Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Series: Penryn and the End of Days (#1)
Young adult fiction (paranormal – angels, fantasy, post-apocalyptic)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Angelfall was a book I had heard a lot about. In 2011, the blogosphere exploded with enthusiastic reviews praising this newly self-published book about angels and the apocalypse. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but being unable to resist hype, I caved and bought the eBook. As fellow book bloggers and book lovers will know, we often cannot read books at the rate we acquire them, and so it sat left unread on my Kindle. Until now. Angelfall is published in the UK on 23rd May and so I thought it was about time to finally start reading it. Does it live up to the hype?

Seventeen-year-old Penryn is pushing her younger sister’s wheelchair through the deserted streets of Mountain View, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley, when she witnesses a gruesome angel fight. It has been six weeks and no one knows why the angels have taken over Earth and massacred millions of humans, but it’s starting to look like they’re here to stay. When one of the beautiful yet macabre creatures flies away with Paige in his grasp, Penryn is determined to find the angel aerie, save her sister, and make the angels pay – with the help of Raffe, the now unconscious and bloody angel, ruthlessly removed wings surrounding him.

Angelfall is brutal, but compellingly so. Penryn’s apocalypse is bloody and violent, a world where humans turn on each other while attempting to stay out of the way of the menacing not-exactly-living-up-their-angelic-stereotype creatures, unless they can salvage body parts to sell. Susan Ee’s new world is terrifying, but luckily we have Penryn for company. She is strong, smart, fast, a martial arts pro (thanks to her mother’s paranoid schizophrenia, obviously), loyal, and surprisingly quite funny. She is a fantastic protagonist, as is Raffe, our injured angel. I’m not one for mythical creatures, but Penryn and Raffe make a brilliant pair. Ee’s angels are hauntingly realistic and, like Penryn, I had to keep reminding myself that they were far from human.

Angelfall was a magnificent surprise that fortunately lived up to its hype. I hung onto every word, following Penryn and Raffe’s treacherous footsteps as they made their way to San Francisco to find Paige, dead or alive. I laughed at the pair’s witty banter and jumped at every surprise. I noticed half way though the book that not much had happened – not in a bad way, I was thoroughly enjoying it – and that I was not going to be given as much of the story as I wanted, so I eagerly added the as yet untitled second book to my Goodreads ‘wishlist’. I’ll have to wait to find out Penryn and Raffe’s fate.

If you love witty banter, a dangerous apocalypse, and a cling-on-to-your-seat plot, then why haven’t you read Angelfall yet?

Published: 23rd May 2013, originally 1st May 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 272
Source: Thank you Hodder & Stoughton for providing this book for review!

Book Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Book Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Shelved: Adult fiction (classic, science fiction, post-apocalyptic)
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #3
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

I chose The Day of the Triffids to be my third classic book of the year because I knew that John Wyndham’s books were cult classics within the science fiction genre. The Day of the Triffids was published in 1951 and except for the lack of modern technology, you would scarcely believe that it was not published yesterday.

I’d be forgiven for expecting The Day of the Triffids to be really quite silly. I did not mind at all, but that’s just what I expected. The Day of the Triffids starts with Bill Masen waking up in a hospital bed, in silently chaotic London, England, as one of the last people to retain their eyesight. Widespread blindness has turned people either vulnerable or violent, with some attempting to enslave those who can see, turning them into personal guide dogs. But there’s another menace – Triffids, walking poisonous, flesh-eating plants, who shoot to kill.

Bill Masen must simply survive in this lonesome world. He must accept the bleak future ahead, and that is why The Day of the Triffids is so captivating. I pictured the Triffids to be more bulbous than they appear in the BBC adaptation, but no less freakish. Yet, as I said, The Day of the Triffids never once comes across as silly. Perhaps it’s because it is set in familiar streets, such as Piccadilly and Shaftesbury Avenue, or because the Triffids are not cartoonish monsters, but eerie, dangerous organisms that can kill a human being within seconds by blasting them with poison.

The Day of the Triffids also paints a chilling picture of how quickly social structures are altered the majority of the population are unable to see. It no longer matters what social class you are, or where you buy your fancy clothes, just how useful you can now be. It shows just low in the food chain humans can become if a worldwide bodily catastrophe occurs. What, now, is the enemy?

The Day of the Triffids is not particularly action-packed or fast-paced, but it will have you on the edge of your seat all the same, as it’s strength is in its ability to allow you to imagine how you would react while everybody around you is in despair. I’m excited about John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, which I’ve already purchased, and I’d also like to check out The Midwich Cuckoos.

‘When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.’

Published: 2008, originally 1951
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 272

Book Review: Fuse by Julianna Baggott

Book Review: Fuse by Julianna Baggott

Series: Pure (#2)
Shelved: Adult fiction (science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic)
Rating: ★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

is the second book in the Pure trilogy, so you may not want to keep reading if you’ve not read the first book, although this review does not contain spoilers about either book.

Outside the Dome, Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan are decoding the secrets from the past – tucked away in one of the Black Boxes – to uncover the truth that might set the wretches free of their fusings forever. Those fighting Willux – Partridge’s father – will be pushed over boundaries, both land and sea, heart and mind, in their quest – further than they ever imagined.

Pure was easily one of my favourite books of 2012 and I have been eagerly awaiting Fuse for a year. Fuse, in Julianna Baggott’s typical lyrical style, begins with a prologue from Wilda, a young Wretch-turned-Pure whose scars and fuses have been cured, and she comes with a terrifying warning from the Dome: ‘We want our son returned. This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.’ I knew instantly that Fuse was going to be as savage as Pure and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

What I enjoyed most about Pure was the brilliant, unique, and imaginative world-building – discovering the horrific, desolate world that its characters grew up in – and so Fuse, at first, was not quite as compelling in this respect because I was already familiar with the world with a strict dichotomy (Dome/Outside, Pure/Wretch), a world at war. I already knew about the Mothers and the children that had become fused to their bodies, and the barely human Dusts who lie await to attack. I knew about the deadly army and about conniving Willux. But in the end, that did not matter, because what we get in Fuse instead is an immense amount of character development; a character-driven story rather than plot-driven.

