“Angelfall” has a tangy, fresh flavour to it – not an easy thing to achieve in a YA post-apocalyptic novel. We’ve all read about the end of the world so often now that if it were to happen tomorrow it would feel like a reboot.
What Susan Ee has done is to avoid the kick-ass smart-mouthed heroine model and give us something grittier: Penryn, a seventeen-year-old girl who has been shaped by living for years with a mentally disturbed mother who swings between violence and remorse and who ensures that her daughter knows how to defend herself. Penryn instinct, when the apocalypse arrives in the form of meteor showers and sword-wielding angels, is to bundle up her deranged mother and her wheelchair-bound sister and run and hide. This plan changes when the winners of a fight between angels abduct her sister and Penryn realises that the mutilated angel that the others have left for dead is her only way of getting her sister back.
What follows is a journey through a post-apocalyptic Silicon Valley to where the angels hang out in a huge hotel block in San Fransico. Along the way, Penryn builds an uneasy alliance with the mutilated angel and starts to build a picture of the new world emerging from the destruction the angels inflicted.
The plot holds together and contains a number of interesting surprises. Penryn seems real – terribly brave in the face of gut-churning fear, she is strong-willed and ready for violence.
The book is dark but never revels in the darkness. The writing is… robust. Here’s a sample. Our heroine and her mother are hiding out in a deserted start-up office in Silicon Valley when intruders break in. Our heroine goes to look for her mother. She tells us:
“I find a man lying in the hallway leading to the kitchen. His chest is bare, his shirt torn away. Six knives stick out of his flesh in a circular pattern. Someone has drawn a powder-pink lipstick pentagram with the knives at the end of the points. Blood bubble up from each of the knives. The man is all eyes and shock as he stares at the ruin of his chest as though unable to believe it has anything to do with him.
My mother is safe.
Seeing what she did to this man, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing. She has purposely missed his heart, and he will slowly bleed to death.
If we had been back in the old world, the World Before, I would have called an ambulance despite the fact that he had attacked my mom. The doctors would have fixed him up, and he would have had all the time he needed to recover in jail. But unfortunately for all of us, this is the World After.
I step around him and leave him to his slow death.”
Susan EE avoids the trap of a cliff-hanger ending by providing a resolution of sorts but this book is clearly book one of a trilogy. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.