Monday, August 19, 2013

Christina Read: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Release Date: May 21, 2011
Published by: Feral Dream
Recommended by: Roxy and Stephanie

Christina Reads Your Recommendations is a regular Monday feature here (inspired by A Reader of Fictions' Sadie Hawkins Sunday) in which you, my readers, get to choose what book I will read and review next. Got a book that you love and want everyone to read and review? That you're not sure what to think of and want a second opinion on? That you think I'll love or that I should have already read? Send 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.

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

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 :).


  1. OH WOW!!! All "+"-s. That's awesome! I read reviews for it when it came out and I've owned a copy for over a year. Now that the sequel is finally coming out, I can give this pretty a try. For that reason, I didn't read your review since I've forgotten most of what I've read from different reviews. Most people agree with you though and praise this book sky high. I read the romance section though, everromantic as I am, and I LOVED Akiva so if Raffe is a bit more fun, but still as complicated and problematic as a persona, I'm sure I'll love him, too:) So glad you enjoyed it!!!!! Btw, has the cover been revealed already? Last time I saw, there was a place-holder for #2, but it was pretty darn gorgeous itself:)

  2. Wow quite the review. I don't think I've ever seen you give a book all +s (or at least, if you have I wasn't paying attention, haha). I've seen this book get mentioned around the blogosphere here and there, but never thought about actually picking it up myself. Obviously that needs to change! Just added it to my wishlist!

  3. YAY All pluses!! So glad to see you loved this one... this book really blew me away. And you're so right, this would be an excellent movie (if done right of course!) Really considering doing a re-read before the next installment releases... :) Great review!

  4. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Christina! I was a latecomer to this book, I only read it earlier this year, and that was after EVERYONE I knew recommended it over and over. See, I've never been a big fan of angel books--somehow my mind doesn't want to put The Mortal Instruments books in the angel category, though I know they are. Then I read Unearthly and really liked the angel lore and mythology. But Angelfall is just amazing--on so many levels that the Unearthly series isn't. I'm a bit sick of Post Apocalyptic (and dystopian for that matter) but I thought Ee did a fantastic job. And yes, I totally agree with you in all your comparisons to The Hunger Games and The Blood of Eden series. I feel like Angelfall is more sophisticated and mature then both of those. And to think this book was Ee's debut! I cannot wait to see how she has grown as a writer when the sequel comes out! I won't be waiting to read that one, I've already pre-ordered it:)

    Fantastic review! I never wrote one for this book, but I don't think I could have said it any better than you did:)

    I am anxious to hear your thoughts on the St. Crow book--I have a copy on my shelf I still haven't read. I look forward to you vetting it for me:)

  5. I need to read my copy which I have had for almost 2 years now. Face palm. Great review

  6. YAY! You liked this! It's been a while since I've read it, but I had so much fun reading this when I did.

    #1. Yes to loving Penryn. I was okaaaay with Katniss, but I liked Penryn more in one book than I did Katniss in three. Ee really handled her characterization well -- she's messed up and her life sucks, but Penryn handles it so well.

    #3. Romance win! Only Ee and Laini Taylor have written angel romances that I can really root for. Raffe was also done so well, it's hard not to like him, or like him with Penryn. And he is a bit more fun than Akiva, this is true. However, I am an Akiva fangirl so I still like him a teeeeny bit more. >_>

    #5. I hadn't seen the similarities to The Immortal Rules but now it's so obvious. And done better. Angels over vampires any day, really.

    #7. I was really surprised at how gory this was towards the end. I didn't mind -- it was just a surprise. I think you're dead on about it being gorier than the Hunger Games -- especially since a lot of the gore in that was offscreen or glossed over.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this one so much! All pluses! Wooo! And I, too, cannot wait for the sequel and the movie. I only hope both are crafted as well as this!

  7. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkAugust 19, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    YES YES YES YES YES CHRISTINA!!!!! I loved this book so much, and it's been a very, VERY, long wait for book two to come out after that ending! But, the wait just gives me an excuse to reread this one (like I really need one though) before release day. I couldn't have loved Penryn and Raffe anymore if I tried and I'm so glad you felt the same way! They were just amazing characters, and this is one of those rare books I wish was 1,000 pages long so I could just snuggle in and stay for hours and hours. Hope you get your copy back soon so you can reread those favorite moments!

