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REVIEW: A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Dear Ms. Zink,

I admit it. The lovely cover is what made me stop and give your new novel a second look. I’m a sucker for pretty covers, and I thought this one was highly effective for the genre. If only I could say the same for the content.

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle ZinkHelen Cartwright is the sheltered daughter of a British family. That all changes when her mother drags her out of bed one night and tells her to flee through a secret passage. She eventually does so but not before everyone else in the household is murdered and the family estate set on fire.

Before being told to flee, Helen was given a slip of paper containing a name and address. Left with nowhere else to go, she seeks help there and meets two brothers named Darius and Griffin. She learns that she, along with the brothers, are the last descendants of angels charged with the task of protecting Earth’s past, present, and future.

Over the past few months, their fellow descendants have been hunted down and murdered until the trio are all that is left. Now it’s up to the three of them to find the people responsible and stop the murderers from seizing control of the item that can grant them dominion over the entire world.

Summarized succinctly like that, it seems like there’s a decent story to work with here. Some interesting things could have been done with this foundation. But that is not at all what I got.

First of all, these angelic descendants have got to be the stupidest guardians of the world I’ve ever had the misfortune to read about. Let’s get this straight. Members of your order are being hunted down and killed one by one. What do you do? Do you run, hide, or stay in your house and do nothing? Two of those options make reasonable sense. One does not. Guess what they chose?

Secondly, the worldbuilding follows no logic I can parse. According to the rules set forth in this world, the angelic descendants aren’t allowed to learn about their heritage until they turn 17. Why? Do they go crazy? No clue. If there was a reason, I missed it. But that’s okay — instead of giving them straightforward training and education in preparation for the momentous responsibility of watching over the world, their parents teach them “games” that are really lessons in disguise. And when I say games, I don’t mean strategic ones like chess. I mean games like walking down the same street every morning.

WTF, why? There is no reason for this. If you’re waging an epic war against demons, wouldn’t it make sense to teach your next generation properly? This is the world we’re talking about here. Shouldn’t we take this task a little more seriously? Why would you teach your successors in the most obtuse, vaguest way possible? It should have occurred to someone that if all the adults were wiped out, the kids would be in trouble due to lack of adequate training. Way to go, good guys. Way to go. No wonder you’re losing.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that this book supposedly takes place in London. Sometime. In the past. I’m the first to admit that my knowledge of historical London is not so great. I don’t pick up on details the way I know other DA folk (reviewers and readers) do. But this book had no concept of setting whatsoever. There were points in the book where I had to stop and make sure it was a historical, not a modern-day story. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but you have to give me something to work with. You can’t tell me that something takes place in historical London and expect me to believe it if there are no period clues beyond wearing a corset.

And then there’s the romantic subplot. Could it have gotten any more paint by numbers? When Helen meets the brothers, I was truly fearful. Great, she’s going to be torn between two opposites — the nice brother and the mean brother. Could this get any more predictable? But then the book surprised me (the one and only time this happened, by the way) when it revealed the mean brother’s heart lay elsewhere.

That said, this doesn’t mean I was keen on Helen hooking up with the nice brother either. I’m tired of this insta-lust in YA novels. Do teenagers fall in lust at first sight? Sure. Am I going to buy it in a book where the heroine’s parents were just murdered and her house burned down? Not so much. Priorities, people.

Unfortunately, the circumventing of Helen being torn between the brothers didn’t mean we escaped from the love triangle trope. Another prospect named Raum is soon introduced and he’s even worse. This is not just a bad boy; he’s their enemy. I would rather Helen had been torn between the brothers than this. There were moments in the novel where Helen would choose to protect Raum and I saw no reason why, especially when you take into account his involvement with her parents’ deaths. It made me think less of her. We’re supposed to believe she’s torn up over their deaths, that she wants revenge. And yet she continually protects the guy who killed them.

Perhaps the book intended to portray Helen as conflicted and torn between all her various allegiances. The story doesn’t make sense otherwise. But the execution falls flat. As a reader, I didn’t find Helen conflicted. I found her TSTL. This was made even worse because all the boys in her life — even the nice brother — were jerks, especially when it came to Helen. They all treat her like an idiot, including the one who’s supposedly in love with her. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

There could have been a good book somewhere in all this, but the major flaws with the romance and worldbuilding prevented me from seeing it. I have no idea if this is the start of a series and I couldn’t care less. Combined with bland writing, I wish I’d spent my time reading something else. D

My regards,
Jia

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Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

12 Comments

  1. Jane
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 18:51:20

    I thought this was a beautiful cover as well. Too bad great cover =/ great book.

