I am not sure how I feel about the surge of angel fiction. The idea itself is compelling. What could be more epic than the fight between heaven and hell? And what theme could have more inspiration? There are volumes of myths and legends surrounding angels or the Fallen to adapt and explore… And yet, I can’t help but struggle with the concept.
My problem with angels is that they are inherently tied to God. I have nothing against God in general but he is an omniscient character. Hell, he is THE omniscient character and whenever I read about angels I can’t help but let my mind wander to God. What’s he up to? Why hasn’t God put his foot down already and ended this whole damn scenario? On a side note, Dogma is clearly the best example of a story that solved this problem (but the ‘God’s on holiday’ excuse is only going to work once).
That being said, I was interested in picking up Angelfall and seeing how Susan Ee takes on the genre!
It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.
I haven’t read an ‘angel book’ that goes straight into the apocalypse. I like it. It’s a brave and bold move that Ee handles well. It creates a fast-paced and action-focused plot that is more similar to dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games, rather than recent YA angel literature which I associate with paranormal romance. The novel drops you immediately into danger as Penryn attempts to avoid the gangs terrorising her abandoned town and get her paraplegic sister and unstable mother to safety.
That brings me to the second asset of the novel – interesting characters. I particularly like the dynamic her mother creates. Penryn’s mum is a schizophrenic who has been off her anti-psychotic meds for several weeks. Penryn finds herself consistently torn between protecting her mother and protecting herself from the same woman’s violent and sickening delusions.
Penryn makes a strong lead character. She has a fierce determination to get her sister back. Even if it means making allies with an angel whose race, at this point, are waging an alien-like invasion for annihilation of humankind. It’s this strong will which creates the momentum of the story. There is no goal for Penryn other than retrieving her sister. She is like a compass point that always returns to north (however sometimes you feel it might be more interesting to head south). Regardless, it’s admirable. The world is literally crumbling around her, the human race is on the verge of extinction and she has one task to keep her head together.
Raffe is the angel that can help her, a warrior she witnesses being pummelled out of the sky by his fellow winged crusaders. Clearly, there are some internal conflicts in the rafters. It is also clear Raffe, is more than your average angel (the nickname isn’t fooling anyone).
The two make an unlikely pair. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where Penryn will risk everything to rescue her sister and Raffe will have to avoid his enemies and rescue his wings.
At the beginning, I found the style of the book a bit jarring. As I read on, I realised it deliberately builds up a tone more suited to horror. The overtone climaxes in some serious gore and it is a good twist that I really enjoyed once I got into the ‘macabre’ mood.
The novel’s main downfall is that it’s noticeably formulaic. To withhold spoilers, I will only mention that Penryn ‘coincidentally’ ends up in too many places. Saying this, the pace is so fast I was happy to suspend disbelief and rush to the end. It’s a strong book with a lot of punch and left enough unanswered question to guarantee I’ll pick up the sequel. Angelfall sits comfortably with its peers (Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Fallen by Lauren Kate) while having enough originality and style to make it stand out as something different and thrilling.