The Boy Who Wanted Wings
Love in the Time of War
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Aleksy, a dark-complexioned Tatar raised by a Polish peasant family, holds in his heart the wish is to become a Polish hussar, a 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.
“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. 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.”