Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Title: Angelfire
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Series: Angelfire, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Release Date: February 15, 2011

Ellie is a normal sixteen – soon to be seventeen – year old girl. She gets bored in economics classes, does homework, goes to movies and shopping, is looking forward to getting her first car and, like a lot of girls her age, she’s trying to figure out how to get into the college of her choice. There’s just one difference: she’s been having these horrifying nightmares about creatures that kill her every night.

On the night of her seventeenth birthday she finds out the nightmares are real when she comes face-to-face with a reaper – those who devour human souls and send them straight to hell. Armed with swords the appear out of nowhere, an immortal sworn to protect her, and memories of her past lives coming back, Ellie soon finds herself on the front lines of an ages old battle between archangels and the fallen.

One of the things I appreciated most about Angelfire was the absolute normality of Ellie. Both of her parents were in her life, and though things definitely weren’t perfect at home, there was the strong point that her mother was actually a mother. She cared about where Ellie was, and what she was doing, and wasn’t just another convenient plot point. Ellie wasn’t an outcast at school; in fact she had a group of great friends while still not being obscenely popular. Obviously her parents were fairly well off, and they lived in a nice neighborhood, but everything was comfortable and normal. Plus (and this is probably my biggest thing), Ellie had common sense. See a weird boy following you – make a plan to stay away. I loved that.

Of course the weird boy turned out to be her immortal guardian, Will. Having been with her, in many lives, for the past 500 years, Will is the key to her remembering her duties, powers, and history. While he is her guardian, don’t mistake that for meaning that Ellie is weak. Far from it. Will often says, and we get evidence of it, that Ellie is stronger than him and he’s just there to watch her back – what they fight isn’t an easy enemy.

Another thing that was greatly appreciated was the fact that Ellie didn’t shy away once she learned who she was. Yes, she questioned, and had some freak-out moments, but for the most part she just kicked ass while struggling to come to terms with her new reality. And trying to integrate that reality into the one she already had. She’d train and do homework, then go hunting for more reapers. She still went to movie night with her friends, even dragging Will along saying he needed to act more ‘normal.’ I enjoyed this balance.

This isn’t to say Ellie’s perfect, but I do think she’s realistic for a teen girl dealing with incredible circumstances.

The action in Angelfire moves at a fairly decent pace, though there were times I was anxious to get back to it. It is interspaced with Ellie learning about herself and her powers, or trying to maintain a normal life, and learning more about Will.

Speaking of Will, there’s a strong romantic thread here too. While anyone who has read YA recently could probably see this coming, I thought the difference was that for once I could actually understand why they were interested in one another. It was a gradual growth of feelings based on what they knew of each other, and spending time together talking. I’d like to see where this goes further as there’s a rather interesting twist at the end to add the suspense to this storyline – and surprisingly it’s not a love triangle!

The biggest downside to the book is the writing style for me. It’s a bit choppy and doesn’t flow well all the time. I could start to see the improvement in that in the later half of the book, but it would still occasionally pull me out of the story, but it wasn’t that much of a distraction.

All in all, I was eagerly turning the pages of Angelfire to find out what happened next. A quick, easy read, with characters that I definitely want to get to know better, Angelfire left me wanting more – in a good way. It was eminently satisfying to see a lot of the young-adult conventions turned on their heads. Angelfire is the first book in a planned trilogy, so don’t look for the story to be neatly tied up in this book though there is a nice stopping point chosen.

Grade: B-

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