Image from Goodreads
Series: Penryn and the End of Days
Author: Susan Ee
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication Date: 23 May 2013
Synopsis from Goodreads
It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.
Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.
When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…
REVIEW BY GRACE – YEAR 7
It’s 6:30 am as I write this. I have just finished reading Angelfall, a dark urban fantasy novel. I have read the book over the past three days.
Angelfall begins at a time of a post-apocalyptic event. It reminded me totally of a book namely “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (2006).
Following on from an ‘Armageddon’, where angels attempt to conquer our human civilisation, the book is emotionally shattering. Angelfall affirms the pricelessness of what we as humans take for granted, the here and now of our ‘civilised’ lives. Angelfall creates a ‘nightmare’, which through Penryn’s character and life experiences highlight the cruelty and ugliness of some people’s lives; where they have been born into a situation not of their making. But how, despite this, everyone has something to lose…..Attachment and friendships are with us all, the fragile aspects of these concepts are highlighted in Angelfall.
The reader is never really told why the ‘invasion of angels’ has taken place.
One of the main characters in the book is Penryn, a tough but very vulnerable young lady, vulnerable emotionally prior to the angel invasion. Penryn’s mother is a fascinating character – a schizophrenic who alternates between a knowledgeable human being to a destructive, crazy wild animal.
The storyline follows Penryn as she seeks to save her younger sister who is wheelchair bound and has additional needs. Penryn’s younger sister is abducted by the angels.
The details and peculiarities of the characters are developed throughout the book. This is further enhanced by different layers of thematic events and past histories that all impact upon the apocalyptic situation as it unfolds. The storyline ignites the reader’s desire to investigate and visualise themes in the storyline, such as Penryn’s history with her mother; Penryn’s sister’s disposition and how all this came about as well as the reason for and the actual occurrence of the apocalypse; not to mention Raffe’s uniqueness and why he differs from his fellow breed of angels. The reference to Biblical matters, such as the crucifixion can be overpowering when reading the book, leaving myself, as a reader, feeling sad that such biblical events ever took place.
Penryn’s love and admiration for Raffe and his qualities builds gradually as the storyline progresses. The turmoil of a ‘love/hate’, ‘trust/non-trustworthy’ relationship is communicated to the reader. The development of the relationship over time for Penryn is projected by the author rather ironically as the author tends to use this in contrast to Penryn’s mother’s relationships, that are built on “obsessional love at first sight – immediate and short lived”.
The book is full of anguish, graphical repulsion and dare I say ‘horror’ evoking. The consistent use of abusive language and swear words in the text further enhances the hostile manner the book is written in. As such, this is one of my main reasons for saying, as a 12 year old reading this book, I appreciated that I had the ability to feel grounded in my own well-being. I clearly felt that if the book were made into a film, as the “Road” was, that it would definitely reach a PG rating of 12 years plus age range – and even this, pending the stability of the viewer, could challenge a lot of teenagers depending on their life experiences. The book has its moments of gore, deep grimness and bloody graphics, but, what I found more challenging was the realisation that other teenager’s lives could mirror the reality of having a parent with mental health problems and a sibling with complex medical and learning needs. These teenagers are real and exist and struggle in ‘our’ world today – just as Penryn portrayed to the reader in the book. The stark reality of this really does hit emotive feelings within me.
A lot of young teenagers and children in our world have had forced adult responsibilities placed upon them – often as a result of an absent parent and/or parental mental health needs. But despite this, the attachment they maintain with their parent is strong and the parents need to remain in contact is often present. Penryn’s relationship with her mother in the book highlights the turmoil of such needs from both parties perspective.
Penryn’s values, personality and unexpected skills all come together in a manner that displays her with a ‘hidden heart’. Penyrn is not projected as a superhuman…her hardships are fully exposed. Penryn becomes a very likable and admired character for her strengths and human weakness. Her loyalty to her family is something all people can relate to. But Penryn’s experiences are better kept in this fictional context than brought into reality.
The focus of survival of the fittest is a clearly highlighted aspect of the book. The nature of violence is presented in contrasting ways e.g. how Penryn’s sister gained her injuries compared to the fighting within the camp to alleviate tensions and frustrations in a controlled manner.
The use of a narrative style of writing, in the first person and present tense, I feel helps keep the reader encapsulated and wanting to read on. The pace when reading makes you feel as if the events are actually happening – almost outside your door – even though you know this would be absurd, given the fantasy element of the story. This makes the book exciting and engaging to read. As the reader, I felt often, that I was Penryn.
Raffe, by contrast, as a character is initially portrayed as an outcast angel, but an angel one would not want to associate with. However, as the reader reads on, and analyses Raffe’s character, you see Raffe’s sense of humour and very playful, young personality. His banter with Penryn further underlines his ‘playfulness’. He presents, at times, as human, which causes confusion for Penryn. He protects Penryn in much the same way that Penryn protects her family. Penryn’s and Raffe’s relationship can be tense, a confused partnership at times, but with an element of romance present. Penryn’s and Raffe’s ‘journey’ alone, maintains the reader’s interest. How they gradually develop a trustworthy relationship with mutual respect is intriguing. Then added to this the ‘why’ questions you ask regarding the circumstances they face together adds further intrigue for the reader to explore and ponder.
The books ending still left me with the question as to why in the first place did the angels carry out this apocalypse on human society. However the ending is abrupt – perhaps planned to lead to that 2nd book? After all it leaves itself open to a sequel. However, I’d think I would wait until I was a couple of years older before reading any sequel given the language and visual imagery of this book.