Title: Strange Angels
Author: Lili St. Crow
Genre: YA (Paranormal)
Publishing Date: May 14, 2009
Paperback: 304 pages
Stand Alone or series: First book in a planned series
Summary: Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)
Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?
Why did we read the book: We were offered review copies by the publisher and since we are on a YA roll, we accepted it.
Ana:I am falling in love with YA as a genre and I love it when it’s ballsy. It’s only a few chapters into the book and our 16 year old protagonist has to face her newly zombified (beloved) father and kill him, so right then I know this book has a great potential for greatness. From that moment on, Dru has a rollercoaster ride into finding out what the heck is going on and I was glad to go along for all the fun (and fear). Seriously? Loved the book and was highly impressed with the main storyarc.
Thea: I couldn’t disagree more with Ana. While I think this book had potential story-wise, the poor writing, the protagonist’s flimsy characterization, and overall clumsy plotting made Strange Angels a laborious read. Going back to Philip Larkin’s criteria for books: I could barely read it, I couldn’t believe it, and most resoundingly of all…I didn’t care.
On the Plot:
Dru Anderson is a 16 year old whose father is a Hunter – he goes into the night hunting for things in what she calls The Real World – the one where every single thing you thought was a fairytale or folklore, isn’t. She usually stays behind in their missions but that doesn’t mean Dru doesn’t take part – she has moderate psychic abilities (foreseeing mainly) and weapons training. Dru is tough and resilient but the fact that her father comes back from his latest mission as a zombified corpse out to get her is too much to bear and she falls apart. She gets help from an orphaned boy from her school , Graves (or Goth Boy) and they end up teaming up against whatever is after Dru. They have plenty of questions needing answers and encounters with things that even Dru is not sure should exist. Their path leads to danger and to a point of no return for both of them. Then, the answers they need come by in the form of a djamphir (half-breed vampire) called Christophe, who is a member of something called the Order and then Dru learns a lot more about Family and Inheritance.
Ana: Strange Angels is less of a character piece than a plot-driven novel: the action is non-stop from the moment that Dru kills her father and finds herself all alone in the world. The entire plot lasts only a few days within the novel and these are very agitated days with a constant flux of action and twists. Even though the creatures that inhabit this world (vampires, werewolves) are nothing new, the representation of these beings and the place they have in the world-building here were new to me and I was pleasantly appeased. As I was surprised with the ways thing turn out to be and how everything culminate into a cool fight scene and with a smallish cliff-hanger that left me wanting more.
The only caveat here, which dragged the action a bit, is the amount of repetitions of actions or Dru’s thoughts: for example, in less than 2 pages the fact that Graves “seemed old than he appeared” was repeated at least 3 times. To be fair though, I read and ARC and these could easily have been edited out from the final product.
Thea: I have to disagree with Ana – the plot, in my opinion, moved at a glacial speed. Which left nothing much but Dru’s mind-numbingly repetitive internal monologuing for ninety-percent of the novel, hardly enough to endear me to this book. On paper, the plot sounds interesting: precognitive Dru’s dad is turned into a zombie, Dru shoots him, befriends a half-asian “Goth Kid” from school (who gets bitten by a werewulf) and later befriends a djamphir, and together they track down Dru’s father’s killer.
Sounds solid, doesn’t it? Unfortunately this only constitutes about ten percent of the actual book.
And reading the same poorly written phrases over and over and over again does not a good novel make. Needless to say, my issue with the book was largely because of the writing. The repetition of certain images/sensations (for some reason, Dru’s main emotions are tied solely to her stomach), use of contradictory descriptions (shivering and then breaking out into hot goosebumps? Eh?), continuity errors (for example, Dru would hang up a phone and then in the next paragraph talk about how the phone was still ringing while she waited for someone to pick up her call), factual errors (“katas” are for Karate and a few other Japanese martial arts, not Tai Chi – which is Chinese), conversations that never make any sense (a character will ask Dru a question, she’ll internal monologue for a couple of paragraphs, and…conversation over) and even more repetition (“Daddy told me to do my katas,” “Graves had a mop of lank hair,” etc) made this an incredibly irritating, almost un-readable book for me. On a related note, what teenager in this day and age still uses a walkman, as opposed to an iPod? Pay phones as opposed to cell phones? Granted, Dru’s (and Graves’s) living situation is a bit different than the norm, but does any sixteen year old use terms like “Muzak” (as opposed to “music”), or even know what a walkman is? To cut Ms. St. Crow some slack, this is something that many contemporary YA authors don’t seem to get right.
