Sunday, December 6, 2009

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

This book is crap. But it's really good crap. By the end of this review I'll probably be ranting about it and hating it again, but before I get to that I'll tell you to read it.

So, the basic idea is really kind of complicated. It's a fantasy world in which angels (winged beautiful-voiced people) chaperone the spiritual lives of the humans. Gabriel, an angel, is about to become the new Archangel, but he has to find and marry a particular human woman before that happens.

The worldbuilding and plot are the best parts of the novel, and they are stunning. It's not like anything else I've seen, and it's mesmerizing. There are unique fantasy elements, the barest hints of sci-fi that really throw a whole new light on everything you learn about the fantasy stuff, there are complicated social and political relationships, not to mention a host (ha, pun) of befuddling characters. The plot, aside from the romance aspect, is an edge-of-your-seat-er.

Gabriel is an arresting character, especially since he's not your run-of-the-mill protagonist. He is so arrogant, but it's not annoying. He really is right. I just like him. With him, you know you're safe, because he'll be just, and he'll also be compassionate.

And then we have Rachel, his intended. At least I think her name was Rachel, I started calling her "Superbitch" halfway through and never stopped. I have never read about a protagonist so annoying, unpleasant, pigheaded, vindictive, and selfish, much less all of those in one package. At first I didn't mind and kind of liked it, because she had good points and I admired her nerve, but it grate and grated and finally I snapped. I hate her. I hate her!

She never sees that half of her problems are caused by her own selfishness. ALL of the other characters revolve around her, and yet she never stops complaining about how terrible her life is. She's never happy, even when she gets exactly the things she wanted, and she lashes out at people just for existing. She tortures all of the other characters just to see them squirm, when all they've ever done is try to help her. She never learns, never repents, only gets worse and worse. Describing her is like describing a VILLAIN, for Pete's sake! If I can't stand her, I can only imagine what all the poor characters were going through sharing a book with her for months on end. And then the romance, which was interesting, was not satisfactorily finished.

She was almost enough to make me stop reading the book on more than one occasion, and the sequel, Jovah's Angel, apparently takes place far in the future and she's not in it, or I definitely wouldn't be reading that one. The worldbuilding, though... That's amazing, and wanting to understand this world is what kept me reading, and it was worth it, if only marginally. As long as she's gone, and there's not another one like her, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't love the sequels.

Be warned, there's some heady religious subject matter here. I was satisfied in terms of being interested and never outraged, but there's still a lot I'd like to know. It's sort of wavering on the line between pro-religion and atheistic, and it's really hard to tell which view actually comes out on top.

Trust your own judgement on this one. If liking the characters is a big part of your reading pleasure, skip this one. If you like worldbuilding more, check it out. If you like Poison Study you'll probably like this.

Buy Archangel


  1. Over the years I've read lots of dark fantasy with Demons as protagonists, but never with Angels. Thanks for the recommend!

  2. I read this one ages ago, and I remember enjoying it, but other than that it's a bit vague in my memory. I don't remember being so infuriated with that character - you've made me want to reread this!

  3. Bookmonkey, I'm actively seeking out fantasy about angels at the moment (convoluted self-imposed research project that's spiralling out of control, as all of my projects do), so I'll hopefully be reviewing any more notable ones. It's definitely interesting. :)

    Darla, I've looked around and I seem to be the only one whose buttons she pushes like that. If you read it again I'd love to hear your impression!

  4. I have not read the sequel - I don't think I even knew there was one, so I'll definitely add this as a reread to my list. Have you read Summers at Castle Auburn? I enjoyed that one quite a bit, and I've been meaning to revisit it as well.

  5. LibraryThing says there are five books in the series, set in various time periods.

    I haven't read anything else by Sharon Shinn, but I'm looking forward to checking out some of her other series.


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