Published: 2011, Feral Dream
Series: Penryn and the End of Days, #1
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic
Source: Personal ebook
I never thought about it before, but I'm proud to be human. We're ever so flawed. We're frail, confused, violent, and we struggle with so many issues. But all in all, I'm proud to be a Daughter of Man.
The apocalypse has come to Earth and it seems like the end of time for humanity. Cities have been destroyed by angels, which continue to patrol the skies and attack those humans they find alive; people are afraid to move at night because of other, unknown threats, some that leave bodies half-eaten and mutilated. But humanity's biggest threat, as well as the only hope for salvation, seems to be in each other. This is the world that Penryn, her mother, and her little sister Paige have known for the past few weeks. Due to her mother's schizophrenia and Paige's physical disability, Penryn has become the de facto leader of their family and they've at least been surviving, which is more than most of humanity can say. When she tries to move them to a safer location, however, all hell breaks loose. Paige is captured by angels, her mother has disappeared, and Penryn finds herself saddled with an angel whose wings have been brutally cut off in an attack by his own kind. Penryn and the angel Raffe begrudgingly join forces as they travel to the angels' eyrie to redress the wrongs committed to themselves and their loved ones.
Susan Ee holds nothing back in her creation of a dark and intricate post-apocalyptic Earth. In this world it's difficult to tell who is likely to help you and who is likely to attack. The humans left alive are divided and, for the most part, leaderless. Through Penryn's descriptions, readers witness an Earth where homes have been abandoned, cars are left in the road, and humans are at their most animalistic states. It is a world without rules or morals, yet one where actions and consequences continue to matter. Penryn's hyperawareness of her each and every action shows this. Does she stay and rest in the relative comfort of a nicer house or move on before other gangs of people have the same idea? This is a world straight out of many post-apocalyptic nightmares.
In general I found the characterizations to be very well done, although it is Penryn's interactions with the other three main characters (her mother, Paige, and Raffe) that really makes Angelfall an enjoyable read. I found Penryn's life before the apocalypse somewhat questionable (She mentions a father many times, yet her father stood by and allowed his daughters to stay with their unstable and potentially harmful mother? Penryn does mention that her mother was on medicine, which has recently run out. Still, though, I can't imagine why young children were left in such an uncertain and potentially dangerous environment.), but I was able to suspend my disbelief over family dynamics for the duration of the events recounted in the book itself. Penryn has been forced to provide strength and support for her mother and sister, and she proves herself to be more than capable.
I really appreciated the fact that Angelfall has no romance. Written for a teenage audience, Ee's book could have easily fallen into a paranormal romance cliche. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with paranormal romance in books, but I cannot help but appreciate it when authors consciously steer away from cliches in their books. Angelfall is first and foremost a story about survival. Secondly, it is a story about Penryn's journey to save her sister from the angels, about Raffe's journey to get his wings sewn on. I did enjoy the gradual friendship and banter that develops between these two characters, but I think a relationship would have cheapened the significance of all their trials and tribulations. Although I do hope that their relationship grows in the subsequent novels and I could see a romantic relationship forming over time.
I really like the unique twists that Ee puts on angel lore. Her angels may be as diverse in appearance as humans are, but they are a different form of being all-together. One whose bones are light and hollow like birds, with the ability to heal super quickly. Yet Penryn's interactions with Raffe do not seem to be out-of-the-ordinary. Many times, Penryn finds herself thinking too fondly of Raffe and forces herself to remember that he's not human. And as readers we do the same. Deprived of his wings, forced to walk on the Earth, Raffe's actions and thoughts do not seem much different from any human's. Yet it is his race of being that has been responsible for the destruction of the human race. Over time his role in the apocalypse might be accepted, but it will not be forgiven or forgotten.
At times I felt like there is too much going on within the novel and not time spent contemplating these issues. I do not necessarily expect all the answers, nor would I want them at this point. But once Raffe and Penryn reach the eyrie in San Francisco, I felt like bits of information were being thrown left and right. They are all interesting and I'd like to know more about those aspects introduced near the end of the book, but there are simply too many things going on at once. I'm sure Ee has planned out the series, but it's frustrating for me as a reader to have so much new information thrown at me the end. I definitely cannot wait to see how it's all connected!
I am happy that Susan Ee's self-published book has become so popular and received its own official publishing deal with Amazon. It is well-written, features some strong characterization, and presents a unique take on the angel apocalypse. Reading books such as Angelfall definitely makes me question the traditional publishing process and the stigmas against self-publication. All I can say is that I'll happily read Ee's sequels, whether they do end up being traditionally, indie, or self-published.