Blue Bloods – Melissa de la Cruz

BlueBlood

Summary:

When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society.

The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. She prefers baggy, vintage clothes instead of the Prada and pearls worn by her classmates, and she lives with her reclusive grandmother in a dilapated mansion. Schuyler is a loner…and happy that way. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a popular girl from her school is found dead… drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn’t know what to think, but she wants to find out the secrets the Blue Bloods are keeping. But is she herself in danger?

Review:

When I reviewed Frozen a few weeks ago, I mentioned a theory that stated that that book was pretty much a product of her husband, and that her name was on the cover to boost sales. Not knowing whether that was true, I decided to give this series a look and the author a second chance in the name of open-mindedness. Now that I have read both, do I still believe in this theory? Yeah. I do for a couple of reasons. Where as Frozen was half-baked, Blue-Bloods feels very fleshed out. The author clearly knew what she wanted to do and seemed to have spent at least some time figuring out how to get there.

More telling though, are the stylistic differences. Frozen had what most readers would feel like is a perfectly acceptable level of description: we get detail when it’s needed but we’re not bombarded by it. Here though? If you cut back on the needlessly overdone descriptions, you’d probably lose 20% of the final word count. Everything here is over described: clothing, hair, food, buildings, rooms. You name it and you probably know more about it than you’d ever care to. All authors have a certain style to their writing and even if it varies a bit from book to book (especially if they are jumping between young adult and adult) these two books are just too opposed to each other. The description in Frozen comes off as Spartan by comparison. That, and the differences in the world building lead me to believe these were not written by the same people. Whatever the collaboration was, she was almost assuredly not the one behind the keyboard.

So that out of the way, how do I feel about this book?

On the one hand, it is technically a better book than Frozen. As I said, she has some unique ideas and the world, though I can’t say I want to be a part of it is pretty well fleshed out. It’s just a same that it’s fleshed out with people that I would go out of my way to avoid. Even the alleged protagonist Schuyler (and I say that because this book is clumsily split amongst at least four different points of view) has moments of being an absolute bitch to her friend Oliver who really didn’t deserve it. Yes, she overall is one of the least shallow characters of this novel, but there isn’t enough of that to counter the way this book revels in valuing material wealth and a super narrow description of beauty that even Schuyler, whose clothing style may not match the norm for the school, manages to meet.

So much of this book talks about four-thousand-a-pair jeans and Chanel this and Prada that. If you’re poor? Sucks to be you. If you’re anything other than a blond, tall waif, you’re not pretty and you’re not going to be a model in this universe. Furthermore, the author has an obsession with variations of the phrase “eat whatever she wants but never gains an ounce” that I saw it at least a dozen times. I legitimately began to wonder if the author herself wasn’t weight obsessed herself. It was really disturbing, and this focus on such a generally unobtainable ideal of beauty really bothered me. I know that this unrealistic, but I’m well past my high school years and more than secure enough in my sense of self that I can see this for what it is. The problem is, I’m not the audience for this book.  This book is aimed at Young Adults, a period when a lot of girls struggle with things like weight and appearance. I can really see this book putting a whammy on a girl already in trouble and I really wish she’d toned it back.

It’s kind of a shame that the author is so focused on things that are unobtainable to most. There were some good ideas in here that could have really shone had she let them. But no, she was more obsessed about finding just the right black cocktail dress to go with her string of pearls and it shows.

Verdict: Skip it. Good ideas are buried beneath an over-abundance of superficiality. Some editing might have done wonders for this book.

Available: Now

Fire and Flood – Victoria Scott

16069167An e-arc was provided by Net Galley for a fair review

Summary:

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother’s life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Review:

It’s no real secret that I wasn’t a fan of The Collector. While I thought the book had one or two decent ideas, anything good was counter-balanced by the fact that I hated the protagonist. My dislike of him was so strong that I wondered if that was coloring the way I was viewing the rest of the book and I wanted to give the author a second chance.