  8. I loved this book as well. I loved Penryn as the protagonist and I loved how her relationship with Raffe developed over the course of the novel (and if he wants to be shirtless, I have no problem with that) :) And the twists and turns throughout the book were well done. It has been awhile since I've read the book, and I don't even know when the next one is coming out so I guess I'll be re-reading it before then. Great review! ~Pam

  9. Yessss. Angelfall was one of those books that gave me my equivalent of a book hangover. I hope you like Raffe. He's a great love interest, and I'd lovelovelove to discuss the book if you read your copy soon :). Cover for the sequel hasn't been released yet as far I've seen - still the red placeholder ( Wondering when it'll be released since the book comes out in November o.O.

  10. Ha, few books do get all +s. There were a very things that didn't quite work, which I wrote into the +s, but all around, the fun eclipses the flaws. It works very well for what it is: YA post-apoc UF. Definite genre fiction.

    If you don't want to pick it up, I can lend you my copy :D. Seriously, would love for any and all my friends to read this :P.

  11. There are few book to movie adaptations that I'm ever realllly pleased with, but Angelfall is the kind of the book that I just want a movie for regardless. Hey, if you do a reread before the sequel comes out in November, maybe I could join you in another read-along besides our one for Spectacular Now? I wouldn't mind rereading :).

  12. Lol, if you were a latecomer to this book, Heather, I'm not even in the competition for how late I am O.o. Huh, interesting that you said about TMI because I'm that way too. I can't categorize them that way either. Maybe it's because the books have so many paranormal creatures that even if the angels are the mighty ones, they're not the sole focus.

    Post-apocalyptic is up there with dystopian on books that are published en masse. Yeah, Ee took the angel lore in a completely different level than that in Unearthly,but it was so satisfying. Angelfall is more mature and definitely more sophisticated, I think, than the Blood of Eden series. There's a grittiness to Angelfall that I found a lot more satisfying. The sequel!! It'll be wonderful to see how she matures as a writer. Two years of silence since the first book - a lot of time to mature and make World After as awesome as possible :).

  13. Thanks! I hope you get to read it soon. Angelfall is wonderful!

  14. Haha, that's because I'm such a latecomer. I was scrolling on the GR book page and more than half my friends had already read the book (almost all 5 stars!).

    #1: Yes! --> "I liked Penryn more in one book than I did Katniss in three." Me too. And if Ee keeps at it, Penryn will make the list of my top heroines.

    #3: Ahh, have you ever read Unearthly? That one also has a decent angel romance. I agree with you too - he's more fun than Akiva, but at the same time, with the second book, I think Akiva still surpasses Raffe. Raffe was developed a bit, but there's not as much depth yet as Akiva has. So looking forward to what Ee does with him in the sequel. The synopsis has me a bit wary.

    #5: So much better. Writing and lore wise. Yes.

    #7: The Hunger Games could have been so much gorier. Angelfall had offscreen moments, but most of the causes for that violence got page time later, so it was easy to image what really had happened.

    :) with all the YA books being adapted, I really hope this one gets the greenlight.

  15. Hee, technically I suppose I don't need a reread since I'm such a latecomer, but hey, Jenny, give yourself the time to reread this :). It'll be worth it for sure. And ha, I'm considering buying an e-copy in the meantime. Or for when I move away and can't bring Angelfall with me :D. That's the excuse, anyway.

  16. lol! Yeah. The shirtlessness was fine. I don't mind that Penryn got a bit distracted ;). I would have too. And their romance may go down as one of my favorites of all time. Yesss, the twists were so well done!

    The sequel, World After, comes out November 19. Very soon - They still have a placeholder cover though. Still, you can schedule in your reread :).

  17. I *just* finished a re-listen of Angelfall. It's my go-to audio whenever I'm between audiobooks and can't stand the silence. :P So glad you loved it just as much as I did...ALL PLUSES!!! :D And from what I've read, the movie is on track as a THING, so I'm very hopeful. And very impatient for the sequel. =)

  18. Lauren, Love is not a triangleAugust 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    This is my first visit to your blog and I LOVE your review style. SO MUCH FUN. My friend Asheley mentioned that you do + and - So great. Anyway, I adore this book for all the reasons you said. I like that you pointed out several stories that ANGELFALL reminds you of, but does BETTER. I'd agree, something about Angelfall makes it stand out among the rest. Also, I wouldn't mind more shirtless Raffe ;). I prefer when a romance is part of a book and doesn't overwhelm the plot, and i have all the same questions that you do about the world building. Also, very insightful comment about Penryn's mom's illness and how she's still likable. I'm dying for book 2 now!

