A Flight of Angels: A beautiful anthology

Reposting to include Rebecca’s new review.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsA Flight of AngelsA Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay (illustrator)

Stories by Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell

An angel has fallen. Led by their insatiable curiosity, the hosts of fae have followed the descent of the white-winged creature and now gather around his still-breathing body to decide what to do with him. They decide to hold a trial, and present evidence in the form of stories about the deeds of angels to decide whether or not to let him live.

I am fairly new to reading graphic novels, so I do not know how original the conceit is of having multiple authors work on the same novel, but here it works splendidly. Each author is responsible for a different angel story, told by a different fae, which accounts for differences in tone. Holly Black is excellent as usual in creating the frame for the story, and each additional story adds to the mystique that surrounds these winged creatures, pulling from multiple traditions to round out the picture of creatures that can be perfection or demonic, or both in turns, or at the same time.

While the stories are well done, especially “Original Sin” by Louise Hawes, where this book excels is in the lush, detailed illustrations of Rebecca Guay. The cover art has echoes of Klimt’s The Kiss, and the interior work changes styles to match the stories, from overwhelming sensuality in the Garden of Eden, to the harsher lines of the Russian mountains, to the sketched-in mysteriousness of the fae council. Expertly designed marginalia separate out the stories from the tellers, and artwork that bleeds through the gutter gives a sense of time and history to the panels.

While not everyone enjoys graphic novels, if you are a fan of faery tales and angels, A Flight of Angels is a book that will delight you. The art and the story work expertly together to tell a story of heart-wrenching beauty that also causes the reader to question what it is that they know about angels, and leaves the reader with a sense of deeper truths that will be reflected on time and again.

~Ruth Arnell


A Flight of AngelsThere’s truly nothing I love more than the melding of Biblical lore with dark fairy tales, and so A Flight of Angels (2011) came to me like a personalized gift. There are contributions by authors Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Louise Hawes and Todd Mitchell, but it’s illustrator Rebecca Guay who really brings the whole project to beautiful life.

A graphic novel that contains several stories involving angels and the fair folk, it begins with a framing device in which a motley group of fairies (an old hag, a noble courtier, a beautiful nymph, a fox-headed intellectual, a tiny gnome, and a goat-legged slave) discover an unconscious angel on the forest floor. They hold a tribunal in order to figure out what to do with him, and each gets the chance to tell a story that will decide the angel’s fate.

There’s one about an angel who can’t seem to do anything right, another about an angel that falls in love with a mortal woman, a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, an explanation as to where fairies came from, and a folktale about the angel of death and his agreement with the oldest woman alive.

Rebecca Guay changes her style for each tale: watercolours for the love story, woodcuts for the tale of a woman who defies the angel of death — it’s all beautifully done, and you could pore over each page for hours, admiring the colours and images. The stories too are thought-provoking and intriguing; like I said, I’m a sucker for melding folklore with Bible stories, and this delivers in abundance.

I checked out A Flight of Angels from my local library, but I just may have to purchase it so I have a copy all my own.

~Rebecca Fisher

Published in 2011. The diverse mythology of angels is explored in this lushly painted graphic novel from high-profile fantasy authors including Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Bill Willingham (FABLES). Deep in the woods outside of a magical kingdom, a strange group of faeries and forest creatures discover a nearly dead angel, bleeding and unconscious with a sword by his side. They call a tribunal to decide his fate, each telling stories that delve into different interpretations of these winged, celestial beings: tales of dangerous angels, all-powerful angels, guardian angels and death angels, that range from the mystical to the mysterious to the macabre. This original graphic novel spotlights the painted work of award-winning artist Rebecca Guay, whose other workds include the Vertigo titles VEILS and DESTINY: A CHRONICLE OF DEATHS FORETOLD, as well as World of Warcraft, Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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3 comments

  1. This sounds like a good one!

  2. I love, love, love Rebecca Guay’s work, having seen it in Louise Hawes’s Black Pearls (which I enthusiastically recommend for both the stories and illustrations).

  3. Brad Hawley /

    Thank you for the solid review–I hadn’t heard of this book until just now. Certainly sounds worth picking up!

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