Review: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: February 15, 2011
Source: NetGalley ARC
Summary (from Goodreads): When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.
A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.
While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.
First impressions: This book engaged me from the first few pages. We meet Ellie in a normal high school classroom, then are soon introduced to a mysterious boy, followed by a death. Needless to say, I was eager to keep reading.
Lasting impressions: The fight scenes are really stellar in this book. Moulton has an ease with which she communicates what's happening without miring you in details or slowing the pace. These scenes were the high point of the book for me.
Negative impressions: I felt like the subplot with Ellie's friend Landon was underdeveloped. He has a crush on Ellie, but it never really goes anywhere, and then he sort of ends up with someone else. There wasn't a lot of emotion tying me to Landon and I felt like he could have been erased from the story and it wouldn't have mattered.
Overall impressions: Although I'm not sure that I'm as crazy about the angel/demon genre as your average YA reader, I did enjoy this book a lot. I thought the mix of the contemporary high school setting with the mythology and mystery of the Grim setting was really exciting. I loved that Moulton chose an average high school girl and then built up this mysterious backstory that made her timeless as well. The flashbacks were nice glimpses into the Preliator's (as Ellie is known) past, and I didn't find them distracting at all.
One of the things that really keeps you turning pages is the need to know more about Ellie's past. Since much of the novel hinges on her gaining back her memories, you really feel her anxiety and impatience to remember so that you, as a reader, can find out the answers as well. Moulton does a nice job at the end of giving us a huge payoff for all of that pent-up frustration, and I am eager to see where the next book goes.
Ellie's relationship with Will is simply wonderful. Will is a great character - darn near perfect in my mind. He does have some of that brooding male mystery, not because he's written to be sexy and mysterious, but because he doesn't know any other way to act after 500 years with only one purpose to his life. Moulton smartly chooses to have Ellie frequently call him out on this, with tongue firmly wedged in cheek, so that we laugh at his stiff, quiet, and evasive manner right along with her. It's a nice reminder that sometimes we don't have to take our men, or our books, so darn seriously.
This is a solid debut for Moulton that perfectly blends the fantasy of reaper slaying and the heaven vs. hell fight with contemporary realism. Ellie is a normal girl struggling to come to terms with a past she can't remember, a world she can't quite make sense of, and the responsibilities of remaining a popular high school student. Her strained relationship with her father and the wealth of knowledge she gains at the end of the story provide more than enough plot for her tale to continue, and I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.
Rating: 4/5 stars