And so I did, by giving this new series a look.

Sadly, it was not enough to sway me.

I’ll state the obvious here: this is clearly inspired by The Hunger Games. The author does mix it up a bit – every contestant gets a Pandora (an animal companion) bred to help them survive the contest and most of the contestants aren’t actively out trying to kill each other, but the bones are still pretty plainly obvious and this book just can’t live up to what is quickly becoming a seminal series in YA fiction.  And there are a couple of reasons for this:

First, Tella is no Katniss Everdeen. She is almost the anti-Katniss. In her own words:

“How stupid could I have been? I left without telling my family where I was going, got on a train to a city that doesn’t exist, and swallowed a foreign object.”

Don’t forget that she seriously considered packing a bottle of nail polish for this trek, or that she didn’t think to demand of her parents to know what was up since clearly they knew. She ran into this blind, and then later gets pissed at the anonymous “they” who are “doing this to her” even though she essentially volunteered herself for a race that she knew nothing about. I had a conversation with another blogger about Tella, and the blogger appreciated Tella’s shallowness as a “flaw.” It is a flaw, but it isn’t an interesting one. It’s one that makes me question her sanity when, a solid week into the race when everyone has been traipsing through the jungle and are filthy and probably reeking of body odor, that she is so jealous of another Contender’s beauty that she “could be friends…if I weren’t so overwhelmed with the urge to end her.” Are her priorities that mixed up? While I don’t out and out hate her the way I did Dante, I find this flaw makes me hard to sympathize with her. She does grow stronger through the book, and I do find that her growth is believable in a way that Dante’s wasn’t, I still just wasn’t able to connect with her. Maybe it’s because this entire situation was avoidable. She didn’t have to do this. Had she known what she was getting into and then volunteered herself it’d packed more punch because it really would have felt like a genuine sacrifice and not just the move of a stubborn and defiant teenager – which is exactly what her actions were.

The other major problem is the world building, or lack there of. We get no sense of time, nor place, nor society that we live in. The answers to the most basic questions about this race are quite given pages from the end of this first book. The set up is better than some set-ups (like say, the Maze Runner) but still decidedly lacks the punch of something like Hunger Games.

Finally, the ending is a bit abrupt because they clearly wanted to make this at least two books. I’m still not a fan of this practice and if it bothers you as much as it can me, it may be another strike against the book. It does at least end in a logical spot, so it doesn’t feel completely abrupt.

If I’m honest with myself, a lot of the issues I have with this book were also present in The Collector. It’s just that I can see them more clearly because I don’t have a target for my dislike. At this point, I have to call it like it is: Victoria Scott is not the author for me. The lackluster world building and teenage to the nth degree teenagers make it too difficult for me to get invested in her stories.

Verdict: Again, as with The Collector, diehard fans of Hunger Games-type books might enjoy this one, but most can probably safely Skip It.

Available: February 25th

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

9781620401392_custom-7b685c3426b519eaa2745c21ff4462bdbc179f56-s6-c30

Summary:

t is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut

Review:

An open letter to Bloomsbury:

“The next Harry Potter” is a lot like fetch. It is not something you can make happen. It happens on its own. Harry Potter was a once-in-a-generation cultural event; something that has sunk so deep into our collective consciousness that the foreign ministers of China and Japan have accused each other of being like Voldemort. It was the right book at the right place at the right time.

It does not matter that this series is going to have seven books, or that it is already optioned.

It is not Harry Potter.

All you do by deeming this series “the next Harry Potter” is give those who dislike the book further ammunition to judge this book more harshly than it might deserve.

For let us be clear: this is not the next Harry Potter.

Harry Potter existed in a world that felt as real and as vibrant as our own, and explained so cleverly that we could easily believe in its existence. Shannon gave us a harried explanation for the set-up of our story and it kind of works, but it can also leave the reader scratching their head and going “huh.”

