Holy Mother of an unspecified God.
I just spent the first 5 hours of 2013 reading this entire book. I…I don’t think I have the words to describe the awesome. What am I talking about? Of course I do. It’s just going to take a lot of them. Brace yourselves…
I wanted my first book of 2013 to be a good one, which is why I was saving Angelfall until now. I had heard nothing but rave reviews about the book and I knew it was going to be just my cup of tea. Boy, I love it when I’m right. Not only is it a book that I could not put down, but it is a rare example of a self-published book that isn’t rubbish! Don’t you just love that? Makes me want to do this:
Let me try and get through this review as spoiler-less as possible while trying to convey the sheer awesome that you must read right now.
Angelfall is narrated from the perspective of 17-year-old Penryn, named after an interstate exit (unusual name and I happen to love it). Six weeks ago, the Angels of the Apocalypse descended upon Earth to destroy the world as we know it. The narrative picks up with Penryn having quickly adapted to life in dystopia trying to take care of her disabled sister Paige and wildly schizophrenic mother.
When attempting to reach a safer area to stay in for a while, the small family witness a gang of angels attack a snowy-winged angel and cut off his wings. Penryn is then helpless as one of the angels kidnaps her 7-year-old sister, flying off into the distance with her and presumably cackling menacingly for effect. Penryn’s only hope of rescuing Paige lies with the attacked angel who is dying in the middle of the street.
It is the pinnacle of dystopia and Susan Ee does not scrimp on the gruesome, terrifying and simultaneously heart wrenching details. The plot and concept are brilliant, the characters are excellent, and the best part is that Susan Ee does not sacrifice plot to make more room for romance!
When it comes to characters I can be quite hard to please, but I have to say I was definitely not disappointed with Penryn. The characterization is brilliant in Angelfall (sure, the first person narrative does help…), and I got really attached to the girl. Oh yeah, she is also AWESOME. She is a fantastic kick-ass heroine who I would happily worship. Her difficult and unusual life prepared her in a way for the apocalypse. Her ordeals with her family, predominantly her schizophrenic mother, have made her grow up faster and be exposed to a lot of insane situations that most people never see in a whole lifetime, let alone when they are children. She took self-defense classes from a young age to protect herself against her mother of all people!! No wonder she can adapt so well in the apocalypse! This girl has a head on her shoulders and has the very real motivation of protecting and saving her family, as opposed to ‘saving the world’. She can pick locks,knows martial arts and – hell yes I am using this word – the girl has gumption! She is not saved by her knight in shining armor – she is her own knight in shining armor. She fights her own battles and can do things her celestial angel friend cannot. She may be infatuated with Raffe, but she is not afraid of him, nor does she ever do as she tells him. She is her own person, and in many ways she is his equal. Yes. Just….YES!
Archangel Raphael, or Raffa, el angel caliente, has a lot less characterization going on for him. But this is mainly because he hardly talks to Penryn at all. Strong silent type, much?
Raffa is brilliant. He’s a cocky, arrogant twat that comes from him being a superior celestial being and seeing humans only as monkeys. He’s tall, dark and handsome (and topless for a good portion of the novel) and essentially informs Penryn that she fancies him even before she knows it herself. Because come on, who wouldn’t fancy the pants of a hunky celestial being with the arrogance of God himself?
I do hope Raffa gets a bit more characterization going for him in the sequel, but for now he was still likable as a love interest, and definitely a realistic and believable character. Though I didn’t really swoon over they guy (nope, Jancis, he doesn’t make the list), I do still think he shows a lot of potential.
The last character I’d like to mention here is Penryn’s schizophrenic mother. Dealing with the whole “mental health issue” is a tricky one, and I’m glad Susan Ee didn’t sugarcoat it. She portrayed it all so brilliantly. It’s still unclear if Penryn’s mum is going to have more of a part in the sequel, or if her being schizophrenic will really be a major plot point. So far the only purpose her schizophrenia has serves is to help Penryn adapt to crazy situations and to provide a bit of horror and suspense in the story. I really hope her schizophrenia ends up being a major plot point…
Speaking of the plot….
I mentioned before that the love story is only a second thought, and the plot is everything. Good move! Penryn never even contemplates that Raffe may like her. As far as she’s concerned, they are enemies. As much as she may fancy the adonis archangel, she knows that nothing will ever happen between them. So she doesn’t spent pages and pages contemplating possibilities that will never be. Thank God.
The plot is fast paced, suspenseful and fantastically gruesome as all dystopian novels should be. Not a single page is wasted; it is a fantastic story. I would have liked a little more back story about the day of the apocalypse, but hopefully that will crop up in the next installment. And on the subject of the next installment…
There will potentially be four new books. Huzzah!
The next one won’t be out until autumn…
Yeah, that was my reaction too, Dan.
But in a way I’m glad. I haven’t been this excited about a book series since Harry Potter. Like most, a big part of my childhood involved marking the release day of the new HP book on my calendar, pre-ordering, and then devouring the book in a day. And then waiting a few years until the story could continue.
As much as I’d love to devour the Penryn and the End of Days series this week, I know the wait will make it worth it. Going back to the Harry Potter-type days feels exciting. I’ve got something big to look forward to.
To conclude, I only have two remarks, that aren’t huge complaints, but I’m throwing them in anyway. They certainly don’t mar my 5 star review.
#1) I would have liked a little more Raffe characterisation and backstory about the apocalypse.
#2) Penryn got a fraction less kick-ass as the story went on. At the beginning she is pretty much ready to torture Raffe for information. But as the story went on and her infatuation deepened, she was obviously affected by him. I would have liked to see her try harder to get some information out of him, or take charge of the situation a bit more, rather than just follow him. All she ends up doing in the end is speaking out of place and going off on her own. Still great, especially as her going off on her own leads to her discovering things that Raffe doesn’t, but I expected more out of her. Still, on the flip side, she’s only 17 and it’s her first crush, so her being affected by him in that way is definitely believable. Let’s see how she fairs in the next books 🙂
Angelfall is perfect for people who love a good dystopian novel. I recommend it for people looking for a Hunger Games replacement – and for Twilight fans who should see what a real forbidden romance is all about.
Seriously. Read this book. It’s immense.