By Susan Ee
Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1
Release date: May 21, 2011
A post-apocalyptic novel set in a world where angels have taken over (not the cute Valentine’s Day card, but the biblical “we destroy everything in our path” type), Angelfall establishes a version of Earth that has become a wasteland and battle ground for the squabbles between angels and fallen angels. In the midst of this, a teenage girl, Penryn, finds herself caught up in the angel drama when she witnesses a fight and gets caught in a skirmish between some feuding angels. One minute Penryn carries her younger sister, Paige, down a flight of stairs, and the next, she witnesses the Archangel Gabriel dying (apparently, there’s footage of him being gunned down from the pile of rubble that was Jerusalem). She sees some angels ganging up on one in particular (“Snowy,” as she calls him), and they cut off his wing, which is the equivalent of castration for an angel.
Right off the bat, it’s clear that the action is one of the book’s strong points, well done for the most part, as a wounded Snowy protects Penryn from another angel, Burnt Angel, who scuttles off, but not before he yanks Paige away, which sets up Penryn’s quest for the rest of the novel, which is to find the little girl. But she needs Snowy’s help to find her. Although the book is told in the present tense, which deviates from the norm, I personally didn’t have any issues with it, and thought that the technique livened up the prose and lent it some immediacy.
Penryn spends most of the book trying to get Snowy’s, or Raffe’s, help (the angel turns out to be no less than the Archangel Raphael himself) to help find Paige, who, when she is found, isn’t exactly the same that she used to be. She’s very much damaged goods, which is an interesting undercurrent that runs through the book both metaphorically with Penryn’s experiences and physically through Paige. It ain’t pretty what happens to the little girl. But Penryn has her own struggles, which include battling an inevitable attraction to Raffe, who claims that he doesn’t like her, but of course he does even though he says he doesn’t. I was glad that the book focused more on the mythology and world-building and the story aspect rather than the romance aspect. This definitely isn’t paranormal romance, and although it’s a short read at just under 300 pages, it’s not a light, breezy type of beach read. Awful things happen to the humans in this universe, and the mythological interpretation of the Nephilim and not being allowed to mate with the Daughters of Man is all brought to life wonderfully, and taken very seriously without bogging the reader down in endless infodumps.
The main Big Bad of the novel, a fallen angel named Beliel, comes back to bite Raffe in the ass, but another character called the Politician (aka the Archangel Uriel) makes a very interesting appearance (Michael is the only missing guy, oddly enough), and I would like to extend kudos to the author for interpreting him a bit differently than the recent spate of supernatural fiction that has painted him either as a sadistic killing machine with no remorse who is only one step above a fallen angel (even though he’s still an Archangel) or as a one-dimensional caricature.
Overall, the story is an engaging one, the worldbuilding is great, the characters will make you care what happens to them, and it’s a nice addition to the “angel fiction” pile in the supernatural section of bookshops.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Review copy received from the author.