Hodder & Stoughton
I start by saying I probably did not do these books enough justice. I read all three in a single day. That is, of course, a good thing when you are reading a series because it means you love them. I also skimmed certain parts a bit to get to the end and find out what would happen around the next corner. So that is why I come in saying that reading them all in a single sitting wasn’t really giving it the attention it needed. I first came across the first book because every single review gave it 5 stars, and so I got curious. Having read it, I would probably have given it that too, or at least a 4,5 rating, when I would have allowed myself to be immersed in the story a bit more. But I did not, and although I found some parts easy to gloss over, I do think that is more me than this series.
The first book lived up to my expectations as to it being the budding lovestory that it was, but it surprised me a bit by also being something more. Penryn on the whole is a character I can relate too. She is equal parts badass and girly without going overboard with either one. She is quite a normal person amidst all of the crazy, which makes the timeline well chosen. Two months into an angel invasion is enough time to adapt to new circumstances, but still stop to remember what it had been like before and having everything be new to you.
Plotwise the scenes were meant to keep Penryn and Raffe together as much as possible, but their going undercover into a political snake den full of angels was quite the good read. The choices that Susan Ee has made for her storyline kept me reading on, because they were always a little bit different than from what I would usually find. In the later books, she pushes this a lot further and it made me even more appreciative of the ways in which she weaves her story. The whole history with Raffe’s wings turned interesting as well at the end.
The second novel in a series is usually the one whose standard is a little less from that of the first and third (except in Touching Juliette by Tahereh Mafi, in which I was disappointed in the sudden and quite unbelievable character shift Juliette made in the third book that kind of pulled the series down as a whole). Angelfall too has a slightly weaker, second novel. It may be just me. I have a sincere dislike towards resistance groups. They are always exactly the same, as if every single writer casts them from the same mould. The way characters progress when coming into contact with one of them is also so incredibly cliché that I can’t stand another one putting up roadblocks with their distrust until the leader is dead and the main character can step up. I also thought it was slightly less well executed because Penryn and Raffe are apart for a very long time. Them reuniting, however, picked things up again.
What I like about the relationship between Penryn and Raffe is that both of them keep being aware of the fact that their species are on opposite sides. Not because it makes them distrustful of one another, but because they respect in each other the fact that they have conflicting feelings about the other species. Penryn realises that seeing the dissecting tables at the resistance camp is quite the same as her seeing the lab at the aerie. And I found that such a sophisticated stance that I had to mentally applaud that. Susan Ee kept holding to this standard for the entire series, and that is what made the lovestory – in the end – so very compelling. Very adult.
So having said something very nice, I do feel the need to point out something not nice. The mother. I liked that she gained a function, and that she redeemed herself slightly, but I still believe we could have done without her antics. It would also have been better if she had been the father, or a cousin or something. Anything to keep away from the incapable mother whose elder daughter must take care of the innocent younger daughter. We have all seen it done before and it comes a bit too close for comfort in the comparison. Yet, I am conflicted because the mother did have some unique qualities that I did like about her, even though how she kept finding her girls was never satisfactorily explained.
So, on to the third novel. Now that was was truly great. The part where they go through Belial to the Pit was absolutely riveting to read, and I wish there had been more of it. That is some interesting material Susan Ee gives us, and a chance to see characters previously apart but with a shared history share some actual space and words together. I liked it very much both in terms of plot and character development. Although I think that the giving back of the wings and then taking away the wings was a bit of back and forth, he could have simply chosen to give them up as was, although I would admit then they would have probably made less grand of a prize.
The end felt a bit rushed, as we have no idea whether or not Raffe could make life altering choices for the angels without having the power to do so or knowing how Michael was going to react. Angels, as we have seen in these books, are not really the kind to like changes, and certain laws have been there since almost the dawn of time. But that is someone else’s problem, as the story in itself leaves us a bit open ended on purpose. So I guess I don’t mind all that much, considering that the story can continue on to play in our heads. Or maybe get a second trilogy when reluctant Michael comes onto the scene. I would definitely read that.
So, I have made this a bit of a list of my complaints of this series, while I do give it 4 stars. Because I read the entire series in a single day. And I really liked it a lot. It was well written, the plot was very interesting and a bit more elevated than your usual apocalypse YA. I would certainly recommend it, and I find I am still asking myself questions about Penryn and how this world will further develop. Can you ask for more? I found some parts easy to skim, true, but that is also because I personally detest everything to do with resistance camps, as mentioned above. Someone else might not. If I had given it a bit more time though, would I have given it 4,5 stars? I think I would have, so that is wholly on me. Write me another series, Susan Ee, give me a second chance!