Paranormal Young Adult
Twilight Times Books
Available June 28th
Received from author for review
Griffin is an Angel, one with control over two of the four main Elements whose sole purpose is to protect and guard human lives. Well, that will be his sole goal once he completes his apprenticeship and passes his Proelium, becoming a full Guardian Angel. If he fails, he'll be stripped of his ability to control Earth and Fire and forced to live the remainder of his life as a human.
Though his training begins at the cruel hands of Nicopolis, the verbal and physical abuse sustained leaving indelible scars at the tender age of thirteen, his new mentor Basil is a man of humor and patience with a driving determination to see Griffin succeed. While Griffin attempts to gain control of his Elements and prepare for his final test, he is momentarily distracted from his purpose with the arrival of new neighbor Katie, a young woman who has his instant interest.
Though he wants a relationship with her, he knows it might be impossible due to the fact that he and Basil are constantly on call for their Angel duties, and what teenage girl would actually believe in their existence even if he told her the truth? Just when his life couldn't get any more complex with normal and paranormal complications, Griffin learns that Nicopolis will be overseeing his Proleium, and his former mentor is just as nasty and menacing as ever.
Griffin Rising introduces us to a race of Earth Angels, or Terrae Angeli, separated from the Celestial Angels in both the powers they possess and in their ability to have free will, thereby rendering them characters capable of making mistakes, their every flaw endearing them to us as we recognize our humanity reflected back at us regardless of their supernatural powers. Though Basil and Griffin can bend different Elements to their will, it is the low key moments of mentor to student and father to son interaction that keep us interested, their day to day dynamics both so humorous and touching the paranormal element often fades to the background as the shining joy of a boy recovering from an abusive past radiates from the pages. This is a story that combines a crushing responsibility with the levity of witty banter, mixes moments of teenage awkwardness with the developing maturity that accompanies such a daunting purpose, and illustrates how the word "angel" is not always so easily defined.
Griffin and Basil are the true highlight of this story, their bond a treat to watch slowly form as Griffin begins to heal from past psychological wounds, Basil's patience carefully drawing him from a shell the hand and barbed tongue of a another mentor forced him into. Added to the emotional mix is Griffin's romantic interest in Katie–a relationship that progresses at a refreshingly normal pace, complete with countless minutes and hours spent wondering how the other feels and if their interest might be reciprocated. Though a romance does enter the picture, the familial connection is not forgotten or overshadowed as Basil has many an amusing moment in having to deal with both a Guardian Angel apprentice and a smitten teenage boy, creating a well-rounded tale with strong relationships that span multiple dimensions.
Because Ms. Karchut has created such enjoyable and animated characters, we can't help but want to know more about them, wishing for a few extra details about their respective pasts as well as the history of the Terrae Angeli in general. We know Griffin's history with Nicopolis was brutal, but we are more told than shown that time in his life, and he recovers from it seemingly very quickly when the story's timeline suddenly jumps ahead three years until he reaches sixteen. Additionally, the presence of several journal entries from Griffin, Basil, and eventually Katie is a bit distracting as we long for the events mentioned in those excerpts to happen in real time, those fleeting moments pulling us out of the story for a just a few quick lines before we are dropped back in. The thoughts and musings in the journal passages do not necessarily provide any profound insight into the characters, and they might have easily been worked into the main storyline so events could have progressed more smoothly.
Overall however, Griffin Rising is a strong debut from Ms. Karchut, her characterization impressive and her storytelling engrossing. We are given a complete tale, left with things not wrapped up perfectly, but yet nicely concluded with just enough unknown to force us to make a note of the sequel's release date. Hopefully, the next book will delve deeper into the history missing from this tale so that we will have a more balanced understanding of the world, the Angel hierarchy, and the future for both Basil and Griffin.