REVIEW: Angelica by Sharon Shinn
Dear Ms. Shinn,
Once again I’m lost in the world of Samaria. Every time I pick up one of these novels, I feel transported to a different place and time. Some of the characters I like, others I despise but they all feel real to me. They have hopes, dreams, fears, plans. But let me ask you, is there anyone there who can’t sing? Was that one of the requirements when Jovah chose which earthlings to carry away from imminent world destruction and carry to this new planet where once a year everyone must raise their voices in harmony or face the wrath of their God?
Gaaron is less than a year away from assuming the role of Archangel of Samaria. It will be his task to lead both angels and humans. Sometimes he feels like it will be an endless, thankless job but it’s one he’s been prepared for all his life by his volatile, bitter angel father. Now in addition to trying to control his self destructive younger sister, he has to find his angelica, the woman the God Jovah has chosen to be his wife. But as he begins his search, he learns of a much worse problem he’ll have to deal with. Aggressive invaders have landed in Samaria and have been randomly attacking the population. How can this society, which turned its back on the technology which destroyed its original world, hope to defend itself?
Susannah is an Edori, a wandering tribe who travel across the length and breadth of Samaria. She’s lived with a man for years now but lately she’s begun to think Dathan might be planning on leaving her. When an angel suddenly arrives in their camp and announces she’s been chosen as his bride, she’s horrified. The thought of having to leave the all inclusive, loving world of the Edori and live in the angel world stuns her. But she knows it’s the duty of one chosen for this role and she decides to make the best of it. At first she thinks she can accept a marriage of friendship as she tries to help Gaaron deal with governing Samaria while curbing his maddening sister’s wild streak. Yet as she comes to know and grow to love him, she wonders if his friendship will be enough for her and if their world will survive.
All her life, Miriam has been compared to her older, wiser angel brother. Their father always looked down on her, expecting the worst of her. After a while, she decided why not give it to him? When Gaaron sends her away after a deadly outcome from one of her rebellions, she decides to run a way with Susannah’s Edori tribe. Traveling with them, she has to start learning how to support others and stop thinking only of herself. And when a badly injured invader is taken in by the tribe, Miriam discovers the role she can play to help save Samaria.
Let me start by saying there’s a whole lot going on in this book. There are personality conflicts, political conflicts and, of course, world domination conflicts. Perhaps just a few too many things to keep track of? For instance, why spend so much time on Kaski, the Jansai girl who survived an invader attack? Or Susannah’s Edori friend Keren who discovers a love of the easy life in an angel hold? I guess both served as a source of conflict between Gaaron and Susannah but those subplots meandered on too long and took up time I would have liked devoted to Gaaron and Susannah.
And then there’s Miriam. For a large part of the book, I just wanted to smack this inconsiderate young twit. I appreciate that you gave her something to be truly remorseful about but I guess I just can’t understand this type of personality. I completely shared Gaaron’s bewilderment with her. And while she does grow in character over the course of the book, at the end she was still rebelling. It finally took someone jerking a knot in her in the very waning pages of the book to get it across to her how childishly she’d been acting. And why did she make no effort to bring the injured invader to Gaaron? Hello? Her world is under attack by ruthless people and she’s got a live one who looks like he’d be willing to help her and the Samarians. Instead, oh no, she has to insist on having things her way.
In contrast, I adored both Susannah and Gaaron. They’re strong, capable people who slowly grow to care for then love each other. I love how you show Susannah realizing just how much she admires Gaaron while she listens to him settle a dispute between two teenage angels. Authors can tell me for the entire course of a book that the hero and heroine are falling in love but if you show it to me, I’ll believe it more.
And then there’s the whole world you’ve created in Samaria. Fans of pure science fiction might not be satisfied with the world building but I can see everything and feel like I’m returning to a treasured place. As a friend of mine said, I want to be flown in the arms of an angel to one of the holds, I want to shop in the artistic blue city of Luminaux, I want to see and hear a yearly Gloria sung in honor of Jovah. And I think one of the great things about this series is it leaves me wanting to know more. I can close other books and be satisfied I know all I want to about them but these books haunt me and make me think and wonder. B for this one.