Harry Potter worked because it was ultimately a story of friendship and love. Harry did heroic things, not because he was the Boy Who Lived, but because his friends and adopted family were in danger. He literally gave his life to protect them. Paige’s motivations do not seem so altruistic. Or rather, I believe they were meant to be, but there is not enough build up to make these acts of friendship believable. And her life in the Syndicate – a life where she admits that the useful were well treated and the lower orders of “voyants” were discarded – wasn’t exactly one that would have nourished selfless deeds. Selfishness was necessary to survive.

Harry Potter worked because the writing itself was clean and simple enough for anyone, even a child of seven to understand and follow along. There is terminology unique to the world, but it is introduced slowly and always explained. No glossary was ever included, nor was it ever needed. The Bone Season has a ten page glossary. It is decidedly necessary There is an overwhelming amount of slang here. So much so that it is impossible to keep all of it straight – and I’m only talking of the terminology surrounding the clairvoyants (why does there need to be a term for vanilla humans? What’s wrong with just ‘human’?). The added weight of the street slang drags everything down. There is so much other stuff going on that it doesn’t add flavor, only more confusion. The nomenclature for the humans in the camp is equally over-complex. XX-59-1 is impossible to know how to pronounce and looks like a locker combination. If you’re like me, you’ll settle for understanding 90% of the references because you’ll quickly tire of consulting said glossary.

One area where The Bone Season is like Harry Potter is the unnecessary real-world overtones. Harry Potter had its parallels to Hitler’s Germany. The Bone Season has its parallels with its parallels of the troubles between England and Ireland. Just…why? It doesn’t ending up adding as much depth to Paige’s character or to the world as the author might think.

Am I being a bit hard on the book? Maybe a touch, but you ask the reader to compare it to one of the best book series of the 20th century and that is why you shouldn’t ask us to. Let us judge the book for its own merits and everyone would have been better off.

Verdict: Borrow It. Overly complex, but solid YA fantasy. If you can accept its limitations here, it’s not a bad read.

Available: Now

The Immortal Circus – A.R. Kahler

17398829

Summary:

Murdered contortionists aren’t exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can’t quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded—especially not when she realizes the devilishly attractive ringleader, Mab, is the Faerie Queen of legend—and that she and the rest of the troupe are locked in an age-old rivalry between the otherworldly Courts.

Aided by her friends Kingston—a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart—and his smart-ass assistant, Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past—and future—than she bargained for.

The show’s just beginning. Step right up…

Review:

So occasionally Amazon runs these promotions that are “Because you bought Book X, you can buy one of these books for $0.99!” A buck, I thought, that’s worth a look. And yeah, I got my money’s worth. To the right people, it might even be worth the full $4 Kindle cover price. Would I recommend it for the $8.97 paperback price? Eh…

I’d say this book is kind of adequate. Though the parts are enjoyable enough, there is nothing new in this plot. You’ve see variations on these fairies. You’ve seen this kind of circus. You’ve seen this kind of romance. It’s all old hat. I also found the way she kept going back to Kingston even though his emotional jumps from “I want to help you!” to clear “I know what’s going on with you and I refuse to say what it is” is so obnoxious that most sane people would wash their hands of it. Though, I suppose that’s so common in young adult fiction that I can’t blame him for it. Ultimately, it’s so familiar, it’s forgettable.

The writing is also adequate. While there is nothing particularly egregious here, the book might have benefited from one more round of edits. Some word choices – like “passover-able” as part of the narration that make the narrator sound like a ten year old and should have never made it in into the final text. There’s another part where it looks like words exploded onto the page. It’s the kind of thing you’d see in poetry to represent chaos. It works well in poetry, but looks out of place here, as if the author wasn’t confident his words do their job.

Finally, the weakest part of the book is its serialized nature. Because it is released in parts, each part ends with a Big Moment then fade to black. The transitions always feel harsh and he never found a graceful way to transition to the next scene. And of course, because even the acts are serialized the book is short at just 224 pages and the story isn’t truly complete, but there is more closure than several traditionally published books out on the, so I will at least give it some credit for that.

