AngelFall (Penryn and the End of Days # 1) by Susan Ee

Angelfall by Susan Ee released back in 2012 (published by Skyscape after it was an indie title before in 2011) and it recently caught my eye as the trilogy ending, End of Days is coming out this May. So a quick request to NetGalley followed and the book was in my TBR. A highly successful YA series featuring another plucky heroine? After “The Awesome” by Eva Darrows, I guess the genre had a second life as far as I was concerned. And I was beginning to like some titles!

 But the first few lines really reeled me in, hook, line and sinker – a dystopian world where the 'Angels of Apocalypse' have gone on a rampage destroying the big cities of the world and humanity is scrounging in pockets to survive. Not to mention the post-apocalyptic world being a lawless harsh place where human lives value lesser than a fallen feather to the gangs roaming the streets. Author Susan Ee launches us straight into the middle of the night – where seventeen-year old Penryn along with her quasi-mental mother and crippled younger sister Paige – are trying to escape from their apartment and go someplace safer. The tension was dripping off the pages and Susan masterfully builds up the atmosphere of a lawless San Francisco street where nameless danger lurks around the shadowy corner.

But the surprise kicker that really blew me off ( and made me persist with the reading!) was her introduction of the Angels. An angel-fight, five against one, a high-stakes high-pitched street-fight that Penryn accidentally walks into.  And being the large-hearted creature that she is, she saves Raffe – the lone angel whose wings gets brutally hacked off. But in the middle of this adrenaline-pumping fight scene, Penryn forgets that her crippled younger sister, bound to a wheelchair is easy pickings for the disgruntled Angels. She can only watch helplessly as she is borne away by the Angels to their hideout. Stuck with a bleeding Angel – who probably knows where they took Paige to, she has no option but to side up and revive this unlikely ally to go search for her sister. The rest of the action-packed heady narrative follows this unlikely duo try and retrieve Paige.

Angels of Apocalypse? Whoa, sounds like a fun take on a genre that is fast becoming stale and repetitive – with rip-offs on Hunger games hogging limelight for all wrong reasons. So frankly, I found this story fresh and original – and not only in its handling of the YA-concept (A truly remarkable heroine, unabashedly flawed, quick to anger and loyal to a fault, Penryn is a winning poster-girl for this genre. I loved her. Plucky, thinks with her heart and shoots her mouth off in the most unacceptable situations – making it stickier than ever, quick to blush and toy with the gentler feelings - the list that makes her likable goes on) but in building a believable premise where the World has gone to Hell – riding on the wings of Angels. It’s paced like a silver bullet – streaking away right from page one till the explosive climax where in the space of a few paragraphs, Susan lets it rip with a massive humdinger of a twist, shocking me as a seasoned reader. A grim end to the brutal set-up that she builds up in the first book. The plot flies off the pages and Susan keeps it pumped up throughout – introducing a new event to spice up the proceedings. There is not a single dull moment in this book and that probably sees us through to the end – without lingering on the fact that there are in fact, quite a few loose ends left glaringly open.

Raffe is obviously a big player in the larger scheme of the Angel-politics mystery but Susan plays things very close to her heart, letting nothing out. Choosing a first-person narrative for Penryn works for most of the novel. Mixing up dry snarky humour with unswerving loyalty and an unmistakable fervour to do the right things, Penryn is a character you will grow to love. But even with her, Susan plays out the complex relationship that Penryn shares with her "Mother" as a to-be-revealed-at-the-fag-end of the story card. The Mother for me, is an engrossing character whom I want to know and see more of. A lady whose dreams dictate her life-terms and who has frequent conversations with the “demons” is a hardy survivor of the harsh surroundings that the world has fallen into. If it was a tricky writer-device, well then yes damned it worked!

Raffe, Penryn’s Angel-ally ( The hunky brooding love-interest angle as is mandatory for any YA-novel this time is a Jockey Ad Model/Greek God with Wings )in this search is also a pretty interesting character – but Susan doesn’t really let us in on the secrets or enigma surrounding this Angel. But his quiet fortitude and a sense of charm and dignity – that he wears like a mask over possibly a lot of pain in his previous life – makes him difficult not to like. Penry and Raffe share a very interesting relationship throughout the novel that evolves – in the most logical and best possible manner. Let’s just say, you know where this is going, for now.  (until Book-2 I guess!)

Now the plot-holes that didn’t quite add up – and I’m hoping Susan is just letting these play out until the “End of Days” comes out – was the back-story to the Apocalypse. The devolution of the world in six weeks seems a bit far-fetched – especially because Susan just doesn’t let us know how all this came about. (Psst..Even the perpetrators don't have a clue!) But I wouldn’t let this dither you from reading this scorcher of a book.

Hells come alive, Angelfall is an astonishingly fast-paced, super entertaining opener to a YA-Fantasy series that will surely have fans of this genre screaming with glee for more. I, for one, am a fan and will stick around till the End of Days (Out in May this year!)


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