Published by: Feral Dream
Recommended by: Roxy and Stephanie
Christina Reads Your RecommendationsA Reader of Fictions' Sadie Hawkins SundaySend in your recommendations via this form
Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee
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.
Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.
Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.
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 she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
How you know whether or not I love a book: Am I willing to lend you the book? Having only read rave blogger reviews, I lent this book to Roxy and Stephanie. Then they, in addition to my critique partner, urged me to read it. I did. And then I lent it to Leena. Because this book is so good that I need everyone to read it, so good that I even pre-ordered the sequel.
If I ever wanted to write a fun commercially driven, post-apocalyptic survivalist tale, Angelfall is where I'd turn for a reference. And hey! Movie makers! PLEASE ADAPT THIS BOOK ASAP.
1. (+) Penryn, the protagonist - Penryn has some of the same traits as Katniss. She's got a little sister to protect, a mother who's not always fully functioning, but where I failed to identify with Katniss, I LOVED PENRYN. She's much more full of life than Katniss (who fell flat for me). Penryn is snarky, loyal, courageous, full of that unwavering resolve to find her sister. She's very smart and survival-oriented, gathering the food for the family and calculating the risk of running into gangs, and knows how to protect herself (self-defense classes thanks to her mother). She's the kind of strong, determined, spirited, calculating heroine who I'd love to read more about and who will quickly become a fan favorite.
2. (+) World-building - There could be a bit more on the war. (And it is kind of strange picturing angels coming down, speaking English, watching t.v., and then bam! Instigating the apocalypse). Also, six weeks after the apocalypse, this much has happened? We've degenerated that much? A tiny part of me is disbelieving, but Angelfall is so much fun that I don't even really care. I loved exploring the dynamics of Raffe's sword, the aerie (essentially the nearby angel hangout), the different types of wings, the angel hierarchy, the gang wars, the human fighters, and other creepy, unnameable elements that I'll leave you to wonder about... I loved what Susan Ee did with Biblical lore -- how she made it fit with this post-apocalyptic, desperate world. It's clear that there's plenty more to explore in the sequels, and I can't wait.
3. (+) Romance - YES, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. Finally here are characters who go on a road trip, but the romance doesn't swallow the plot. Finally here's a survivalist tale that holds all kinds of tension but neither character loses his/her head over it. Even though there are some cliches (Raffe, why are you nearly always shirtless and rugged and intense? Like most angels, he's very beautiful (typical PNR), but that worked for me; good balance against the destruction being wrought.), it's still an enjoyable slow-burn, forbidden romance. And look: an agnostic angel warrior with his own motivations and history and secrets (similar to Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone but less tortured, more fun)! The snarky dialogue between Raffe and Penryn was also a lot of fun to read.
4. (+) Plot - The plot actually reminds me of the one in City of Bones. Both female MCs are searching for their loved ones and must trust an unfamiliar handsome love interest who's not always nice but is rather snarky and arrogant... and get detoured many times along the way. But where Angelfall shines are the details of those plot twists - how authentic they felt in regard to the post-apocalyptic vibe in the novel, and how they will come to play in future books. Plus, they're unexpected and pure fun to follow! (How many times will I use fun in this review? Oh, well, you get the point, don't you?)
5. (+) The Setting - This reminded me of several different books. The Road but less literary and symbolic and easier to relate to (crushed phones! The Silicon Valley! Traffic jams and abandoned cars, offices, houses...). The Immortal Rules but with fewer details and easier to picture (A city fenced off from the public, guards to make sure the masters get only the best). The Hunger Games but with more life (hunting for food out in the wilderness while avoiding angels).
6. (+) The Characters - I was really wary when it was revealed (in the beginning--not a spoiler) that Penryn's mom is a paranoid schizophrenic. Would this book further the mental illness stigma? At first, all you see is the psychosis that rules her life (off her meds for six weeks, her husband dead, not very well fed, in a stressful, post-apocalyptic environment with her two children), and Penryn seems kind of patronizing, but then Penryn's mom turns out to be one of the most competent characters in the entire novel. She may actually be one of my favorite characters, so Susan Ee did quite well in portraying all aspects of her character. You know who else I liked? Little old Paige. See, she's kind of like Prim from THG. She's got that innocence we're supposed to root for - she's disabled and Penryn has to roll her around as they sneak from place to place. She's also that nice kid who gathers followers and friends simply by being welcoming. Where Paige succeeded and Prim did not for me was in the way Ms. Ee included her character. Because Penryn is searching for Paige, you always have her in your mind without her feeling only like a plot point, reminding us of Penryn's self-sacrifice to have volunteered her life to save her sister (also helps that it's not an overly dramatic self-sacrifice and that Paige gets a larger role than Prim ever did). There were a few other characters, and while you don't always get their motivations (this is heavily plot-driven), they're still intriguing enough.
7. (+) Horror/Goriness - I personally loved all the gory little details, but I probably should give this disclaimer. If you're a parent and thinking about sharing this with your kid, watch out. There is a lot of blood. A lot of body parts. Full of weird, interesting situations when it comes to horror. This book may be even gorier than The Hunger Games.
8. (+) Writing - There were a few awkward turns and phrases (i.e. in the beginning, Penryn thinks about "the sleeping man--angel, I mean angel." Freudian slips tend to come in dialogue and action, not in your thoughts, so that really stuck out to me. Plus some other clunky sentence construction), but otherwise the writing was AWESOME. Cinematic. Action-packed. I am not a visual reader; I generally consider myself an aesthetics reader - love the writing styles of Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor and Melina Marchetta etc. etc.. Only on occasion am I a visual reader. So, yes, you've guessed it: Angelfall was a huge success for me -- I could easily picture everything. And I can't wait to see what kind of movie they'll make from this book.
9. (+) Pacing - Yes! Even though it does take them awhile to actually get closer to where Paige is believed to be, there's not one boring moment. Something is always happening, creating tension and conflict that builds and builds until that stunning, heart-rending climax.
10. (+) Cover - This cover is gorgeous... and gives that dark, post-apocalyptic feel while including the angel wings. Only complaint I had was the font for the title, but apparently that's been changed in later versions, so double huzzah!
Curious about the book? Think The Hunger Games meets The Blood of Eden (but with angels of the apocalypse instead of bloodthirsty vampires) or a less literary, YA version of The Road. Action fans, horror fans, fans of the above comparison and Anna Dressed in Blood, read Angelfall for the perfect blend of romance and emotional resonance, post-apocalyptic desperation and resolve, creepy and gory action, and kick-ass characters.
(Why did I lend this book to Leena? Now I can't reread my favorite passages. *whines*)
Up Next: Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow.
Please send in some recommendations! Especially if you loved some books that I already own -- trying to tackle the massive TBR, so I can finally lift my book buying ban and invest in some other titles :).