Blood & Feathers
July 31, 2012, $9.99
Review by Darkeva
Angels and demons seem to be showing up more and more in horror and fantasy fiction, sometimes with good showings, but mostly with clichéd and overused apocalyptic plotlines that do nothing to revitalize a now largely stale and bloated genre. Blood & Feathers is a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded category, a novel that infuses a healthy dose of originality into an otherwise ‘been there, done that’ type of story that would have been easy to write in the form of something we’ve seen before so often, but instead takes some risks and comes out with a strong result.
A prologue reveals that there are quite literally giant teeth on the front lawn of an ordinary household, which lead to a mouth, and a young girl losing her (unbeknownst to her) angelic mother. We flash forward to the present when the girl, Alice, has grown up, and is interacting with two angels, Gwyn and Mallory, who get a dynamic and hilarious rapport going and also reveal that because of her half-angel heritage, she has a large role in the on-going battle between Heaven and Hell. Both sides can use her abilities to their advantage, and although she seems to think it’s a no-brainer to stick with her haloed friends, the path isn’t quite so clear cut as she soon learns.
One of the things that sets apart this book from the rest in the category is the vivid use of world-building, and although the main structure of most Heaven-and-Hell stories is present, there are some interesting variations, such as that the angelic Choirs are clans of which Archangels are the generals, and not all of them are as benevolent as we would assume. There are Descended angels and Earthborns to further demarcate the heavenly creatures.
Alice’s abilities are tied to fire, making her part of none other than Michael’s clan—a rare but challenging honour. He has the smallest clan, and there has never been a Descended or Earthborn in it. Not to mention there’s never been a half-born with her fire ability. But she can’t exactly control her powers all the time, as she soon learns, which I found to be a necessary and believable affliction. Further complicating matters, if Mallory makes another mistake, such as failing to get Alice to do what Heaven needs, the Archangel Gabriel can turn him into a Fallen Angel and throw him into Hell where he will be eternally tortured.
While I did think it was a bit on the lame side that Lucifer, the most powerful of the Fallen, had to possess lesser demons to communicate to Alice (as opposed to having his own form), I did like his choice of vessels, particularly near the end when he makes quite the bastardly move.
I also thought it was original to give the word “hellmouth” a new use, making it refer to portals that the Fallen use to steal people or to transport themselves back to Hell. The trouble with this on-going celestial battle is that when angels defeat the Fallen, they’re just sending them back to Hell, and they always come back, but the Fallen can kill angels, so they have an unfair advantage, as well as the fact that the Fallen are stealing humans to further tip the balance in their favour. Another of the cool elements on the bad guy side was the Twelve, a group of some of the nastiest Fallen imaginable.
Most of all, I found it a nice change not to get any of the typical “destiny” plotlines tied to the main narrative, and Mallory gives Alice a wonderful explanation of why this isn’t a matter of fate, which spices things up. Eventually, Alice must visit the home turn of the Fallen, which also turns out to be done in a refreshing way, and the battle to the end is one of the most gripping and memorable that I’ve read. The author also has one of the most fantastic voices, with distinct characters that jump off the page. I absolutely cannot wait for the forthcoming sequel that will continue this already epic tale.
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