Title: Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1)
Author: Susan Ee
Released: 21st May 2011
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I went into this with a little bit of trepidation, given my past experience with books surrounded by hype. But anything I felt on starting this, anything I had going on inside me, whether it was expectations, nervousness, anticipation...this book totally obliterated them, leaving me instead filled with awe. I contemplated whether to actually write a review for Angelfall in light of all the hundreds already out there, but I figured I'd write this for the one percent of readers who still haven't read it. Because it turns out that somehow, I am not the last person on Earth to read this.
In opening the first page, we find ourselves six weeks into a now post-apocalytic world. Instead of zombies we have angels; instead of dead bodies traipsing we have celestial beings flying. Yet for some reason they have chosen to make a battleground of the entire planet. Buildings that once stood tall are now reduced to rubble, at the very most bones of what they once were. People have begun to turn on each other. It's every person for themselves. Everyone tries to stay out of the angels' sight, and of each other's, and it's this fear of being seen that most troubles Penryn when she and her mother and sister leave their old condo one night to move on. But they don't get very far before an angel, broken and bloody, comes falling out of the sky, and not long after him are several more. After watching them slice off his wings Penryn knows they have to get away as soon as possible, but one tiny little sound snags their attention and leads to her sister being kidnapped. Determined to get her back by whatever means necessary, she makes a deal with the wingless angel, Raffe. He will help her find her sister and she will help him survive as they make their way to the angels' fortress.
The plot that Susan Ee has created for us is absolutely fantastic. Immediately thrusting us into the action, well after the apocolypse has taken place, was the perfect way to start the story. From the word 'go' there was a heavy sense of tension and anticipation, and the pace of the story combined with the way the writing swallowed me whole meant I was turning the pages desperately. Ee knows the meaning of the word creativity. She knows the meaning of originality. She knows the meaning of success. Because the ideas in here? The stages she has created for Penryn and Raffe, the creatures she has brought to life, every single component of the world described here? They're perfect. And they cannot be found anywhere else. Her writing is gripping, flawless. The world-building, the fight scenes, the characters, literally everything was written beautifully to come together to make this amazing book.
I loved Penryn right from the start. Her character comes through astonishingly clearly even on the first page. She is seriously one of the most badass heroines you will ever meet. I loved that she was independent and knew how to fight for herself - not only herself, but her family too. Her mother's schizophrenia and her sister's disability meant she was the protector, and my heart ached for her because she had to carry so much weight on her shoulders. It would have been easy for her to give up and still she carried on, going after her sister with fierce determination. There were few overt signs of her vulnerability, Ee choosing instead to show it more subtley. She is an incredibly resourceful character and she constantly has her eye on her end goal: to get her sister back. Penryn's voice is appreciable and amusing, making it very easy to not only like her, but support her in everything she does and wish that she does get her happy ending.
Raffe is the perfect counterpart to Penryn. He too has his own goal in sight: to make it to the fortress and get his wings back on so that he can once more be whole. He deliberately remains as closed off to her as possible and I adored the way he could always see right through her. Now and then the sweeter side of him would show and every time it did, he stole a bit more of my heart (of course by the end, he had decided to just grab the whole thing and take it for himself). He is strong but incredibly vulnerable at the same time, and it amazed me to just see him continue to carry on despite everything. The relationship between Penryn and Raffe is wondrously slow. Ee did a phenomonal job of creating the build-up in the romance between them; I greedily took in every word spoken between them, every touch, every look. What made it even more perfect was the fact that not once did this romance overtake the plot. Instead it accepted its position at second place and worked itself so that it enhanced the storyline rather than dominate it. The relationship built slowly, gradually, to culminate in an ending so perfect, so bittersweet, that to have ended it any other way would have been simply tragic.
The ending. Oh, God. How do I describe to you how enthralling it was? How it had me so hooked and how it was so unpredictable and incredible that one minute I'd be gasping, the next holding my hand over my heart, the next again holding it over my mouth? This was where the author astounded me the most with her brilliant imagination. This was where the most emotion was wrung out of me. It was shocking, disturbing, painful, amazing, bittersweet, all at the same time. This was genius.
There can be no exaggeration for just how wonderful Angelfall is. Susan Ee has created a terrifically gritty and captivating novel whose characters are realistic and heart-wrenching, and whose plot is beautifully original. To that remaining one percent, please. Please go and read this book. You honestly have no idea what you're missing out on, and this is a book that can't not be read. As for you, Ms Eee...all I can do is thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating such an inspirational, beautiful book.
Thank you to the amazing Anatea for joining me in a read-along! A fantastic book is always better with someone to share it with. :)