Angelfall, by Susan Ee

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – August 28, 2012

Summary: It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…

Thoughts: The apocalypse has come, and it was by the hand of angels that humanity fell. People survive in tiny scattered pockets, hiding desperately from angels who are bent on wiping out the last remaining few people. Penryn’s in a tougher position than most after her wheelchair-bound little sister gets stolen by a band of angels, and her schizophrenic mother is no help in getting her back. But with the reluctant help of Raffe, a wounded and outcast angel, she might just stand a chance.

Post-apocalyptic YA fiction isn’t exactly short on the shelves these days, but Angelfall still manages to stand out decently amid other offerings. It manages to use elements from Judeo-Christian religion without being overtly religious and preachy, which is a fine line to walk and was much appreciated. There is a God, in theory, but He only talks to one angel, who relays messages to the rest, and nobody’s really communicated with Him otherwise in who knows how long. Rather than having scenes about how people could have been saved if only they’d believed, yadda yadda yadda, it’s established that most of the angels don’t know why they’re there. They just followed orders. It’s more like the angels are incidentally attached to religion rather than religion being the focus of everything, which was nice.

Penryn’s journey leads her through treacherous territory, not just in having to help Raffe along and keep his true angelic nature hidden from any humans they encounter, but also through a paramilitary camp, and eventually into the heart of an angel base in California. From the reader’s perspective, the journey is fairly quick, skipping over most of the aspects of travel in favour of detailing the more disturbing aspects of what’s happening in the world. For the most part, this worked well, allowing for the story to move forward at a brisk pace. A couple of scenes, though, seemed utterly out of nowhere and pointless, such as Penryn arranging to get in a girly-fight with someone and lose so that people could place bets and be entertained, in exchange for her getting help in her quest. The reason this was so pointless is that it took about a chapter and a half of setup and then was aborted for more important and more interesting occurrences, leaving me wondering why that bit couldn’t have just been cut out.

For the most part, it was a very interesting story with an uncommon twist on current apocalyptic trends. Which is surprising that I can say, given that you’d think bringing angels into the end times wouldn’t be that big a leap, given North America’s heavy Christian population. Maybe that’s the very reason why it’s so different, though; few people wanted to step into those waters and walk that fine line between having inspiration drawn from religion and delivering an entertaining secular story. I think Ee is to be praised for managing that quite adeptly, for creating that kind of story without tipping the balance too far one way or the other.

The characters were quite interesting, too. Raffe’s true identity wasn’t that difficult to figure out for anyone who’s got a semi-decent knowledge of commonly referenced angels, though weirdly, he was the character I was least interested in. I felt that he was underdeveloped, and not just in the way that he was attempting to keep much of his identity secret from just about everybody. He would go from — if you’ll excuse the pun — holier-than-thou to very down-to-earth in a second, ranging from familiarity with modern culture to suddenly being annoyed that humans dare think of angels as anything but superior, and I was left with the feeling that Ee couldn’t quite pin down who she wanted this guy to be.

Far more interesting, I found, was Penryn’s mother, and the way her schizophrenia affected her during the extremely troubled times. As a woman who confronted demons on a daily basis, suddenly finding herself in a world where angels are killing humans all over the place must have been simultaneously confusing and all too familiar. There were many times when I couldn’t tell whether her hallucinations were actually drawn from being able to see and comprehend that supernatural events around her in a way that nobody else could, or whether she was just a truly distressed woman in a terrifying world, struggling to get by and coincidentally hitting on a few things that worked. I was hoping to see more development for her, but she really only showed up sporadically, so instead I’ll keep hoping that she gets a bigger part to play in future books.

If there was any one thing that bothered me about Angelfall, it was the reveal near the end, that angels were working on some weird science experiment that created strange scorpion-angel monsters that sucked the life out of people. It felt over the top, and pretty pointless considering that the premise for this book is, “Angels brought to apocalypse and there’s an internal power struggle going on.” That alone could have provided plenty of fodder for a great story, but throwing in the scorpion things and the mutilation of kidnapped human children felt like the author was trying to one-up herself with plot twists where none were needed. It was supposed to be terrifying, and visually it was, but at the same time it fell flat because it felt so very out of place.

But despite that, the majority of the story was quite good. Relatively tight pacing, and interesting premise, and plenty of potential that I hope gets explored further in future novels. It’s more than enough to make me want to keep reading and find out how things develop. It’s a unique story that’s more than welcome on the bookshelves of YA fans, insightful and very human.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

4 comments on “Angelfall, by Susan Ee

  1. Sounds interesting! I liked how the angels were incorporated in Miserere, glad to hear another author was able to do that as well. This is on my TBR, though it’s never been terribly high. But now that my library has it, I’m much more likely to give it a go one of these days.

  2. I have this book waiting to be read so it’s nice to see that you enjoyed this. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve not completely read your review but will come back and reread to see how we compare when I’ve read it.
    Lynn :D

  3. Pingback: April in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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