This is a book that I can’t rally for, but I also can’t truly hate, either. It’s ultimately inoffensive and kind of forgettable. It’s an easy read that can be fun enough if your expectations are adjusted. I won’t be picking up the final two thirds, but I don’t regret the time I spent with this book either. It’s okay. And that about it sums it up.

Verdict: A weak Borrow It, if you can catch it on sale and you like the genre.

Available Now.

The Prophecy – The Fulfillment Series Book 1 – @ErinAlbertBooks

18160774

Summary:

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He’s grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear…not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash’s secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.

Review:

Hello again, young adult fiction, I haven’t had the best of luck with you recently, have I? Frozen was a mess, The Pretenders was unfinished and The Collector was generic with a protagonist whose popularity I still can’t wrap my mind around. So how did The Prophecy, a recent entrant into the YA fantasy ring fare?

Not too bad, actually.

On the one hand, a lot of my qualms with YA fiction (genre fare in general) are still present. I’m only going to call out two here.

First, the world building is lacking. We learn of what the Prophecy is rather quickly, but we never learn of the religion behind it, or why everyone believes in it, what these trials are or why they are so fatal. We know nothing of the power they are to possess or how they can heal a nation. There is no rhyme or reason to it, so the emphasis on the black hair and purple eyes doesn’t really seem to mean much. For all the detail we’re given, it’s basically a proclamation. That’s a problem, because when a twist at the end of the book comes, it leaves you less shocked and more like “okay, and why should we believe in her any more than we believe what we’ve already seen?”  Basically, if you’re going to premise your ENTIRE book around a religious concept, then show your readers this religion. As it stands, it’s a flimsy premise. On an unrelated note, the Etheral’s are said to have the ability to control minds. The whole King’s Right concept? Kinda gimmicky. What if there’s a coup? Is this ability tied to the family? The throne? Would it jump if a new King were to claim it? It’s a little too convenient for my taste. Also too convenient, the ease with which Nash accomplishes his task towards the end of the book, but I promised I’d keep the complaints short this time.

My other complaint is there are an awful lot of one dimensional characters here. Both the King of Ethereal and Prince of Vanguard seem awfully close to Evil because the plot demands it. At one point the novel speculates that Prince Wilhelm is the true King of Ethereal because he’s so good of heart while the current “malignant” king rules, that kind of thing. It undermines a book when characters just dive off the deep end to service the plot.

So now that I’ve complained about some rather basic building blocks, why did I say this fared decently? Again, two reasons here.

First, the characters, while a bit flat, are enjoyable. I’m a particular fan of Vespa, though all of the “good guys” are quite likable. You wouldn’t mind seeing Layla end up with either one of them, and all around there is a genuine sense of nobility to them, which is great to see. It also creates an actually enjoyable love triangle (and it’s an actual triangle, she is legitimately torn between the brothers and both have a chance at her heart. Refreshing) which is a nice change of pace. More in its favor though, the book didn’t end up quite as predictable as I thought it first would, and I have to give the author props for that.

Finally, this book is just fun. It’s a light, breezy read that should satisfy fans of the genre. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but as far as the genre goes in its current state, it’s one of the better ones to come out recently.

Verdict: Borrow It. Genre fans should enjoy it for it is, it just won’t leave a lasting impression on you.

Available: Now

Without Bloodshed: Part One of Starbreaker – Matthew Graybosch

without-bloodshed-final-coverAn ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Summary:

“All who threaten me die.”

These words made Morgan Stormrider’s reputation as one of the Phoenix Society’s deadliest IRD officers. He served with distinction as the Society’s avenger, and specialized in hunting down anybody who dared kill an Adversary in the line of duty. After a decade spent living by the sword, Morgan wants to bid a farewell to arms and make a new life with his friends and his music.

