by Susan Ee
In the beginning, it starts with a single feather drifting slowly down from the sky. When 17-year-old Penryn sees this simple sight, she is filled with incredible dread, because this lovely, floating ephemeral thing is an unlikely sign of terrible things to come.
Six weeks after a devastating attack on earth, the world has been torn apart by a war between angels and humans. Caught up in a battle she doesn't understand, Penryn watches in horror as an angel named Raffe is cornered and brutally stripped of his wings. In trying to help, she antagonizes one of the perpetrators and is forced to watch as her wheelchair-bound little sister is taken away. Penryn angrily demands that Raffe provides information and assistance in finding her sibling, and the two natural enemies must work together to outwit danger at every turn.
If you've been searching high and low for a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, the wait is finally over. Susan Ee's stunning debut novel is the perfect combination of post-apocalyptic YA + cannibals + badass angels + kickass heroine, and it blew me away with its perfectly paced blend of action, story, and emotional tension. Penryn is a fantastic heroine, a whip-smart, funny girl who happens to be awesome in combat. I also found her interactions with her schizophrenic mother to be very touching, and it's impossible not to admire how her desperate resolve to find her sister never falters. As for Raffe...who the hell thinks of writing an agnostic angel? Brilliant! And so intriguing. Raffe is clearly hiding secrets, but it's impossible not to be drawn to him anyway. His relationship with Penryn develops slowly and naturally as they struggle to find shelter and to survive in bleak circumstances (yeah, they eat cat food at one point), all against a bleak backdrop of a war and all kinds of unspeakable horrors.
Readers who are uneasy with more gruesome books should be warned that there are some pretty intense scenarios, although they are tastefully done and mostly appear in aftermath, rather than in present action. For my somewhat twisted sense of humor and enjoyment of creepy visuals, it was exciting to find an author who writes such dark and vivid imagery, however, and I'd say that if you're someone who's comfortable reading zombie books, you'd probably be okay with what happens here. Not that I didn't want to run around screaming when Penryn and Raffe happen upon the...things hanging in trees, mind you. But that's all part of the fun.
I have a few minor quibbles, mostly about Penryn's failure to ask and demand enough answers, as this seemed completely out of character for someone who grits her teeth and cool-headedly calculates whether she can keep someone alive long enough to be of use to her. It was frustrating and implausible that in such forced intimacy, a girl like this wouldn't have mercilessly hounded the information out of her traveling partner. I also wish we'd learned a bit more about the war and about the ghoulish experimentations that were going on, although you can certainly put some of that down to my general impatience to read the rest of this 5-part series. My quibbles are far outweighed by my rampant enthusiasm over this book, however, as the action-packed story, sharp and funny dialogue, macabre touches, unforgettable characters, and well-researched angelology all make for an incredible read. The twists and turns in this story are superbly done, and even if you happen to guess one of the major plot points that will have a major effect on the future books, it's not going to matter. And that's the mark of a book that can and will be read again and again.
I'd strongly recommend this book for: readers who were mesmerized by the grim beauty of The Reapers Are the Angels, zombie enthusiasts who enjoyed the spectacular first half of Ashes, people who loved the creepiness of Anna Dressed in Blood, anyone who was drawn to the idea of evil angels in Angel Burn, skeptics who thought that chick in Aftertime should have spent more time thinking about her daughter, action junkies who enjoyed the fight scenes in Divergent and Blood Red Road but wanted a little more substance, anyone who liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone, anyone who expected more from Smoke & Bone. And finally, anyone who appreciates a truly original and exciting story. Period.
Rated 5 out of 5 stars
About the Book
Buy this book NOW! It's only 99 cents as an ebook at the moment for Kindle and Nook, and may also be read on your computer or Smartphone. If you're still undecided after reading all the phenomenal reviews for this book, you should read the first five chapters on the author's website.
And believe it or not, this book also happens to be self-published. I'm not sure why Susan Ee decided to go the indie route with this book, but I'm quite sure it was by her choice and her design. Regardless of whether you read it now or whether you read it later when it's available as a print book, I can't imagine that most readers won't have a tremendous time with it. This is an author worth supporting, and how exciting it is to find her so early in her writing career.
A Thank You to My Lovely Friends
This is one of those cases where GoodReads must be thanked for providing such an amazing platform for all of us to find out about such incredible books. If it weren't for the amazing reviews written by people whose opinions I respect, I never would have read it, and neither would many of my friends. If you've found your way to this book and enjoyed it, I hope you'll please do your part to help someone else find it as well.