Angelfall: A fast, entertaining read

Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee

It’s six weeks past the apocalypse, where armies of angels have wrought destruction upon the major cities of the earth. Penryn has been hiding in a condo in the suburbs of San Francisco with her paranoid schizophrenic mother and wheelchair bound little sister. When their food runs out, she knows they are going to have to try and escape to the hills where hopefully they can find more supplies. But on their way, they get stopped by a band of dueling angels, one of whom gets his wings cut off. And when the victorious angels steal her little sister Paige and fly off with her, Penryn knows that the only way she will get her sister back is by making a deal with the devil. Or at least a wounded angel.

Angelfall by Susan Ee starts out very well. We get a good sense of Penryn as a character, why she has the skillset she has, and the burdens that she carries, both literally and metaphorically as the one fully functional member of her family. You also get a hint of the complexities playing out in the angel community as they deal with the logistics of being an invading army where their Messenger, the archangel Gabriel, has been killed. Penryn and Raffe’s flight to the mountains is also compelling, as is their encounter with the human resistance army gathering in the hills.

Where the first half of the story is quite engaging, the second half misfires in several places. There are obvious factions within the angel community, and I think a more in-depth explanation of what is going on is necessary, rather than the clunky exposition we got. There is obviously a lot of history between the main characters, and that needs additional fleshing out, both to make Raffe more realistic and to understand the factions that are warring amongst each other. I literally spent an hour after I finished the book researching the archangels trying to figure out how the character configurations I saw would make sense, and I still couldn’t figure out how one of them has anything to do with this story. But, this is a series, PENRYN & THE END OF DAYS, and I have hope that these storylines will be fleshed out in the sequels.

Additionally, the budding romance between Raffe and Penryn felt rushed. On the run for your life seems like a good time to develop lust, but true love takes a little bit longer, and takes more knowledge of each other than these two characters have currently. The villain seems a little bit over-the-top evil, and there’s some really awkward exposition and monologuing that occurs. I think this book would have benefited from being about fifty pages longer, because it would have given Ee time to fully flesh out the interactions in a more convincing way. That said, I’ll probably pick up the sequel, because this is a fast, entertaining read with an interesting premise, and the last few pages were almost cinematically beautiful and left me wanting to know what was going to happen next.

~Ruth Arnell

All hell broke loose on Earth six weeks before our story starts. It’s unclear to me who’s the ultimate bossman of the angels here (they have some unseen supreme being giving them orders; I am presuming here that it’s not really supposed to be God, though the whole thing raises interesting Biblical questions) but someone has given the angels orders to blow up cities and take over earth. Now the angels are in charge, living it up like gangster dudes and using people for nefarious purposes. Humans are in hiding or serving the angel society.

Penryn, a 17 year old girl, is trying to take care of her disabled sister Paige and her mentally ill mother — an extremely tall order. They oversee a fight between angels, in which one angel gets his wings cut off, and Paige gets kidnapped by another angel. Paige saves and takes hostage Raffe, the angel who has had his wings, cut off, figuring he’s her best bet for finding and rescuing her little sister. They lug the wings along, hoping that at some point they can be reattached. Apparently, and conveniently, the normal rules for reattaching appendages within an hour or so do not apply to angel wings.

So Raffe and Penryn begin the trek to the angels’ aerie to try to save Paige and Raffe’s wings. Various adventures ensue, some intriguing (I really liked the hidden human rebellion subplot) and some really horrific. There are factions among the angels. Penryn and Raffe need help, but it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially when they’re still trying to figure out if they can trust each other.

So, I had some issues with this novel:

I wanted more world-building: how on earth did the world fall apart so very quickly? What’s the deal with the angel society? Why did they attack anyway, after so many millennia of watching over earth?

I wanted angels that weren’t quite so… human? I thought their culture and interests should be more alien and different. This angel culture suffered a little in comparison to the more creative world in Laini Taylor‘s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE trilogy.

I would have liked writing that had more depth and was more layered. What you see here is pretty much what you get.

And my final beef: the budding relationship between Raffe, who seems to be immortal and (at least) thousands of years old, not to mention a captain of many angels, and Penryn, a 17 y/o human girl. Leaving apart the two different races thing, that’s a hell of an age and power differential. I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about Twilight‘s piddling 100 year difference ever again.

That said, there were also several things I liked about Angelfall: Penryn’s martial arts and self-defense skills. Loved this, especially since it had a basis in lots and lots of training her paranoid mother insisted on her getting. It didn’t just spring forth out of nothing.

Penryn’s damaged mother was a great character — I want to know more about her. I’m hoping there’s a really fascinating backstory that will come out later, about what really happened when Paige was injured.

The turn toward horror in the last part of the book was unexpected, and a nice twist away from what otherwise might have felt like a standard paranormal romance tale.

Overall Angelfall was a fun read (I would say “and light” except for the horror element), enough to suck me into reading the sequels to find out what happens.

~Tadiana Jones

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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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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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One comment

  1. I picked this up on the Kindle when it first came out (the sample was long and quite gripping — deserted apocalyptic city with nastiness galore, yum). I enjoyed it and was less bothered by the lack of information about background, etc. It seemed to me that unravelled as we went along. Likely male and female characters falling in love at drop of hat is of course a trope we lived with all the time. Anyway, like Ruth, I plan to look at the next volume.

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