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April 15, 2021

Birds of Paradise by Oliver Langmead ~ a Review & Excerpt

by MK French

Beautifully lyrical


Adam, the first Man of Creation, still walks the earth millennia after the fall of Eden. He'd lived countless lives, as had the other nearly immortal creatures of Eden he once named. Other pieces remain as well, scattered across the globe. Adam isn't the only one collecting them to create a new garden, and he must save the pieces of Eden to keep them from being playthings of mankind.

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Birds of Paradise
April 2021; Titan Books; 978-1789094817
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); fantasy
The concept behind Birds of Paradise is fascinating. As creatures that existed before death, Adam, Eve, and all the original animals remain alive. The animals can shapeshift, so that they have their animal forms and human forms, and they are astoundingly resilient. Adam himself, after fighting in countless wars throughout millennia, carries shrapnel in his skin and a network of scars from the injuries he inexplicably healed from. His memories after untold centuries are a muddle, so that he flashes back to aspects of his lifetimes with reminders, and can dive into books and experience those lives as if they were his own. Rook and several other birds banded together to form the Corvid and Corvid law firm, taking care of paperwork, property, and legal concerns for all the immortals. These world-building concerns really drew me in, as well as how empty Adam was in the beginning. He felt nothing if not gardening; he comes alive most often when working with the earth or tending to plant life. Gradually, interacting with his fellow immortals draws him out of that complacency.

The "bad guy" of the story falls into place gradually. It's likely because at first Adam's memories shift and are like thorns, so he avoids delving deep into them. He does have fond memories of Eden, of Eve, and of the animals as he used to know them. Though he has lived in the modern age and taken on jobs and identities, he still prefers an older time and is emotionally separate from the people around him. Adam has incredible strength and is able to kill with his bare hands, let alone with weapons, but feels absolutely nothing when he does it. While he initially is sent by Rook to find Magpie, the web of connections spreads out further when he does find Magpie.

Ultimately, the memories all come together when Adam has time to shift back into the kind of man he once was. It's a melancholy kind of ending, because there is grief and memory, love and loss, and hope for the future bringing more. This is a beautifully lyrical book, with a perfect final line.

Buy Birds of Paradise at Amazon

Read an Excerpt from Birds of Paradise

Leaning against a bright white muscle car is a girl in a summer dress who only has one leg, and even though she is wearing a pair of huge sunglasses the same black as her long hair, she shades her eyes against the sky. Behind her, the Pacific sparkles, and before her, the California road is empty and being swept by a veil of desert dust. Adam twists the silver bracelets around his wrists until they break, and drops them as he approaches – leaning over to do the same with those around his ankles. 
“Orange doesn’t suit you,” says the girl, when he’s close enough. 
Adam shrugs. “They only had orange.” He looks left, and then right – no cars on the road. They are alone. 
“I got you some clothes. Extra-extra-extra-extra large. The guy in the shop gave me a funny look.” There is indeed a duffel bag at her feet. Adam takes it and pulls out a white T-shirt, a pair of black sweatpants and some running shoes. He pauses with them, glancing at the girl, but she laughs. “You don’t need to be coy, Adam. I’ve seen it all before.” 
The clothes fit, miraculously. He wanders across to the river nearby and throws his jumpsuit in, before returning to the car. The girl is inside and waiting for him, and when he slips into the passenger side, she starts the engine. “Rook wasn’t kidding,” she says. “You look different.” 
“What about Owl?” 
Back near the edge of the river, a monstrous silhouette is moving. Owl has changed – is now something between man and bird. He spreads his wings and they glint in colours of bronze and gold, and then he moves out of sight suddenly – a ferocious strike at something. “He’ll catch up,” she says. “He’s got some cleaning up to do. And besides, I don’t think he likes being in the car. He was irritated all the way down.” She inclines her head at the back seat, and Adam turns to see the torn white leather there. 
Pulling out onto the highway, she drives them away. 
“There’s a new set of papers in the glovebox for you.” 
As promised, Adam finds an envelope. He opens it and draws out a new driving licence, birth certificate and passport, as well as a credit card and some cash. “Simon Davies,” he says. “Rook hasn’t called me Adam.” 
“I think you pissed him off.” 
“Mmm.” Adam folds the documents away and studies the girl. It’s difficult to see her features behind her enormous sunglasses, but she has a way of looking as fragile as porcelain, yet holding herself as if she’s forged out of steel. Her prosthetic leg starts just below the knee, and it’s made of a clear material, which makes it look as if it’s both there and not there at the same time. “I like your leg, Crow,” he tells her. 
“Me too.” She smiles. 
They drive in silence for a while, with the Pacific to their right, until Crow steers them up a ramp and onto a highway, joining a stream of other cars. A set of police cruisers hurtle past, sirens blaring, but the muscle car’s windows are tinted and none of them slow. Shortly after, a helicopter also sweeps by. Then there is the open road, and Crow lowers her window – dark hair curling and uncurling in the wind. 
Adam begins to relax. “What now?” he asks. 
“Rook didn’t tell you? You’re going to help me find Magpie.” 
“I figured I’d be doing it by myself.” 
“It’s my job,” says Crow. “You’re just the muscle. The brawn. I’ve been doing the PI work for Corvid & Corvid for a long time now, and I think I’m pretty good at it. So you just sit back and try to not think too hard.” She turns towards him and lowers her sunglasses, peering over them and pinning him in place. “Don’t kill anybody unless I tell you to, okay?” 
“Got it.” 
“Good.” She turns back to the road. 
The sun is behind them now, and setting. Soon it will be night. “Where are we going? Rook mentioned Scotland.” 
“We’ll end up there eventually. But I want to stop off in Louisiana first. Corvid & Corvid have been looking after Owl’s assets since he’s been on sabbatical, and I was going through the papers and noticed that somebody’s been paying to keep the power on in his old Louisiana property. Traced it back to Magpie. They’re big bills, too. He’s been using a lot of electricity. So, Owl and me want to go see what he’s been doing. It’s going to take us a day or two to get over there, though, so you might want to get comfortable. It’s going to be a long drive.” 

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 


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