Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: Angelfire

Title: Angelfire
Series: Angelfire Book 1
Author(s):  Courtney Allison Moulton
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher/Year: Katherine Tegan Books/2011
-Webpage: Courtney Allison Moulton Webpage
-Blog: Courtney Allison Moulton 

Synopsis:  When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Review:  Throughout the course of Angelfire I felt conflicted.  There's no doubt that I've been eagerly awaiting this title.  Death is kind of an interest of mine such as the various world mythologies and practices; usually its one of the first things I try to learn about when I grow interested in a new culture.  And the picture Coulton paints is an interesting one, with the affiliation of the 'Reapers' (Demonic and Angelic) and the the different classes (Ursid, Vir, Lupine).

Here's the thing though, to learn more about all that (the Reapers, Ellie's role, etc) I had to get through some of the angstiest teenage antics this side of Gossip Girl.  There is a fine line between a teen character being realistic, and having problems that reflect the plot well and add meaning to the overall tension and that same teen character acting irresponsibly just to act so.  Through her own actions and the acts of 'nature' (which more often than not included Reaper involvement) Ellie managed to hit every single teen stereotype in this book alone.

(spoilers appear beneath the cut)

Lying to parents about whereabouts for a weekend? Check.
Having best friend cover for you? Check.
Old school friend confessing to you? Check.
Falling for the older guy?  Check.
Underage drinking antics? Check.
Totaling car? Check.
Failing grades? Check.

And if I understood the time frame of the book correctly, this all happened between the start of the school year and just after Thanksgiving break.  Its not that I don't doubt this can all happen in such a short amount of time, but all of that plus her father's increasingly crazed behavior, training/hunting/learning about her duties with Will, and somehow finding time to attend one party, throw another one and hang out with her friends...I couldn't get a fix on when Ellie actually slept.

I think, at least as far the plot with her father is concerned, I understand where that's leading.  If my hunch turns out correctly than it would better explain why Coulton stressed the vast difference between Ellie's dad now and Ellie's dad pre-high school.  Until about halfway through the book its brought up every single time he so much as talks to Ellie, so it was hard to ignore.  And I'm sorry but I found it unbelievable that Ellie's mom loved her husband so very much that it doesn't faze her to even joke about the possibility that he would kill Ellie in anger.  I can think of at least two instances where he is physical with Ellie; I'm not sure abusive is right since he never hits her, but he does grab her roughly and at one point shoves her away hard.

What my main problems with the book boiled down to is this: Coulton crowded this book with so much innuendo, subterfuge, 'big' revelations and 'epic' battles that I was exhausted while reading.  Ellie manages to overcome several nasty Reapers before the end of the novel, one of whom is a pretty major big bad from her past life and the final battle has her at least fighting to a stand still with another big bad.  It almost felt like she was leveling up each time she killed or fought a Reaper.  'Uh-oh my power wasn't enough to defeat him this time--I should train and gain more experience!'

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy aspects of the book, or that I won't be reading the next book.  I will be.  The mythology of the world, the world-building and layers of detail, kept me hooked.  It was just that reading the book tired me out quickly.