I struggled with reading this book. I read a lot of the YA stuff. And lately, I have really been enjoying the stuff related to angels. This was hard to read though for me. I think for 2 primary reasons.
First – The Fallen:
First, I read somewhere the the author got started in comic books. If that’s true – I totally see it. The abruptness with which chapters jumped between our main character, Aaron, and others was hard for me to handle. The character development was almost non existent. In fact, there were a number of chapters where we met characters and they died – in the same chapter. That’s all we ever seen of them. It was, I think, intended to provide background. Or context so that we see that the “Powers” (real original name for them by the way) are really scary and should be taken seriously. But we sort of know that all along. Aaron is the one who needs to know that but since these chapters don’t have anything to do with him or people he knows (for the most part), those chapters feel very wasteful. Additionally, there is a lot that is left unsaid. I think if I had a lot more bible knowledge/knowledge on the “lore” of angels it might have helped. I think. But the jumps and the use of these disposable characters felt very comic book like. If there were artwork to go along with it, the chapters might have been more interesting.
The second reason I struggled with this book was the religiousness. It’s sort of tone, but it was more then that too. It’s like the story itself should be one that is discussed in a theology class. I don’t mind the theology of angels, but it’s as if the plot itself is really about believing in God and having faith. And when I picked this book up, I thought it was just another YA book with an angel theme/spin. I didn’t expect to feel like I was sitting through the homily at my church (a roman catholic one – I say that for context).
The plot goes something like this: boy is a half angel/half human; there are “bad” angels who believe they are doing God work by killing all the Nephilim; Aaron is a special Nephilim (and I can guess who his father is after the first time it’s commented about how powerful he is, so why not just spit that out instead of pretending like that’s some big dark secret); Aaron needs to embrace the angle half of himself and then he will save the “Fallen” angels who are stuck on earth and can’t get to heaven because of their sins. We have the typical “bad” guys: the Powers. Lead by Verchiel who is so evil it was almost comical to think that he is an angel (and the line he says towards the end to God about why he’s been forsaken… REALLY? am I supposed to believe that an angel that evil really can’t see it? Pleeeaaasssseeeee say it ain’t so!) and the guy we aren’t sure to trust or not (Camael) and the faithful companion to Aaron (that is really the only interesting/original part – his faithful friend is a dog. But, given the changes to the dog when Aaron heals him, he’s more intelligent so it’s hard to continue to think of him as a dog throughout the end of the first and all of Levithan). And we are left with a tragic event that forces Aaron to chose whether he is going to accept or reject his true self as a Nephilim. Add in lots of religious theory and some fairly gruesome deaths and there you have it.
At 272 pages, it’s a fairly short read too. So, there isn’t a whole lot of room for character development. But it certainly would have been nice to have some. When the battle at the end happens, I barely felt sad for the characters that are lost (and I didn’t feel at all sad about the characters we loose in the beginning because the author never even attempts character development for those folks – as mentioned earlier) – because we barely know the characters. Even Aaron isn’t really all that well developed. Zeke certainly isn’t – he comes and goes quickly. I felt like if there had been pictures to go with the story you might know more about him. The author tells us very quickly that he’s a loner. There’s a whole whopping 2 scenes with him at school…? How does that really tell me anything? It introduces us to Vilma but she is promptly set aside and we get very few scenes with her (although, I read this in the re-released double with Levithan – which will get barely 1 star, and I see that we will end up seeing more of Vilma in the next installment, but I am not sure I care enough to pick it up, especially after reading Levithan).
The end of this book leaves the reader totally hanging off a cliff. I think it was smart to re-puiblish this with Levithan, but Levithan was bad enough that I probably won’t bother with the next two (maybe they should have put all 4 together and just charged a little more – then I would have spent more money and that’s probably the only way they would ever get me to finish the series). And since we really don’t have much additional resolution or information even after Levithan, well, I was unsatisfied.
Second – Levithan:
Yikes. Worse then the first half. I don’t have a whole lot of religious background. I’ve never read the bible. While raised Roman Catholic, I’m not exactly a staunch church-goer nor was I raised on the “lore” of demons and angels and stuff. So, I really, honestly had no idea what the “Levithan” could be. This was a detour in the overall story line if you ask me. Had this installment been skipped, with the exception of a few small chapters, I am guessing you could go on and read the other 2 that come next and not have noticed anything. The gross sea monster that is Levithan and the battle to kill it (I wonder, was this written before or after Tommy Lee Jones pulled the same basic stunt in Men In Black?) was just pointless. Granted, we wouldn’t know that Stevie is now some grotesque tracker in an adult body with no memories or Aaron, nor would we have met the Archangel Gabriel, but really, those couldn’t have been done in the first few chapters of the next book? And since the Archangel disappears faster then he’s introduced, I am not sure even that would have been necessary to address in the next book.
This one doesn’t do the jumping around to random people who we really don’t care about nearly as much as the first book (but there are still some – and some really random scenes that seem to not do much of anything – like the scene where Gabriel the dog gets fed by that family in the park – unnecessary and unhelpful and a total waste of pages in what already was a pretty short book), but we still get no character development at all. We still don’t have a clue if we can trust Camael and he is only present for about 1/3 of the book (before he ends up in a digestive sack). The Orsha’s…? What the…? They were an annoying distraction. I was interested in knowing what they were and why they were important to the story for about 30 seconds. We get so very little about them – even by the end of the book – and they really had no material impact on the plot whatsoever, that I really didn’t care about them.
The plot continues where we left off. After the big bad battle, Aaron is struggling to embrace his angel half. If he doesn’t… blah blah blah. He, Gabriel (the dog) and Camael are on their way somewhere – but they don’t know where. Aaron wants to find Stevie and Camael thinks they might be headed to a place called Aerie. Camael thinks Aaron needs to accept his true nature, and Aaron doesn’t want to. They stop in a small town after Gabriel gets bit by something. Aaron gets hired by the vet, get a room to stay in, and they discover something isn’t right with the town or the townspeople. What is it that is wrong? The Levithan. Battle ensues. For how it ends, see the note above pondering which came first, Men In Black or this. So, clearly, I didn’t find the plot all that thrilling.
Not only did the lack of character development continue, but the religiousness did too. And so did the patheticness of the villain and the “Powers”. They are uninteresting, whiney characters. And I still find it laughable that they are written to believe that they are doing God’s work. There’s a flaw in the logic that is motivating the Powers and their leader and it’s hard to ignore (I normally don’t care, but the good vs. evil tone of this book and the religious context makes it hard for me to ignore their motivations in this case) and so it just made me not want to read them or about them.
When we first are introduced to the Archangel I was hopeful that we’d get some good action, some good information on what’s really going on, or we’d at least be getting a new and interesting character. My hopes were dashed quickly though since there is still zero character development.
It’s always a bad sign when I start skimming pages. But I read all @280 pages of this half of the bigger book last night in about 90 minutes. That’s how terrible this was. I don’t think I will bother with the next ones. Unless I am really bored and at the library and there is NOTHING else to read.