Susan Ee’s Angelfall: My favorite apocalypse
July 14, 2013 § 16 Comments
Susan Ee’s debut novel has become a darling of the reading social network Goodreads, with over eight thousand seperate five star reviews from individual readers. After reading Angelfall, I am here to tell you that all eight thousand of those reviews are one hundred percent justified.
What’s it about?
Six weeks ago, an army of angels descended to Earth. Millions, then billions of people die, as the angels bring about what appears to be the biblical apocalypse. Living in the aftermath of the initial invasion, Penryn’s fight or flight instincts have kicked in – and flight isn’t an option when the enemy has wings.
Penryn saves a brutalised angel, Raffe, after his wings are cut off by members of his own kind. When her wheelchair-bound little sister is abducted by angels, Penryn bargains her assistance for his help in finding the aerie where she believes her sister has been taken. With the weight of their opposing races on their shoulders, the pair set out toward the aerie. They come across a small pocket of organised human resistance, and Penryn begins to question her loyalties. Although she feels begrudgingly grateful to Raffe, his race did eviscerate society as she knew it. She feels a sense of pride in the human resistance, as a Daughter of Man, but knows that she can’t truly contribute until she reaches the aerie and saves Paige.
When they reach the hub of angel intelligence, Penryn is shocked. Far from the organised military base she was expecting, the angels are revelling in post-war decadence. Champagne, luxurious food, evening gowns and five star hotels are the norm for the celestials, even as the smoking panorama of a destroyed San Francisco looms from the penthouse windows. As she and Raffe navigate the political scene of the celestial elite in their quest to find Paige, Penryn finds herself blurring the lines between loyalty to the desecrated world she comes from and the brusque angel who has led her to the heart of the invasion.
Despite having lived through the end of the world, nothing can prepare Penryn (or the reader) for what she finds in the aerie.
…so what did I think?
Angels aren’t a particularly unique topic at the moment, especially in the YA genre. That said, Susan Ee writes this tale of celestial intervention so well that she leaves her competition (namely Hush, Hush) gasping at her heels. The potentially controversial concept of biblical end-times could have been frumpy, preachy and bland (think Left Behind), but Angelfall is engrossing, fast-paced and action-filled. I am endlessly fascinated by angels, and I loved the way this author portrayed them. She managed to make them frightening and alien, but also familiar, in that they strongly resemble their biblical incarnations.
As far as characters go, Angelfall is fairly standard. Strong, selfless and determined, Penryn is motivated to push forward in a desolate new world for the sake of her sister and mentally ill mother. Despite being an angel, Raffe is the brusque, practical and ultimately troubled male counterpart that we’ve already seen in Gale (The Hunger Games), Four (Divergent) and Bradwell (Pure). And Paige, Penryn’s crippled little sister, is a cut-copy of Prim, Katniss’ motivation to win the Games. What makes Angelfall stand out from the rest of the YA post-apocalyptic novels I’ve been devouring is the way the characters interact with one another.
One of my favourite things about Angelfall was the fact that romance took a back seat to more important things, like saving one’s sibling and safely navigating post-apocalyptic society. This made everything feel more realistic. If one’s world had ended, one would probably be in shock for quite some time, and not prioritising romantic prospects. That’s not to say that there is no romantic tension – there is – but there’s a huge, enormous, unimaginable obstacle in the way before Penryn and Raffe could indulge in any sort of relationship. Most YA romance is graced with a suitable obstacle, I admit, but in this case, it’s a downright biblical disaster. And it’s awesome.
Paige, on the other hand, meets an entirely different fate to Prim (her THG counterpart). In fact, what happens to Paige makes the wait until Angelfall’s sequel all the more excruciating. I have to admit that, when I first read that Paige was wheelchair-bound, I thought Ee had been trying too hard to portray her as vulnerable. By the end of the book, though, I realised she had a plan for Paige all along…
Angelfall features an angel with lost wings who winds up stuck with a “Daughter of Man” as they work together to achieve their separate goals – he of getting his wings reattached and she of being reunited with her stolen sister. Who’s betraying whose race? Could their objectives ever be anything but mutually exclusive? What do the angels intend to achieve? Could a human resistance movement have any traction against celestial beings supposedly sent from God? Could an angel from on high really doubt the existence of God?!
This book is really, really good. You should read it, right now, and find out.
Angelfall is available in hard copy for the ridiculous price of $4.99 on Amazon currently!
So readers, what do you think? Will you be picking Angelfall up?