Fuse is told by five familiar characters – Pressia, Partridge, Lyda, Bradwell, and El Capitan – which you may think would get confusing, but each voice is so distinct that it is never an issue. We slowly discover just how much of a part each character plays in the overall story. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting these characters once again and watching them learn more about themselves and what they believe in, and, of course, seeing romance blossom (because, at the end of the day, they’re still teenagers!).

As with Pure, Fuse is extremely well-constructed and complex, rich with detail and fictional yet believable history, and still manages to throw us the odd twist to keep us on edge. Pure is still one of the most exciting post-apocalyptic series’ I’ve come across, with crossover appeal – I hope to convince both teenagers and non-teens to give it a shot!

I also had the opportunity to ask Julianna Baggott one ‘Burning Question’:

Q: What would you be doing when the detonations hit? What would you be fused to?

A: I hope it’s not the collie. I love the damn collie, don’t get me wrong. But he’s no Lassie. He’s all super-model, wind in his fur, and he’d be of no practical use, even in dog terms, in an emergency situation.

Published: 12th February 2013 (UK) 19th February 2013 (US)
Publisher: Headline (UK) Grand Central Publishing (US)
Pages: 448 (UK) 480 (US)
Source: Thank you Headline for providing this book to review!

Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Series: Unwind (#2)
Shelved: Young adult (science fiction, dystopia)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Unwholly is the second book in the Unwind series, so you might not want to keep reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Unwholly, for me, was one of the most highly anticipated sequels of 2012. Unwind was published in 2007 and fans were eager to know what happened to Ackron AWOL Connor, state home ward Risa, and tithe Lev. Unwind is one of my favourite young adult dystopian novels and I read it again recently, ready for Unwholly. I enjoyed revisiting the story and our three protagonists. I had forgotten about some of the surprise twists (there are plenty of them!), which made for a thrilling read, although I’ll never be able to capture the rush of excitement I felt the first time I read the book. It was also fun to notice the foreshadowing now that I already knew how the book ended.

As in all novels where world-building is an important part of the story, it was essential to discover a bit more about the origin of Unwinding and what was happening outside of the Graveyard. Unwholly takes place a year after the end of Unwind. The Graveyard is continuing to function just as it did when the Admiral was running it. Connor is the leader, but tension is bubbling under the surface. Will it suddenly turn into Lord of the Flies? It’s difficult for the characters – and the reader – to know who to trust, who’s being honest, and whose decision is best. A multitude of parallel narratives mean we receive information from many different sources – fractured, incomplete, and, like the fate of Unwinds, in a divided-state. Unwholly is littered with ‘advertisements’ from those who are pro-Unwinding, and genuine news reports that add chilling realism to the story, from depicting how teenagers are represented in the media to real cases similar to Unwinding.

Unwholly has a very different tone to its predecessor. Perhaps this is due to it being unplanned (Unwind was originally meant to be a standalone novel), or because it was written a while after the first book. But perhaps it’s because we have a host of different characters narrating the story this time round (yet it feels like our protagonists have never left, yet at the same time have become much more determined). Some of the new characters are unnamed and we may only hear from them once. Hayden is a character that I did not appreciate as much the first time round. He’s full of vigour and wit. He uses humour as a defence mechanism, but he has a way of seeing the world as it truly is, a way of looking outside of his own situation, which many of the other characters struggle to do. His personality shines throughout both novels and I hope to read his viewpoint in the third book, Unsouled.

Unwholly is a thought-provoking sequel to one of the original young adult dystopian novels. It challenges the judgements you may have made while reading Unwind, and throws up new challenges for everyone involved.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing this book for review!

Published: 28th Aug 2012 (US) 27th Sept 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 402

Book Review: Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts

Book Review: Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts

Pub. Date: Aug 2012 (UK) Sept 2012 (US)
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (UK) Simon & Schuster (US)
Series: Dark Inside #2
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Post-apocalyptic
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Paperback
More: Goodreads

Rage Within is the second book in the Dark Inside series, so you might not want to keep reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Rage Within takes place soon after the end of Dark Inside – three months after the unexpected earthquakes that shattered the world, causing death and destruction and the emergence of Baggers – murderous zombie-like people.  Our four protagonists – Michael, Mason, Clementine and Aries – and other survivors, including Daniel, are living together relatively peacefully (bar Colin) in an abandoned house in Vancouver, continuing their quest to avoid becoming the Baggers’ next target. Thankfully, we’re also reacquainted with terrifying thoughts from the ominous Nothing.

Although this is a sequel, it is a very different book to Dark Inside. Rage Within focuses less on our characters’ personal stories – although this is still an important part of the plot – and their individual journeys, and is more about surviving as a collective. Yet this means we actually discover more about each person because we’re reading the thoughts and perceptions that others have of them. As ever, life is not easy post-earthquakes. It is of utmost importance to avoid getting caught, but our gang get into a few scrapes along the way. They face moral dilemmas: Can they kill child Baggers, even if they are equally as dangerous as their adult counterparts? Is it right to lead their friends into a dangerous situation, even if it’s to protect another? Is it best to stay away and hide, or to fight?

Rage Within has some truly shocking moments and fantastic twists that compel you to keep on reading. Michael, Mason, Clementine and Aries may have survived alone, but surviving together is about to get much harder – knowing who to trust is the key to staying alive.

Thank you Macmillan Children’s Books for providing this book for review!