    ReplyReply

  2. MrsJoseph
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 18:58:16

    Damn. Because I am loving that cover. :(

    ReplyReply

  3. Robert Newberry
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 20:17:17

    I haven’t read this but I’m more interested in reviewing the review. Don’t write this author off after the first book you’ve read. The idea is to offer constructive critisism with the idea that she might be able to use it in order to improve. Or are you perfect? I would challenge you to write a novel rather than a very short essay. I believe it is entirely plausible that an angelic ambassador would not know what they were in order to remain hidden. Also, they would be tempted to fight evil before theor prescribed time if they were aware.

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  4. Dana S
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 20:55:00

    @Robert Newberry: I don’t know if you’ve been on this site before, but the reviews here are for readers not authors. I imagine authors have editors and beta readers for concrit.

    ReplyReply

  5. rameau
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 01:51:26

    I adore this review. That is all.

    ReplyReply

  6. Naomi Clark
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 05:45:52

    @Robert Newberry: Robert, authors shouldn’t be ploughing through reviews looking for constructive criticism. They should be seeking that before publication, not after. Reviews aren’t really for the author’s benefit, they’re for the readers, as Dana S said. And the idea that one is only qualified to have an opinion on a book if they’ve written one themselves is just silly.

    ReplyReply

  7. lauren
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 07:28:41

    I read the reviews, not to see people tell authors what they should have done differently, but for a quick opinion on a book. If it gets “pretty cover, horrible story” I won’t buy the book. Borrow it from the library perhaps, but not waste valuable money that could go towards a must read!

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  8. Linda Hilton
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 09:03:47

    @Robert Newberry: Mr. Robert Newberry: I have written a book, more than one, so does that make me qualified in your sanctimonious eyes to offer an opinion? Whether it does or not, here goes:

    Anyone has a right to opine about a book that has been published, that has been put before the public in a manner that implies the author is finished with it, that it is the best effort the author can make. If the reviewer finds flaws, the reviewer has the right to say so.

    In the case of A Temptation of Angels, however, this is a print-published, hardcover book. It supposedly is not only the best the author can do but the best the editorial team at Dial/Random House can do as well. As others have said, the time for “constructive” criticism was when the author was still writing, still rewriting, still polishing. That didn’t happen.

    Neither a pretty cover nor the glowing reviews (and quixotic defenses) from friends and family will make a bad book good. Sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste, other times it’s a matter of just bad writing. If Michelle Zink wanted reader feedback before she sent her manuscript off to her agent and/or Dial/Random House, she should have got it then. Or she should have published it herself digitally and had the option of revising if the reviews were bad. Now it’s carved in stone and she has to live with it. So do you.

    The only qualification to be a reviewer is to have read — or tried to read — the book. The validity of the review may be based on other considerations: whether the reviewer knows anything about the subject matter of the review such as history or world-building or crime scene investigation, whether the reviewer brings a personal bias, wheteher the reviewer has a vested interest in the success or failure of the book. But anyone who can read has the essential credential to be a reviewer, and there are far too few around these days who are willing to put themselves out there and say a book is flawed.

    We’ve got your back, Jia.

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  9. MrsJoseph
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 09:09:25

    @Robert Newberry:

    Seriously? You are making an attack but haven’t read the book yourself? Pfffft. And additionally – no one is going to go out to buy another book from an author if the first attempt is bad. Waste of money and valuable time.

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  10. Jia
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 12:35:14

    Just as an aside, this isn’t the author’s first book. I think this is her fourth one? IIRC, she’s published a trilogy previously. I hadn’t read those books but I know a few people who speak of them favorably so when this popped up on NetGalley, I thought it’d be worth a try. You win some, you lose some.

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  11. Sue CCCO
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 15:25:53

    @Linda Hilton:

    Well said. Once a book is out there on a shelf to be purchased we the paying public are entitled to say what we think of it.

    ReplyReply

  12. Sue CCCP
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 15:28:44

    @Sue CCCO:

    How embarrassing: I misspelt my name! Doh! :(

    ReplyReply

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