Angelfall by Susan Ee is a book which is hard to fit in any specific genre corner. I was intrigued by its description and bought it of Amazon. It was described as a dark urban fantasy post-apocalyptic thriller. While that long description does manage to cover the main details, it does not gives us a clear idea about its essence.
The story opens up with a desolate city appearance and Penryn along with her crazy mother and her younger sister Paige, they slowly try to forage food while avoiding street gangs and other predators. However the biggest predators are those which travel the sky looking to kill any humans they can find. These are the heavenly angels who were thought of to be legend until six weeks ago when all of humanity saw their fury. Wave after wave of angels have attacked human cities and left desolation in their wake. Now they troll the nights looking for further things to destroy while humanity has broken down, and the pockets of humans live in terror just hoping to survive another day. The human gangs who make up the other half of the terror haven’t helped the people who are just trying to survive.
Into this scenario, a normal teenager is inserted who has to look after her physically disabled sister as well as her Mom who is to sanity as the Joker is to justice. Penryn struggles, as do other humans, however life throws her a curveball when she steps into a fight between angels, and has her sister Paige taken by one group and she is left with an angel named Raffe who has had a precious part taken away from him. Desperate to get her sister back, she forms an uneasy alliance with Raffe and thus begins their sojourn which has Raffe aiming to reclaim back his previous status quo and Penryn to rescue her sister from whatever scourge she has been taken to.
This book has a very dark premise and it does not shy away from showing the graphic sequences or violence. The world is torn asunder and the author remarkably demonstrates how the pieces have fallen. The chapters are small and end leaving the reader curious enough to turn the page. This was reminiscent of James Patterson’s earlier books and was one of the best parts about the book. The second strong front was the characterization and the strength of its primary narrative voice. Penryn is a fascinating character who has faced several ordeals previously and is still facing them with a calm mind. She however is still a teenager and is still learning about herself and her place in the world when it was turned upside down by the arrival of the angels. The relationship between Penryn and Raffe is also laid bare slowly and steadily and it was good to see where the author was taking them. The prose is also good enough to slowly peel back layers of the characters and the world and this helps the reader to acclimatize themselves in the crumbling world of the story.
The big mystery in the tale is the abduction of her sister and Penryn’s odyssey to reclaim her and also the overall mystery about the angels, their appearance, their hand in destroying humanity and their ultimate goal. This is what keeps the narrative tuned to a sharp edge as the reader is given bits and pieces here and there to form a bigger picture. The dual mystery concept on a worldly as well as a personal level keeps the reader engaged and also propels the story forward aggressively. The book cover isn’t much of a big deal in e-books however I must say Angelfall has quite an understated one and this one fits well with the overall story.
There isn’t much to complain in this book but one confounding part for me was the presence of the Mother through out the book. The Mother is shown to be quite a scary character and the author uses her like a hook in various situations however her presence or her activities are never quite properly explained. This was one big loophole for me as I could discount some of the things to plot requirement but from then on, without any reasonable justifications it seemed like a trick and one which was being used a little too much. The author will have to present an explanation for the Mother soon and hopefully it will be forthcoming in the second book.
Angelfall was quite a surprise, I don’t know whether to call it a YA read or not. But it is a book which has a reasonable amount of darkness in it and Susan’s writing skill which manages to give the reader a story which will resonate within ourselves and have us rooting for Penryn. Heartily recommended for fans of YA apocalyptic fiction and the The Hunger Games Trilogy as well the Escape From Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith.
Note: To get an idea about the book, read the first five chapters over HERE. This is Book I in the Penryn and the End of Days saga.