  19. I agree. I think it would translate well to the big screen. :)
    If I can squeeze it in I'll definitely let you know!!

  20. Oooh, there's an audiobook for this one?? Hmm. I've been debating whether or not I want to buy an e-book copy too... Maybe I should get the audio. I am very hopeful about the movie and sequel :D.

  21. Thanks, Lauren, for all your kind words :). Angelfall was a definite surprise for me because it reminded me of all those books but brought something so fresh and gritty and just AWESOME to the post-apoc scene. Raffe! The shirtless part reminded me of all the gifs about Taylor Lawrence in the Twilight films :P but I don't think I'd mind more shirtless Raffe. I hope we both love World After!

    PS - Thanks for forwarding the discussion on The Bone Season! So looking forward to joining in :).

  22. YES YES YES. "Like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but less torture, more fun" is exactly right! I said it was perfect for people who might've wanted more from that book as well.

    I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that you loved it, Christina. It's a gem, isn't it? Freaking self-published. I love it, and I applaud Roxy and Stephanie for recommending it to you!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


    The romance was borderline addictive. I need to reread this book!! I am SO THRILLED that you loved it!

  24. The excerpt & cover for the sequel are being released on Monday. So excited! We should reread before World After comes out :).

  25. Yes - more action and grittiness here, and I can't wait for the cover reveal and excerpt from World After on Monday :D. So looking forward to that and rereading this one ~ October. Angelfall makes me think that I've been too harsh toward some self-pubs - well, at least, if only all self-pubs were this great! Definitely a gem. :)

  26. I feel like the rights to this were purchased...

    Penryn is great. Also, she never becomes weak when she meets Raffe. She's still BA, which is awesome.

    And the slow burn is so slow nothing really happens in this one. AWWW YEAH BOOOOY.

    Wow, i do not remember the plot of City of Bones. I thought it was just about Clary and Jace wanting to bone. Am I wrong?


  27. They were :). But in YA, so many books are optioned. The only ones that ever really get made are the ones with SIGNIFICANT audiences. At least one million copies or something. I hope Angelfall breaks that mold...

    Right?? Even when Raffe is a douche about the romance, Penryn holds her own. Really? I thought that *just* enough happened - the sneaky looks and beautiful comments, partners-in-crime, cuddling, and kiss. Perfect amount. No need for anything else. The synopsis for the sequel alarms me a little in that regard. Also, the excerpt:

    LOL! Well, that's definitely a part of the plot... but er, it starts with Clary seeing a demon blah blah and then her mom gets taken. Jace agrees to help searching which prompts the love story.

    If it's not obvious, I like the plot of this one better :P.


  28. Yay! I'm so glad you liked this one! I loved Penryn and Raffe and everything about the plot and their romance! I'm glad you pointed out what you did about the mom. SO true. I liked how Penryn would look out for signs of her mother and how they were always strange but insightful at the same time.

    and OH MY GOSH the gore!!!! I don't know that I've ever read gore like those final scenes. I loved them even though I'm still totally horrified by them.

  29. Did you see the cover for World After? And the excerpt? PENRYN AND RAFFE!!! It was only three pages but GAH, why is November so far away?

    Lol. Those final scenes. I was kind of afraid that I wouldn't be able to sleep when I finished. If they do make a movie of this one, I have no idea how I'll be able to watch those final scenes and the gory ones too o.O.

  30. I loved this book as well. I loved Penryn as the protagonist and I loved how her relationship with Raffe developed over the course of the novel (and if he wants to be shirtless, I have no problem with that) :) And the twists and turns throughout the book were well done. It has been awhile since I've read the book, and I don't even know when the next one is coming out so I guess I'll be re-reading it before then. Great review! ~Pam

  31. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkSeptember 12, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    YES YES YES YES YES CHRISTINA!!!!! I loved this book so much, and it's been a very, VERY, long wait for book two to come out after that ending! But, the wait just gives me an excuse to reread this one (like I really need one though) before release day. I couldn't have loved Penryn and Raffe anymore if I tried and I'm so glad you felt the same way! They were just amazing characters, and this is one of those rare books I wish was 1,000 pages long so I could just snuggle in and stay for hours and hours. Hope you get your copy back soon so you can reread those favorite moments!


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