Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Angelfall by Susan Ee - Book Review

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 Penryn will risk everything to rescue her sister, and Raffe will put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
Angefall started life as a self-published book.  Word-of-mouth made it impossible for a publishing company to not come along and grab it up for major distribution, and that formula gave us a very popular novel from an author to root for.  Like the underdog everyone wants to win.

According to most of the reviews for the book that I’ve seen, Angelfall does just that.

But personally, I’m kind of on the fence with this one…..

There were a lot of things I liked about Angelfall.  Within the first few pages, it becomes obvious that Susan Ee is a really good writer, better than most self-published authors out there by a landslide, and it comes as no surprise as to why she got picked up by a publishing company – aside from the huge demand from the reading community, that is.  Penryn is a strong heroine, and Raffe a sexy wingless angel with a mysterious past.  They have teamed up out of necessity.  Since this is a YA novel, sparks fly and they clearly develop the hots for each other.  That screams national bestseller, doesn’t it?

The first half of this novel crawled and jerked at irregular intervals.  We see Penryn and Raffe meet and team up, and deal with their often cheeky back-and-forth, as they make their way to the angel’s aerie.  Angels have turned the world into an apocalyptic wasteland and getting there isn’t half as easy as it should be, so we spend a few too many pages finding abandoned buildings that may or may not have food in them, dealing with thugs and desperate survivors, and learning surprisingly little about what, exactly, happened at the start of the angel attack. 

Which is probably my main problem with Angelfall, really.  The minimalistic world-building and characterization.  You’d think there would be so many religious and mythological overtones in a novel about angels, right?  Well, aside from a few minor scenes, there really isn’t much of that.  We don’t find out how closely these angels resemble their biblical counterparts—though it’s obvious they’re vengeful warriors, blood-thirsty like the angels in the Bible.  No sweet, gentle, guardian-type angels in this one, folks.  We don’t even find out if they’re actually on a direct mission from God.  They’d might as well be an alien species with bird wings and ethereal beauty.
Penryn was developed nicely, as was her mother – who just may be the most interesting character in this book – but Raffe suffers from the same lack of backstory as the plotline.  For the majority of the book, we know nothing about him but what we actually see happening.  Though we learn a little more toward the end, it’s nowhere near enough to satisfy of all my questions.
Maybe that’s the reason why I just did not buy into the romance.  Or maybe it was that it was rushed.  Penryn and Raffe are, by all accounts, mortal enemies.  Shouldn’t it take longer than a day or two for that to morph into the tingly, sappy feelings of romance?  Of love?  As an avid fan of romance in YA, I am always searching for the next guy to swoon over, and Raffe just didn’t cut it for me.  I think that’s what I’m most disappointed by in this book, because I had high hopes that he would.

Now that the ranting portion of this review is over, let’s get on to what worked in this novel; pretty much the whole second half.  As soon as Penryn and Raffe find themselves in the “camp”, Angelfall really picks up.  The pace becomes more consistent and fast-paced.  The writing is less choppy.  The characters begin to feel less two-dimensional.  Though we are still left with far too many questions, the ending was creepy and satisfying, with a nice little cliffie ensuring our interest in the sequel.

This is a novel worth reading.  Susan Ee is a new voice in YA to look out for, especially if she gets the editing and structure of a major-label publishing firm that this self-published work was missing.   The plotline is original despite its lack of information, and the characters are for the most part likeable.
I won’t deny that Angelfall is a good book, but unfortunately, I have a feeling I’ll be remembering the flaws of the first half more than the strengths of the second when I look back on it.  I also want to add that despite my luke-warm feelings toward Angelfall, Ee holds my respect and admiration for taking a chance and self-publishing her book.  She won every one of her fans through her hard work and dedication, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from her in the future.   

Angelfall by Susan Ee – 3 out of 5 stars


  1. Hi Kelly,
    Great review. I like the way you have analyzed this book.

  2. I just purchased this, i'm not goina lie the under 4 bucks price tag pushed me to buy it XD

    But i'm looking forward to reading it

    1. Ooh that is a good deal! I spent like $7 on it, but that's also including shipping. It's a good book, definitely worth reading. And that ending...gah! It's been months since I read Angelfall, and I still get creeped out thinking about the ending.


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