- Fantasy and Equilibrium in Laura Gallego García's Alas de Fuego [Wings of Fire]
Spanish author Laura Gallego García's novel Alas de fuego [Wings of Fire] reveals in especially interesting ways many of the most important currents at work in Spain in the year of its publication, 2004.1 On the one hand, the conflict portrayed in the present time of the novel is rooted in a past that is far less remote than it might seem, since the search for peaceful coexistence is the result of an apparently enduring and systematic violence. On the other, the novel's characters not only encounter but also fight against a world that changes in appearance from one minute to the next as they try to vanquish tyranny and reestablish a balance, or equilibrium, that may have never existed. In fact, Alas de fuego can be read as an allegory of its own historical moment and not just as a fantasy for young adults.
Gallego García's Alas de fuego is also interesting because it lends itself to many different kinds of discussions, among them the importance of what is known in Spain as "Historical Memory";2 the ways in which fiction for young adults can address topics of deep political and historical resonance, especially in a relatively young democracy; and the very notion of "children's literature." Gallego García herself is a product of newly democratic Spain. Born in Valencia in 1977, she studied philology at the University of Valencia before pursuing a doctorate with a dissertation on Jerónimo Fernández's chivalric novel Belianís de Grecia [Belianis of Greece] (1545, 1579).3 Well-known in the world of fantastic literature as the author of many works for children and young adults, as her novels tend to be marketed, she received the first of two "Barco de Vapor" ["Steamboat"] prizes at age twenty-one and has gone on to write, as of September 2011, more than twenty-five books, many of which have been translated into other languages. Among her best known works are the tetralogy Crónicas de la Torre [Chronicles of the Tower] (2000-2004) and the trilogy Memorias de Idhún [Memories of Idhun] (2004-06).4 [End Page 20]
Alas de fuego tells the story of the trials of Ahriel, a female angel who serves as the faithful adviser to young Marla, queen of Karish. When Queen Marla discovers that the angel has somehow learned of her plans to conquer the world by sowing conflict and war in the realms around her, she orders that Ahriel be imprisoned in Gorlian, which is enclosed in the queen's crystal ball. Despite its diminutive size, Gorlian is not a physical structure, but a full world unto itself, far different from that of the people of Karish, with its arid plains, muddy swamps, and mountains. In this prison, where twenty-five years is the same as one year in Karish, Ahriel embarks on a journey of self-discovery and tribulations as the novel begins to explore the possibilities and limitations of "equilibrium," the usual condition of angels but also supposedly the preferred state of governments, society, and personal relationships. Ahriel eventually escapes from the prison and returns to Karish, where she realizes that equilibrium is not possible with people in the world who work assiduously to create discord and arrogate power to themselves. To that end, in the fight with which the novel concludes, Ahriel allows Queen Marla to fall to her death and finishes off, once and for all, any vestiges of the past as incarnated in a ferocious character known as "el Devastador," or the Devastator.
My discussion of Alas de fuego assumes that most Anglophone readers will be unfamiliar with the novel. For that reason, I will not employ a deconstructive or post-structuralist approach, since I find such theories of interpretation most provocative and productive when dealing with well-known texts. Instead, I will touch briefly on several topics, including what was happening in Spain culturally and politically in 2004, the year the novel was published; children's literature in Spain and Gallego García's interest...