If there’s one thing Susan Ee’s 2011 angel-apocalypse book Angelfall does right, it is representation of disability. Angels have shown up on Earth to destroy man kind. Penryn, our leading teenager, is trying to survive the angel violence and the human gang violence that has sprung up in its wake with her mother (who is schizophrenic and thanks to the end of all things, off her meds) and her sister (who is wheelchair-bound, possibly thanks to her mother). Most of the book is spent with Raffe, an angel who has had his wings severed.
But for every interesting paragraph about Penryn’s mother’s demons and how they helped and hindered her in this wrecked and dangerous world, or the complexity of Penryn’s relationship to her mother and her mother’s schizophrenia, there were fifteen paragraphs about Penryn noticing her angel companion Raffe’s body. Most of them go something like this:
“I take a good look at Raffe’s perfectly formed profile. No human could look that good. Just one more reminder that he’s not one of us.”
Next to it I wrote, “How many times is she going to write the same sentence?” Penryn has the hots for Raffe. Raffe has a perfect, golden body. Raffe is not human, so Penryn is conflicted about having the hots for Raffe (not that she ever admits it). Raffe is kind of a jerk and tells Penryn over and over again that he does not like her, not like that, not at all. Ee continues to write the same couple of sentences every couple of pages. *Yawn.* I found myself reminded of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instrument’s series. If you liked those, you will probably enjoy Angelfall (aka the Penryn and the End of Days series).
Angelfall promised to be a “dark” vision of the apocalypse, but it didn’t deliver the kind of darkness I enjoy. We spend most of the book watching the same interactions repeat themselves between Penryn and Raffe as they travel towards angel headquarters together. Penryn knows almost nothing about anything. Raffe knows everything—though even as an angel he can’t confirm whether or not there is a god, a touch I appreciated as an atheist—and refuses to answer any of Penryn’s questions. Ever. So, you, the reader don’t know shit and are denied answers to Penryn’s (and your) questions via a narrative voice that I found incredibly irritating. Written in first person in the present tense, it felt somehow juvenile. Not as in “written for young folks,” as in “written by someone with an underdeveloped writing style.” I found myself wishing that China Mieville had written this book. He could have given the angel-led rapture the dark, gritty feel I might have enjoyed, even if he would have kept repeating the words “scree” and “mucous.”
But I can’t blame Ee’s writing talent—in Angelfall‘s final 40 pages she breaks out the kind of dark imagery and prose I had been wishing for throughout the entire novel—proving that the initial “juvenile” tone was a choice. During the grand finale a secret human resistance army attempts to attack angel headquarters while Penryn searches for her sister in a creepy laboratory full of bottled scorpion demons and gruesome medical experiments on children. I enjoyed those final pages, and several images from those scenes have stuck with me, but I found little else to recommend in this book. Though I am mildly curious, I doubt I will read the second book.
Two out of ten severed wings.
Where I got it: Borrowed, digital