it means everything that takes place is completely believable.
At first I was a little unsure about what to expect from this book. To me, the cover and title gave me the impression that this would be a fantasy book, whilst the summary of the book didn't really give me that impression at all (apart from the name Tequesta, but I'll come to that later). Well, I don't know if anyone else is thinking the same thing as me or not, but either way I assure you that it isn't a fantasy story at all. It's more about adventure, crime, action and a bit of romance, so don't be fooled if you're expecting something in the fantasy genre.
The first thing that I noticed and really liked about this book is that the protagonist (Lucy) is female. Edgar and Mallory are absolutely essential characters too, but Lucy pips them to the post in terms of importance. I think it's great having a female main character in a book, as it's something I don't often see, especially in such a powerful role. In most of these types of books it's a man who is the hero and runs the show, so it was both refreshing and inspirational to have such a headstrong (and physically strong!), sharp-witted lady showing us how things are done.
The Battle brothers are also characters which I found myself being drawn to unwittingly. I mean, they're criminals on the run, who have a violent past to them, and are being branded as cop-killers, so they shouldn't be attractive, right? So wrong. Mallory is a very difficult character to get to grips with, as he has a very cruel, violent side to him, but he isn't aware of society's norms or values so doesn't understand that what he is doing is wrong. It is his almost childlike nature which makes him endearing - even though the reader knows he is like a wild animal, ready to snap at any moment, you can't help but feel protective over him. It's almost like a love-hate relationship, but it gives the book a different, edgier twist, which also makes the reader debate the morals of what's going on. Edgar, on the other hand, is easier to find endearing as he is a genuinely nice character who has his heart in the right place, but unfortunately has just been caught up in the wrong events, and with a self-inflicted, overbearing obligation to look after his brother finds it hard to escape from the life he currently lives. Edgar definitely has the potential to become a literary hunk, if we're just given the opportunity to get to know him a little better!
On the whole I thought that this was more of a character-driven story than a plot-driven one. Of course there was a plot, which was actually very exciting and well developed, but I felt that a lot of the focus was on the setting and the characters. I enjoyed this and found it quite refreshing as I am often faced with fast-paced action all the way through, but it's worth bearing in mind depending on the type of book you're looking for.
Talking of the setting, it was beautifully described. It's mostly set in the Everglades in Florida, which by all accounts is a magnificent area. This story really gave me a taste for the area and showed off the natural features of the land. It was amazing to read how humans can adapt to this environment and survive in it, and live side by side with nature.
In a similar vein, it was really interesting to read about the Native Americans and their history. I mentioned earlier that I thought that the name `Tequesta' sounded made up, like something out of a fantasy book, but to my understanding they are actually a real tribe. Knowing this, it's wonderful to read and understand that the ways of the people aren't entirely a work of the author's imagination, but that they at least stem from a real way of life. Lucy also tells a few folk stories at various points throughout - as with folk stories you never quite know if they are real history or just myths, but they're interesting nonetheless. At these points in other books I often lose interest and I end up skimming them, but in `Brightwing' I followed each one easily and eagerly. Perhaps it is my natural fascination with the Native American people which captured my interest; perhaps it was the fact that the stories were imaginative and beautifully written... I'm willing to go with a bit of both.
This book is very well written and is so easy to read. Sullivan Lee is clearly a very talented writer who has managed to create a story which is intriguing, exciting and captivating right from the start until the end. The only thing which I think is missing is the promise of a sequel! I'd love to read a sequel, to have more exciting stories and to find out what happened next...
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would thoroughly recommend it. It's a bit different from other books of the same genre out there, which I think is refreshing. The characters are well thought out and diverse, they're captivating yet invite wariness. The setting and descriptions are lovely, and it's so interesting to read about a culture which many of us know nothing about. It's a thumbs up from me!
Many thanks to the author for providing a copy for me to review :)