Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Courtney Allison Moulton


Doesn't every ordinary teenage girl dream of being somehow special enough to attract the attention of a divine admirer? For Ellie Monroe her dreams take the form of recurring nightmares, in which she battles to the death against demonic creatures, smiting them with her invisible holy swords. Otherwise she's very ordinary.

Ellie's neither studious nor sporty, and she's not particularly intense in any way. Her grades are slipping, but she's more into partying with her friends and going to movie nights than taking herself seriously. In chapter 7 she says "I couldn't even eat fries without dripping ketchup on myself. How could I be responsible for someone else's life when I couldn't even be responsible for my own shirt?"

Ellie's happy-go-lucky existence comes to an end after her teacher dies in a gory attack. It looks like he was set upon by wild animals, but the true cause is a mystery. Then Ellie meets Will, an enigmatic young man who introduces her to a world of warring reapers and angelic guardians. These battles take place under everyone's noses, but on a plane called the Grim that most humans can't see. Cue lots and lots of fighting with magic and spiffy swords, against beastly enemies who can heal themselves in seconds. It's very similar to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, except here we have angels and demonic reapers instead of vampires. The differences are largely cosmetic, though.

When Ellie learns about her role in the eternal struggle between good and evil she's not ready to believe what she's told, and she doesn't want to take on the responsibility. Will spends a lot of time trying to explain things, which slows the plot down a little. However we're talking about a plot that involves fighting off a succession of demonic creatures, jealous boyfriends, parents on the verge of divorce, car crashes, psychics, and trying to prevent the Apocalypse. The book packs a lot in.

The villains initially come over as too unambiguously bad. They're prone to gloating and making poor decisions that work in our heroine's favour. You half expect them to pet fluffy white cats and have tanks full of sharks in their basement lairs. But Ellie isn't ready to take the assertion that they're wholly bad at face value, and she has plenty of questions about the supposed black and white divide between good and evil. The plot is based on what's in the Bible, but most of the characters have a very secular outlook, and it's not all a matter of accepting what's written there on pure faith.

Ellie has her work cut out juggling the two very different halves of her life. The trouble is, the schoolgirl Ellie is so unlike the supernatural warrior half that they don't seem to be the same person at all. Schoolgirl Ellie is carefree and slightly spoiled, and she doesn't seem to be in the least bit physical. But then she has to turn into a hyper-focused reaper slayer with centuries of past lives to draw upon and a terrifying determination to carry out her mission. The two halves of her don't meet in the middle, so this aspect of the story isn't very convincing.

The love story is obvious yet sweet and suspenseful. In spite of Ellie's substantial problems with murderous demons, there's a lot to envy in her adventurous life. The dreamy, protective and loyal hunk of hotness who she spends her time with is no small part of this story's appeal. Angelfire is big on perfect daydreams, and it does a good job of ironing out the inconveniences that make reality such a drag. So it's a highly enjoyable read, although it's not particularly lifelike or incisive.

8th February 2011

Book Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Books

  Female Protagonist  

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Review © Ros Jackson