Originally posted on: Ritesh Kala's Book Reviews
The story of Angelfall is set in a post-apocalyptic period where the angels have begun to bring about the end of the world. However, the humans are ingenious and want to fight back and reclaim the earth. The book starts off with Penryn and her family consisting of her, her mother and her sister, trying to escape to a better place. During this journey, they witness a fight between a number of angels and as Penryn enters the thick of things to protect one of them, her sister gets abducted by one of them. The fight ends with an injured angel whose wings are cut off and stolen, and who is the only source of information for Penryn to find where the angels have taken her sister. This is where their journey begins, with each looking for something really important to them, which keeps them on the path, however difficult it may be.
This book is very different from the other YA books coming out right now. There is no love at first sight, and the girl is not helpless and in constant need of protection. Also, there are no fireworks when the two main characters meet (well, there are, but of a very different kind). This is what makes this book so much better. For a large part of the book, there is a lot of distrust between the main characters, and they work together only because they have to and it is in their best interest to do so. Their journey together is not because of puppy love, but because the circumstances dictate that they stay together, as each needs the other for their own purpose. This is not to say that there is no romance in this book. But it is something that develops naturally over time.
The author has created some really powerful characters. Each character’s motivations and mental makeup is clearly brought out, and this is something that makes the book wonderful. We are never left wondering why a character is acting out in a particular way even if they seem to be doing something insane. In fact, even the secondary characters have such depth that I was left with a feeling of having watched the story rather than having read it. For all the characters, I could easily see their thoughts and feel their emotions.
Penryn is a kickass heroine who is trained in a number of fighting techniques. This means she is not a helpless girl in need of someone to protect her from the dangers of this post-apocalyptic world. I did find her to be a bit too aggressive at times, diving into things with little thought due to her hot-headedness. She is also someone who has matured and grown up because of the necessity of taking care of her family. I loved that the author has created the perfect mix of toughness and vulnerability.
Raffe, the angel who is the other main character is portrayed as the ultimate warrior. He may be injured, but he is definitely not defenceless. Also, being an angel, he heals extremely quickly and has a store of energy which seems astounding. He is quite sarcastic, which created some really interesting dialogues.
The final big character in the book is Penryn’s mother. We do not know too much about her, which is something I would have liked to happen. She may be a schizophrenic who is trapped in a world where her personal monsters need to be feared and overcome on a daily basis. She is scary but is extremely loving at the same time. She seems to have superhuman abilities when she sets her mind to something. Her character is simply brilliant, both creepy and beautiful.
I liked how angels are portrayed in the book. Although they may be powerful enough to destroy entire cities, and bring utter mayhem to earth, they are not invincible. They are powerful in the sense that they have superhuman speed, strength, and a lot of other powers. Yet, the author does not make their bodies impenetrable, and they are susceptible to bullets. They are immortal, but only if they are not injured. They can be hurt and killed. This levels the playing field for the humans, and gives them a chance to fight back. This then becomes a fight between “David and goliath”.
I found myself comparing angels to humans all the time. They seem to have all the characteristics which humans have. They can fall in love, they can hate, they can be petty and they can be sarcastic. Also, their world seemed like a giant corporate machine, with God at the top like an all-powerful CEO, sending the word down to the top management, which then filters down to the minions. In this “handing down of the message”, words can take on new meaning or get lost altogether. There is also a lot of politics in their world, about who will be “promoted” and it seemed like a democracy where angels had to lobby to get the top job. All this, I think will play a very important role in the books to come. This is also the reason for the “Angelfall”.
The book is written in first person present tense. This was very well used in Hunger Games, and I think there are a few books which do better this way. This is definitely one of them. I did have to do a double-take for the first few pages while reading it, as I was a bit uncomfortable to begin with. But after I got used to it, I actually liked it. This has a lot of advantages. I think this style amps up the action in the book as you read the things happening “right now”. Also, from the narrator’s point of view, we can’t assume anything, as it gives the writer the leeway to kill off the protagonist if she likes, not that I see that happening in a book. I’d be really angry if that happened! This really put me in the thick of the action and I could feel all the things that were happening in the book. This was a big plus point.
There is a lot which is currently left to the reader’s imagination with little backstory besides what is really needed right now. Like, how did Penryn’s sister get disabled and what did her mother have to do with it? Why is her relationship with her mother so strained? What made her mother go crazy? What happened to her father? Why was the apocalypse brought about by the angels? What did Raffe do on earth as part of his work as an angel? All of this does not impact the story one bit and all these points are actually part of the backstory which has currently not been explored. But, these are things I hope the author gets to in the remaining books. However, I really can’t complain here as I think adding so many facts to the story would have completely killed the pacing.
I personally loved the ending of the book and don’t think the story could have finished any better. In the end, I am left with a lot of hope, a little despair and oodles of anticipation for the next book. I don’t think it can get any better!