Despite his faltering faith, the Phoenix Society has a final mission for Morgan Stormrider. A dictator’s public accusations made Morgan a liability to his organization. He must put everything aside, make his way to Boston, and put down Alexander Liebenthal’s coup while taking him alive to prove he is not the Society’s assassin.

Despite the gravity of his task, Morgan cannot put aside his ex-girlfriend’s murder, or efforts to frame him and his closest friends for the crime. He cannot ignore a request from a trusted friend to investigate the theft of designs for a weapon before which even gods stand defenseless. He cannot disregard the corruption implied in the Phoenix Society’s willingness to make him a scapegoat should he fail to resolve the crisis in Boston without bloodshed.

However, the words with which he forged his reputation haunt him still.

Review:

I find this book tricky to review, because in some sense, this is a tale of two books. On the one hand, we have an enjoyable science-fiction thriller set in the near future (2112) as Stormrider seeks to carry out his orders. You get that enjoyable sense of tension from not only the game of cat and mouse being played with Liebenthal, but also from the Phoenix Society: not only those that would see him a scapegoat, but those who seek to use him for other purposes. This book is worth reading for this aspect alone. Morgan and his allies are well written, likable and you want to pull for them, and hope they succeed. The action is well paced, and I feel the author does a good job of developing the characters and giving us down time between the big fights. It’s fun enough and tight enough that if you focused on this part of the book, you might even get a nice little movie out of it.

Unfortunately, the science-fiction elements of the book are where things start to break down a little.

A lot of the elements feel fuzzy, like they don’t quite fit in with the rest of this book. It’s like the author had these ideas about what he wants to see, and couldn’t quite figure out how to fit them in. For example, several characters in this book have a disorder called Congenital Pseudofeline Morphological Disorder (CPMD). That is to say, they bear resemblance to cats: pointed ears, slitted eyes and their diet needs to be much more protein heavy, like a cat. Oh, and they have vestigial nipples that are extra sensitive. What impact CPMD is really supposed to have on this book I really can’t say. There’s a throw a way line in there about how some think that this is the next step of humanity and another that says it’s a competing species, but who cares? I can’t recall reading about the origin of it, what impact it has on the lives of those with it, or what the heck it has to do with the plot. It kind of feels like the author created it so he could mention the nipples.

There is also something called Deva in this book. I think it might be related to the CPMD, but I honestly can’t quite tell you if that connection was really there. They also have some abilities that let them manipulate space and time; but what they are doing here in this novel? Again, not really sure. We’re told the Starbreaker is a weapon and that it can be wielded against the Deva’s enemies, but we don’t know what this weapon does or who these enemies are. I think the author didn’t want to focus on it now, but he really should have, because I honestly found myself scratching my head during these sections. I just was never fully able to wrap my head about what they were, what their motivations were or why they were in this book. Had enough time been devoted to them (at less then 300 pages, I think the author could have spared more time to fleshing out the world without harming the pacing of the story) I think they could have worked a lot better. As it stands, however, these sections really were a drag for me and I think they brought the book down as a whole. The best of these science-fiction elements were things we’ve seen variations on before, such as implants that let people communicate to each other wordlessly, and AI that act as butlers. These worked well, but weren’t enough to overcome the problems that the more creative parts provided.

All in all, this book leaves me wondering if this title was construed as a thriller first and then the science-fiction elements were added on later because these pieces just never quite come together to work as cohesively as they should, and I think that is a shame. There are some interesting things going on here on both sides of the equation, they just don’t belong together in this same book. Presumably part two will go into further detail on these things, but I can’t say that there was enough here to make me want to find out more.

Verdict: A middling Borrow It. Fans who don’t mind some sci-fi in their thrillers will enjoy the book for what it is, just be prepared to possibly be confused while reading this.

