Combine fantasy with alternate history, throw in a dash of steampunk and you have The Shadow of Black Wings. This was a really fun read. Elements of fantasy like magic and dragons combine with steampowered ships and clockwork gadgets all set in an alternate version of our world where the Roman Empire still exists. Completely original and unexpected. The world-building here is phenomenal. The magic systems are interesting but not so complex that you don't understand what's happening. There are languages here that sound just familiar enough that you know where they are "supposed"to be from. The settings are familiar but distinct. There are versions of England, Rome, China, Japan and others. They are familiar enough to make the reader comfortable in the geography but original enough to keep you interested in learning more about them.There were a couple of things that I did not like so much. First, the point of view never technically changes but the character focus changes throughout the book without warning. I'd be reading pages of Bran and then all of the sudden Dylan was the main focus. I found it jarring and even confusing in a couple of parts. I had to go back an re-read paragraphs on more than one occasion. I don't mind changing focus but I prefer it if there is a clear delineation - either a chapter change or a "split" in the chapter (a **** between sections)I also found the plot a little bit weak. I enjoyed reading about each of the characters and about Bran's journey but I never really knew where the book was going. I didn't know if the book was about Bran's journey, about the political climate, about the magic and dragons, or about something else entirely. I didn't feel like it was building to any real climax. Don't get me wrong, there were exciting parts! I just don't think there was one big storyline linking everything together.I suspect that this book is really the backdrop for bigger things to happen in Book 2 and beyond. I definitely plan on reading the next book in the series, The Warrior's Soul. There was no huge cliffhanger in this book but there are a lot of unanswered questions. I am eager to learn what happens to Bran, Sato and Nagomi. Do they find Bran's dragon? Who is this man in the crimson robe? What's the story with Bran's grandfather? What happened to Dylan? I'm guessing that the second book will be action packed now that the scene is set and the cast of characters has been introduced. I can't wait to read more.