Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
February 15, 2011; HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books
This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Until her 17th birthday, Ellie is an average teenage girl. Or rather, your very wealthy, average teenage girl. She goes to school, hangs out with her friends, buys expensive clothes, gets an Audi for her birthday, etc. The only thing that sets her apart are frequent disturbing nightmares in which she's being chased by monsters and having to fight them off with swords. Right around her 17th birthday, a mysterious boy named Will appears seemingly from out of nowhere. On an evening walk together, Ellie and Will are attacked - just like in Ellie's nightmares. To Ellie's great surprise, she fights them off using swords conjured from thin air with angelfire. She knows what to do, because she's done it a thousand times before. Ellie is the Preliator, made to destroy evil reapers with angelfire. She is mortal, but is reincarnated every time she dies. Will is her guardian, sworn to comfort and protect her constantly. They have been compatriots for hundreds of years. As Ellie becomes acquainted with her new (or old) powers, she and Will are continually challenged by reapers who seek to kill her. Then suddenly, they discover something that might possibly kill Ellie for good - no more reincarnation, no more Preliator. Can Ellie and Will get rid of this "thing" before the reapers get their hands on it?
There are so many reasons for me to dislike Angelfire. First, I don't like angels as paranormal creatures. The fall between Lucifer and God, nephilim, devilish creatures, etc. bores me. I don't know why. So that was one huge hit against Angelfire. Second, a lot of the dialogue during the fight scenes, when the reapers are taunting Ellie and Will, is bad. It's like something out of a B-grade movie. Or a C-grade movie, if such a thing exists. Third, Ellie goes out of her way to remain a normal teenager. That's laudable for many reasons, but if I suddenly discovered that I was a Preliator and would soon be facing devilish creatures with far more fighting experience than me, I think I'd focus a bit more on training than partying. Fourth, there were a few plot points that seemed like they were going to play a role in the ultimate conflict, but went nowhere. I don't know if these were red herrings or if they'll be significant in future novels. This isn't really a complaint, but it struck me as odd.
Ultimately, Angelfire gets a good rating for me for one reason: I couldn't put the book down. There were times when I was groaning over things I didn't like, but when I would walk away from the book (or actually, my iPod e-reader) I missed it. Suddenly, I was reading Angelfire at the gym, at my breaks from work, at times when I would normally be playing on the Internet. It wasn't that the book was so suspenseful that I had to instantly know what was going to happen. I just enjoyed Moulton's writing and being in Ellie's world, even when that world annoyed me.
A few other good things about Angelfire... Will is a great love interest. He is quiet, sweet, very protective without being controlling, and incredibly devoted to Ellie. He was different than a lot of other leading guys - he wasn't sarcastically funny, he didn't have powers that placed him at a higher level than Ellie, he was haunted by the past without being emo. He was just an enjoyable, cool guy. I liked the dichotomy between Ellie's very normal life and her fighting. I said in the above paragraph that I thought she didn't take her situation seriously enough, but I did enjoy reading the interraction between Ellie and her friends. They seemed like very normal teenagers, in a way that I was never a normal teenager, so I can only assume they are normal. Kate and Landon were great friends - not just wacky goofballs like so many literary sidekicks. Their dialogue was casual without being overrun with slang. And Ellie will likely be a happier person if she can balance her duties as Preliator and being a normal person. Some people might quibble about Ellie's wealth and how buying expensive clothes and fancy cars are made to seem like no big deal. There's a place for all socioeconomic levels in YA. I know plenty of people who grew up with similar amounts of wealth and her life seemed believable in that context. Your all-American wealthy teenager, as opposed to your Gossip Girl teenager. Also, the angel mythology was well-developed. You understood how the fall between Lucifer and God, regular angels, fallen angels, reapers, nephilim, etc all fit together. The reapers were interesting, complex creatures. There were lupine reapers, bearish reapers, and human reapers, and you learned a lot about them. Ellie's slow recollections of her past help both Ellie and the reader get caught up with the mythology.
Even though I have plenty of quibbles with Angelfire, I was quite enthralled with the book and cannot wait to read the next book.
Rating: 3.5 / 5