Available Now

Archon – Sabrina Benulis

archon-2

Summary:

Angela Mathers is obsessed with visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Released from a mental institution, she hopes her new university, West Wood Academy, will give her the chance at a normal life.

But such is not to be. . . . For a secret coven plots within West Wood, and demons and angels alike walk the streets of Luz, searching for the key to open Raziel’s book–a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some wish to destroy Raziel, others, like the Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, to free him. For when the Archon rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe.

Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to both Heaven and Hell, and both will stop at nothing to possess her. . .

Review:

This is a tough one. It’s a book that has some good ideas, creative mythology and some great action-filled set-pieces that would make for a great movie (the book as a whole feels cinematic). On the other hand, it’s a book that lacks soul, or perhaps it’s better to say it lacks heart. It’s a book that you want to keep reading to see what’s going to happen next, but also a book that felt like it wants to keep you the reader at a distance.

After I finished reading, I spent a decent amount of time pondering just what it was that didn’t work, and I’ve pinned it down to two things that I think are what held it back:

First, as clever as the world building is, she forgot one important part of the world: that which does not immediately contain Angela’s immediate surroundings. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? But here’s why it’s important: in this book, we’re told that the Vatican came out one day and said “Guess what guys, the Archon is coming and She will be the Ruin so we’re going to set up an academy for blood heads so we can help her control her powers.” And apparently, everyone went along with this. I scratched my head. What kind of world is this? What do people in this world actually believe? Is everyone Catholic and the Protestant Reformation never happen? Do people commonly believe in witches and demons and angels and the like or is this a limited belief? Angela has been institutionalized, but I’m still not certain that it wasn’t more for the fact that she set her house on fire trying to kill herself and killed her parents instead than her dreams and beliefs that Angel’s exist. There are moments in the book where people are surprised by angels, but there’s also a society of witches on this campus too. And yet despite the existence of the Pentacle Sorority witchcraft can still get you burned at the stake. I think context would have provided some clarity to where we were when the book began and help better establish the rules were playing by. It’s that situation where the details may not change the plot, but they give the reader firmer footing when going into this.

More importantly than this, the other issue is Angela herself. Although I questioned whether she would have been institutionalized had she not lit that fire, by the midpoint of the book, I got the sense that she really wasn’t sane. And when I mean insane, I don’t mean that she’s a psychopath (not at all) but there is this detachment from reality. So insistent is she that these angels that she sees in her dreams are real that she doesn’t really even blink when they do turn out to be real. Oh sure, she has moments of legitimate fear when her life is endangered, but she handles the events of this book remarkably well, too well, almost. And while I respect why the author went this route (sanity is a recurrent theme, as it touches on several characters) it is problematic. While I am sympathetic to the character – her past was traumatic enough to explain a lot of her beliefs – I’m not empathetic to the character. And with no empathy, there can be no emotional investment in the character or the outcome of her tale. Furthermore, when she does slip into some moments where these darker emotions look like they might consume her, it doesn’t feel like an arc or development.

Aside from this, the other problem I have with Angela is my usual issue with the Chosen One trope: her guardian angel of sorts only helps her in moments of absolute need, when death is mere seconds away. The book makes it very clear that he prevented her from completing dozens of suicide attempts by jamming guns, breaking blades, causing her to pass out instead of drown and what have you  because he needs her help- so why doesn’t he teach her what she needs to know in drips and drabs? Less dramatic, but more sensible!

I do think these are legitimate issues because it does make it hard to become emotionally invested in the book. On the other hand, there are some interesting side-characters here, and like I said, I like the mythology. The story of Isfrael, Raziel and Lucifel is compelling as is the truth behind the Book of Raziel. There’s some good stuff here, and it does show that the author did put some thought and creativity into this. Ultimately though, the problems are fairly signification and it’s not strong enough to transcend the genre.

Verdict: Borrow it. Although imperfect, it’s still worth a look.

Available: Now. The sequel Covenant is due out April 1st. Look for a review in March!