I think I have to get a review out before this book slips from me entirely. I read this in a haze, that compulsive thing where you have to get through it as quickly as possible. This is an active book, starting with a desperate ditch across a wasted America by a shattered nuclear-ish family that ramps to a startling, bloody, almost-theological conflict. Angels - physical, blood-letting angels - enact their bloody business above the broken streets of California, sending feathers down like killer snow. It's a beautiful, awful, compelling image - this girl in the street, the wings hacked off, the blood on the stone - and it goes from there, with feeling.
I don't have much experience with angel fictions. There's Many Waters, Madeleine L'Engle's weird apocalypse tale of the flood. L'Engle was avowedly a Christian writer - though, also admittedly, not necessarily beloved by hard-core hierarchy types. Many Waters
is weird, because it deals with the biblical flood, and while Noah's Ark is strangely the source of a lot of nursery twee, it is the story of God murdering the planet. Noah gets his pass, but - and I seriously think you should look this up starting with Genesis 9:20, because I make this up not - Noah gets drunk and curses his son because the son covers up Noah's drunken nakedness. Noah is not a stand-up dude here, and then God kills everyone but Noah, and it is a pretty horrible story. But look, cute! An ark! With cute animals! Aww. And before I go too far down the road of reviewing a book that is not the subject of this review, Many Waters
details the lives of angels and other biblical creatures, such as the Nephilim, set on the backdrop of God's coming judgment on the world.
Cataclysm and angels are inextricably bound together in theological terms - they stand at the gates of Eden with their flaming swords. L'Engle notes several times in various books that their first words tend to be "Fear not!" - these are some scary folk - and this story respects that. Penryn - which would be a terrible name if it didn't have a gut-wrenching reason for its terribleness - falls in with a deflocked angel, and although this sounds like absolute teen romance bullshit, it so isn't. Penryn's problems are tactile and personal, and the world she moves through is my kind of post-apocalyptic landscape, a world hovering this side of still functional - an office park with a corpse at the door, the desks un-rummaged because of residual squeamishness; a rich person's useless house with the photos still in frames; the long line of abandoned cars.
Penryn and Raffe move through this world, trying to sort their damages, and I'm going to bitch about two things, only one of which is a true complaint. The not-true complaint: there is so little back story here. Mostly this is good-ish - there is no egregious infodump where characters are like, hey, do you remember how the world ended? Yeah, totally. It sucked when blah blah blah tmi. There are moments and images: a slightly referred to incident in Jerusalem where the angel Gabriel was machine-gunned from the sky. But I still don't understand how we got from two months ago to now, and I'm hoping we get more later. I said this before in my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone - another angel fiction - but I find it hard to assess these first-in-a-series books before the later books appear, even while I know that the retroactive assessment is no more fair than the gut reaction. This should stand or fall on its merits, and mostly it stands, but... My other complaint, the real one, is that Raffe sounds like a teenage boy. There's reasons for this - a sly joke about his tv watching - but I find it incredibly distracting to hear from a semi-immortal being that sounds so prosaic.
Here's the part where I wrote an deleted a bunch of stuff about the state of self-pubs, because I think whatever I said is probably a distraction. So this is self-published - so what? Either we assess it on its merits, or we don't, and this has a ton of merits, not just the grade-on-a-curve half-assed metric. Sure, this is not for everyone - oh noes, young adult! Oh noes, angels! Oh noes, the end of the world! But this is a heavily enjoyable read if you're into this sort of thing. Even more so if you're into this sort of thing and bummed about the sort of post-Twilight stalker garbage that has been written in the YA angel territory. I'm glad I missed a lot of that, and happy I found this. Come on, book two!