ANGELFIRE (Angelfire #1)
Courtney Allison Moulton
Paranormal Young Adult
Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
Available February 15th
Received from publisher via NetGalley
Ellie considers herself pretty normal. She has normal problems like escalating tension between her parents and the gradual decrease in her grade point average. What is not normal are her nightmares. Every night she sees herself killing and being killed by great monsters who revel in the taste of her blood.
With the horrific murder of one of her teachers and the sudden appearance of attractive and mysterious Will, Ellie's whole view of normalcy is radically changed. According to Will, she's an ancient being sent from above and placed in a mortal body to wield angelfire, thus destroying the demonic reapers that feed on innocent souls and trap them in Hell for all eternity.
As it turns out, Ellie is the only one capable of harnessing angelfire, and Will has been her Guardian for the past five hundred years. Upon her death, she is reincarnated in another mortal body and raised in a human family until her powers are ready to be awakened. Only this version of Ellie can't remember all of her history despite her awakening, and as she attempts to learn her abilities all over yet again, the demonic reapers are uncovering a way to destroy not only her body, but her very soul, thus eliminating her forever instead of a paltry seventeen years.
Fun, fast, and full of action, Angelfire never gives us the opportunity the get up and walk away, forcing us to keep our noses firmly adhered to the pages as we voraciously consume every morsel of information provided. It's a beautifully balanced story, one where the supernatural is tempered by the regular trials and tribulations of a teenage girl, where impressive fight sequences are offset by quiet moments wrought with romantic tension, and where the overpowering weight of responsibility is paralleled by a light-hearted humor. No single element dominates the story and we are spared some of the prominent plot devices running rampant in paranormal young adult fiction, leaving us with a story that perhaps isn't as profound in the emotions it evokes as some, but one that keeps us thoroughly entertained and constantly questioning, reminding us with every devoured page why it is we enjoy getting lost in books so very much.
Utterly refreshing in her acceptance of the supernatural, Ellie surprises us after her initial understandable denial by fully embracing a destiny that has haunted her dreams with its violence and bloodshed. Her moments of "o woe is me" are blissfully limited as we read on with unabashed eagerness, just waiting for the physical strength and mental confidence of Ellie's past incarnations to catch up with her present mortal body. She brandishes some wickedly curved blades with enviable skill, yet remains completely accessible as she juggles her new preternatural obligations with her desire to cling to what is normal and understood–fending off the unwanted affections of a best friend and nursing a foreign yet intimately familiar connection to Guardian Will. It's in these moments of relatable emotional unease, both romantically and between her family members, that Ellie truly wins us over, her fighting prowess impressive but her mental and emotional insecurities ensuring the formation of a tangible character and reader bond.
The lack of a love triangle scenario is yet another welcome exclusion from this story, with Will being the only male of interest, and their relationship progresses at a gloriously reserved pace as they get to know one another again despite multiple lifetime's worth of knowledge. We sense this latest version of Ellie varies more significantly from those who came before, and her temporary amnesia leaves Will on equally unsteady footing in terms of his feelings, unsure as to where he stands with her when she can't remember their shared past. Though Will isn't quite as memorably attractive as some other notable male protagonists, and his utter subservience to Ellie outside times of training or battle is a bit grating at times, the chemistry between them is undeniable–the strands of history connecting them pulled so taut they seem to dangerously vibrate in time to our thudding heartbeats, each loud thump echoing in our chests bringing those fine threads, and them, that much closer to sensually snapping. The tension seems to be a character in and of itself; a living, breathing, pulsing, entity radiating from the pages in waves we greedily inhale as we lick our lips in anticipation of feeling that blistering warmth on our faces one more time.
Completing the sense of balance and leaving us fully satisfied is an ending where the details of the first leg of Ellie's journey are thoroughly explained and her mission accomplished. We aren't left with a teasing last sentence or a taunting epilogue, instead able to close the back cover with a pleasant sense of fulfillment and a strong, but not frustrating, desire to continue onward with Ellie and Will. There are enough questions remaining, along with a multitude of interesting characters in place, that the second installment shouldn't feel like a forced continuation of a completed story, and it will hopefully be sure to stand as alone as this first book has while returning us to a world that pairs angels with demons, romance with mystery, and a troubled past with an uncertain future.