Susan Ee writes the Angelfall books, a series of young adult novels that tell of an angel apocalypse, as strange as that may sound. World After is the second book in the series, and unfortunately for me, I didn’t get the chance to read the initial excursion into angel territory – how the angels took over the world, the apocalyptic and biblical methods used on the unsuspecting humans, remained a mystery to me as I set out to review this sequel. But no matter – using contextual clues and Susan Ee’s short recaps during the book, I was able to piece together the setup for Angelfall and immersed myself in her blend of science fiction, fantasy, and romance.
It’s easy to state the similarities between World After and the most popular young adult books; like Twilight or The Hunger Games, the Angelfall series features a crafty, headstrong protagonist named Penryn. As her name suggests, she’s also somewhat weird, as much a part of her upbringing as it is an ingrained personality trait. Penryn is our primary narrator for the angel apocalypse, and the books are told in first-person – that means our knowledge of this new world, after angels attack, is colored by a teenager’s experience and lack thereof. There’s a love story between Penryn and Raffe, an angel, and this is totally out of the question – humans and angels should not mate, so we’re left with a Romeo and Juliet tale about taboo romance.
But Ee has no dearth of ideas for her fantasy world, and she doesn’t fall into the same traps as other YA writers working with popular tropes. Her angels are monstrous but wondrous as well; they are derived from lore and yet have their own personalities. Penryn has a continuous fling going on with angel Raffe; it’s a sickeningly sweet boy-girl thing, especially with all of their banter, but it’s infused with an innocence that works surprisingly well.
Angelfall set all of the problems across the world in motion, so World After isn’t interested in showing the reader how that destruction occurs. Instead, the novel takes place after angels instill a new world order – there are obvious changes that take place in Penryn’s life because of the angels, and the novel is interesting because it takes place after all of the chaos. It allows Ee to take a step back from action to plot the course of what the world does now that they’ve been conquered.
One, they draw up factions. There are those that want to stop the angels, known as the Resistance, and then there are those who really just want to stay alive as long as possible. The angels, on the other hand, lobby for power, including Uriel, who throws a huge party hoping to get other angel warriors to accept him as a leader so that he can usher in an apocalypse for Judgment Day.
World After is paced appropriately, too, giving Penryn a chance to doubt herself and then overcome it with the help of some turmoils and her sister’s recuperation. Ee makes sure that her character isn’t some helpless person; instead, she’s knowledgeable with a killing instinct that makes her a threat to even the powerful angels. In a way, Penryn reminds of a character right out of anime – she’s got a huge sword with a teddy bear on the handle!
Ee’s prose is fairly basic, though, and it’s the weakest part of World After. Her first-person point-of-view has a tendency towards the explicit rather than forcing the reader to realize meaning. For adult readers, that might be a serious distraction – the read is full of too much telling and not enough showing. For younger readers, this probably won’t be an issue.
World After is a surprisingly interesting tale that doesn’t just substitute out vampires for angels. Susan Ee has crafted a fantasy world that feels legitimate, with memorable characters and a strong female protagonist. For younger audiences, the romance will feel magical, though for adults the innocence and naivete is somewhat cheesy. But that’s what YA novels are supposed to do, and Ee understands how that genre works. And she’s also got a tight handle on her series as far as story is concerned, knowing how to drop a cliffhanger without the reader feeling deprived of a solid ending.
Thanks to Skyscape for review copy.