The Gifts

Sourcebooks Landmark. Apr. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9781728271705. $27.99. F
From its riveting opening scene when a young woman sprouts wings, Hyder’s genre-blending first adult novel fully engages readers. A cast of five characters features in the beguiling story, set in England in 1840: Etta, an aspiring botanist; Mary, a budding writer; Natalya, a talented storyteller; Edward, an extremely ambitious surgeon; and Annie, an artist and Edward’s wife. When Edward buys a corpse pulled from the Thames, an astonishing woman with wings, a series of events is set in motion that weaves together the characters’ lives through their experiences with science and religion, obsession and ambition, love and friendship, and gender and race. The women, restrained by Victorian society’s expectations, ultimately use their creative gifts as metaphorical and literal wings to lift them to freedom and more fulfilling lives.
VERDICT Short chapters quickly move along in this clever blend of gothic, historical, and fantasy, with just the right touch of melodrama, grounded by well-researched detail. Hyder’s novel is sure to be popular with devoted readers of historical fiction, especially those who appreciate the struggles of women to exercise their talents with the same freedom and recognition as men.
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