The Boy Who Wanted Wings

Written by James Conroyd Martin
Review by Steve Donoghue

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.