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I had heard about this self- publishing phenomenon at the time -- but somehow didn't get around to tracking down a copy of the book. So imagine my surprise when there it was, in my local library. Naturally, I had to whisk it off the shelves. Would I enjoy it as much as The Hunger Games trilogy?
It has been six weeks since the angels returned to Earth and destroyed the world as we know it. When they fly away with a helpless little girl, her sister Penryn will do anything to get her back...
I've read a couple of apocalyptic books, recently -- so this post-apocalyptic offering is timely. It certainly is a page-turner -- Penryn is an appealing protagonist, street-smart and tough after having lived alongside and cared for her mentally ill mother, in addition to looking after her paraplegic young sister. The narrative engine of the story is Penryn's frantic search when she witnesses Paige being snatched from her wheelchair by an angel and carried off. After helping another angel, Raffe, who was wounded by Paige's abductor, they team up and experience a series of adventures, despite the fact that angels regard humans with contempt, calling them monkeys.
The book is written in Penryn's first person viewpoint, so it is vital that we engage with her and I think her strong characterisation is one of the key appeals of this book. The present tense throughout emphasises the fast-paced action that tends to characterise YA books -- and this is certainly a foot-to-the-floor non-stop ride for all you adrenaline junkies. Despite the YA tag, there is a lot of violence and some of it is visceral, particularly near the end. The world that is portrayed by Ee is deeply unpleasant -- everything has gone to Hell in a handcart since the angels struck. Several reviewers felt that the speed at which everything has disintegrated is too fast, given that the angels destroyed civilisation six weeks ago. But having read one or three apocalyptic books in my time, I reckon Ee has it about right. There are still a handful of houses where there are slim pickings, while survivors have banded into gangs, the majority of them aggressive males. Once electricity becomes sufficiently unreliable so we cannot rely on most of our clever machinery to keep ourselves clean, fed and watered -- life in any sized town rapidly would become untenable. Very rapidly...
I also like the fact that Penryn doesn't know much about anything. She doesn't know why the angels struck, and is unaware of the warring factions amongst them until she sees the attack on Raffe, who isn't the chatty sort. The relationship between the two of them is nicely judged -- I personally would prefer it if it doesn't slide into lurve as I think the prickly tension between them is far more interesting-- but I'm not the target audience for this sub-genre.
So... after all the adventures, fights and harrowing discoveries, does Ee satisfactorily wrap up this story? No, she doesn't. She leaves it dangling on something of a cliffhanger -- and still managed to garner a hatful of five star reviews from ecstatic readers. While the prose is a tad basic, Ee produces strong characters, plenty of thrills and spills and an intriguing world where we are left wondering exactly what is going on. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book, World After.
Click here to buy Angelfall, by Susan Ee on Amazon
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