Healing in His Wings by Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Short Story (123 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox
When the Starfire is struck by a mysterious and deadly plague, the captain and crew have no choice but to throw themselves on the mercy of the healers of a nearby, uncharted planet. First Officer Ryan Nelson accompanies the sickest patients to the planet’s surface, where he is put under the supervision of Juo-ta-ri, an apprentice to one of the healers who is helping the crew. The two have barely begun to explore the chemistry between them when Ryan’s body betrays him and he falls ill as well. Now it’s a race against time to see if Juo can bring the fever down before Ryan’s hallucinations kill him.
A beautiful, gentle male who wraps you in his wings as medical intervention – if only every procedure could be like this. Healing in His Wings is, I believe, Ms. Tachna’s first foray into Sci-Fi Romance and it is a sweet and soft one. There are no blasters here, no space pirates, no desperate interstellar runs to outrace whatever needs to be, no warlords, no violence of any kind. It’s almost hushed in tone, so the reader can hear the rustling of those beautiful wings.
From a romance standpoint, it is a touching story of two hearts finding each other despite the long odds of hailing from a galaxy apart. Ryan comes to the planet with a badly wounded heart and a ship full of mortally ill shipmates. Juo-ta, restless and curious, and not quite certain why, doesn’t realize how lonely he has been until the alien ship arrives. Their slow, careful courtship is a lovely dance until Ryan falls ill as well, and then it takes on a desperate poignancy.
While this is truly Space Opera, a story with the trappings of Science Fiction but without the science-driven plot, I do feel that the Sci-Fi portion of the story falls a little short. It was difficult to get a good read on the alien culture and, perhaps, some more time could have been spent in the background constructing a culture less familiar to us. I saw too many Earth-like objects and reactions for a non-human culture (beds and showers, hospitals and restaurants with menus, and so on.) We never see family or social structures on this planet, never know if Juo-ta has parents or how he feels about them. The alien biology is a little sketchy as well, with Petari males identical to human males in every anatomical detail except the wings. Aside from the xenology aspects, some consideration of disease vectors and processes would have made the plot more convincing and complete. I became stuck on the fact that the crew contracts this virus off planet in some unknown way, but the virus seems to be native to a planet they have never visited previously and where the natives don’t engage in interplanetary exploration or trade. Space Opera or not, these things can be quite distracting for an avid SF reader.
On the whole, though, this is a charming read, a good break from high-stakes drama and convoluted plots. Distilled to its basic essence, this is a story of two hearts discovering each other and learning that love is possible even across the greatest divide. And, honestly, isn’t that the very heart of romance?