By the time the actual story kicked in (past the halfway mark of the book), it was too little, too late. Which is a shame because, generic and rehashed as this general plot is, it had potential to be at least entertaining.
On the characters:
Ana: If the plot worked really well for me, I am torn when it comes to Dru. I really liked her voice and I didn’t mind her first person narrative and how realistic and with her feet on the ground she was. But I am not sure that some of her traits are intentional or not. She is tough and comes across as really abrasive sometimes but I am not sure whether this is a defence mechanism (it could well be, after all she has been through) or if it is just empty mannerisms. It irritated the hell out of me that for example, she kept calling Graves, “kid” even if he was her age. It sounded ridiculous and unnecessary BUT part of me wondered if this wasn’t how Dru coped – by setting herself apart and most importantly above him. She was, after all, alone in this world as of the start of the book and for all the want and need she had for a grown-up figure to come and take care of them, she was still the only one of the duo that had ANY clue about what was going on and how to make sure they survived . It is a tough choice for a young girl to make, especially since it soon become clear that they had no choice at all, it was either fight or die.
As for Graves: count me as a fan. The boy stole my heart the minute he made his first lame joke. He is awkward as any adolescent, lonely and yet compelling with his quiet strength and how he stayed by Dru’s side throughout whatever was thrown at him. The fact that she could truly rely on him was very heart-warming and a great bonus point for the story.
The jury is still out on Christophe. He came into too late in the story and at the moment he is only that undisclosed , unoriginal pretty boy with attitude. If there is an upcoming love triangle, I sit FIRMLY on Team Graves.
With the amount of action in Strange Angels, there is really room for character development, but the potential is right there and I hope there will be enough time for it with the next book. The setting seems really promising.
Thea: The character development was similarly unpalatable for me.
As I’ve mentioned, Dru’s internal narrative comprises the entire book. She’s abrasive, condescending, and a hardass. At first, I could maybe excuse this characterization – as Ana says, this might just be her coping mechanism. Except…it isn’t. After reading 150 pages of the same drivel, one tends to lose any sympathy they might have for her character. Especially when she makes statements about Graves being a “kid,” a “half-breed,” or any number of the same. brain-melting. repetitive. observations. Her descriptions and mannerisms (as mentioned above, every reaction or character motivation for some bizarre reason is tied to her belly, everything is scalding hot or numbingly cold, and red seems to be the only color associated with her emotions) come across as hollow; Dru ultimately feels like a bad character in a book, not an actual person.
But, for how annoying Dru was, I have to agree with Ana that Graves was fully awesome. I loved his corny jokes, his smart assessments, and his awkwardness. I can’t for the life of me see what he does in Dru, but no one is perfect.
As for Christophe…can I make an observation? This is yet another book featuring a prospective love triangle with a werewolf (excuse me, werewulf) and a vampire (oops, dhampir — no wait, djampir). Just because the spelling of a word is changed does not make it any more original. Why would a Russian djampir spell his name “Christophe”? Doesn’t that just ooze cheesy ’80s hairstylist from Beverly Hills? I digress. In any case, Christophe only emerges in the story about 2/3 through, and sticks around to data dump.
Final Observations, Recommendation and Rating:
Ana: Action-packed with an interesting setting and such vivid dangers that fear was a very apt word to describe what I felt in some of its pages. I definitely think this is a good start of a series for YA with cross –over appeal for adults as well.
Thea: Trite, draggy book with an annoying main character, mis-paced action, and dull characterizations. If it wasn’t for Graves, this book would have absolutely no saving graces. Teens might be more forgiving than more discriminating adults, though.
I should note that my feelings for this book were largely colored by my dislike of the writing style – and this could be completely subjective. I cannot stand a book that relies heavily on repetition of phrases, overly ornate (and contradictory) sensory descriptions, and cranky heroines. Obviously, Ana feels differently, as may many other readers! While I can’t endorse the book, I’d still encourage readers to give it a try and see how it fits.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Ana: Hands down when Dru has to face her father. It was HORRIBLE for many reasons: it was terrifying. it was dangerous it was sad. Great sequence.
Thea: The best part definitely has to be Dru facing her zombified father, I agree. For the bad parts, any other time Dru thinks.
Ana: 7 – Very good.
Thea: 5 – Meh. Take it or leave it.
Reading next: Tomorrow, we post our joint review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – FINALLY!