Friday, May 2, 2014

World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee

When we last Penryn she was headed away with the remnants of the Resistance safe in her mother's arms, while he sister watched and Raffe flew above slowly following their progress.  Back to what should have been safety with the Resistance, Penryn finds that she cannot just settle into the society of humans.  Her mind constantly wonders back to Raffe and the glorious archangel sword is not only determined to teach her how to fight but to show her visions of Raffe in the past to guide her instruction. Penryn cannot to distracted however, because something clearly is not right with her little sister Paige.

When the Resistance group attacks, Paige and Penryn are separated yet again and Paige sees it as her duty to find and protect her little sister.  When Paige first sets off with her mother she knows that this journey will force her to confront what the angels have turned Paige into but she has not idea that it will bring her back into contact with Raffe.  For Raffe finding Penryn alive again is like a dream and though she is the daughter of man, he cannot stop himself from caring. Will his obvious feelings for Penryn cause his to cast aside his hope of retrieving his precious wings in order to save her?

I was very excited to pick up World After, having so greatly enjoyed Angelfall.  Unfortunately, World started off really slow and it was until I was about 1/3 of the way through the story that it started to pick. Part of this was because of the endless moping over Raffe by Penryn and the flashback scenes via that magical sword to give us pass scenes from Raffe's perspective.  This stalled forward progress in the story and actually forced me to put the book down a few times.

Even after everything Penryn has seen, she has not developed much as a character.  This may in part be because there was virtually no time lag between the ending of Angelfall and the start of World After. The snarky commentary is cute but really does feel out of place during a battle.  After reading two books in this series, I find myself wondering why a being as ancient as the archangel Raphael sees Penryn as a love interest though it is in a star crossed lovers sense.  The snark seems to cover up the fact that they shouldn't be able to relate to each other at all.  Not only are they from very different worlds, the age difference alone should have them virtually speaking two different languages.  The relationship between Raffe and Penryn only works because except in very few instances, Raffe does not read like an ancient being. 

All of the women in World After are incredibly strong.  Penryn things through her battles and uses the advantages she has to best much larger opponents.  I like that it is explained as men constantly under estimating Penryn because of her size and gender.  Penryn knows her strengths, even if she cannot stop running into dangerous situations with a plan of how to get out, let alone achieve her end goal.  This makes her just a touch spunky and we certainly have no idea why Raffe is willing to go along with this given that he has eons of experience as a warrior. Paige touched me the most.  Ee's descriptions of her are vivid and practically leaps off the page.  It's so easy to see the brave little girl, who has been rejected by all of those around still struggling to fight back and maintain her dignity.  In many ways, Paige makes this story for me, especially because she is so much more than the sweet little girl who needs to be saved.

The final female character of note is Penryn and Paige's mom. We are in book two and mom is still and identity without a name.  This is problematic given that we are told repeatedly how "crazy" she is and how she destroyed her family with her mental illness.  Much of the way mom acts now is out of her control because she no longer has access to her medication but we still get the message that she is a burden to Paige and someone to be avoided if possible.  Ee does attempt to soften then by having Mom make smart decisions like planting a tracking device on her children but it does overcome the over all message that the disabled are in the way and are people to be tolerated.

World After is set in California but there is absolutely no diversity in the story.  Sections are even in San Francisco and yet, Penryn, Paige and Mom manage to navigate angels, demons, and locusts but manage to avoid all GLBT and people of colour characters. Did the angels run around and kill all of the POC and GLBT first?  There is no justification for this erasure.  Would it have been hard to have Clara searching for her wife and children?  It wouldn't have changed the flow of the story and would have added some much needed inclusion.

World After is not as good as its predecessor but it is still very much an interesting read.  I even liked pookey bear as a ancient sword.  Ee didn't advance the story very much though she did give us some insight as to the goals of the angels and their political structure.  If anything, World After felt a bit like a place holder.  That said, the concept alone is enough to want me to read the third novel, even if a relationship between Raffe and Penryn does strike me as absolutely ridiculous.  I want to see Ee, build the world and make it meaty because concept and snark can only get you so far.