Friday, March 18, 2016

Angel Falls (Cassandra Bick Chronicles Book 3) by Tracey Sinclair

Cassandra Bick runs a supernatural dating agency and between her business, her relationship with both a grounded Angel (Cain) and one of the most powerful vampires in London (Laclos), you would think that this makes Cassandra an old hat at dealing with supernatural problems but you'd be wrong. When a fledgling enters her office issuing a threat to Laclos's safety because quite uncharacteristically, he has gone on a slaughtering spree thanks to ingesting Cain's blood, Cassandra cannot overlook the threat, no matter how much she would like to.  With a vampire war looming, Cassandra has a lot to deal with and it's all made worse with the arrival of Cain's wife and the angels who have determined that Cain broke the law when he shared blood with Laclos.

Despite everything that she has been through, Cassie hasn't really grown as a person.  Cassie feels driven to size up the women she interacts with as some competition. Cassie has to break down what her so-called competition is wearing and how it all rates against what she has or can afford, making her internal monologue irritating at times. It's almost a relief when she's told to give it a rest, considering that both Laclos and Cain the two supernaturals who are arguably the most attractive in the city have been battling over her. With everything that's happening in Angel Falls, Cassie's continual competition with the women around her is absolutely tedious to read and made we want to scream just grow up already.  On a positive note, she's still willing to do what she had to do to survive and to take care of the little supernatural family she has managed to assemble.

Cassie's little supernatural family has grown even tighter in Angel Falls. We were introduced to another mortal who owes a favor to Cain and the Valkyrie, Cain's wife returned for the big battle.  Everyone has competing motivations but they all manage to work together to save Laclos.  I love that Medea will now be a full partner in Dark Dates because this further elevates her status.  I want to see these characters continue to grow and become the ultimate Scooby team. I found myself particularly drawn to the changing relationship between Cain and Laclos.  Laclos has experienced many changes after drinking Cain's blood and at times we are told that it has created a profound bond (yes, a Supernatural reference) but Sinclair works hard to show that the bond is more than supernatural and that these men have developed a history which results in a certain amount of regard.

By about the third book, I normally feel as though I have sense about the world but Sinclair showed me exactly how much I had assumed about the Cassandra Bick Chronicles by the ways she expanded the world and added so much nuance to her characters. Until Angel Falls, though we knew that angels existed and are powerful beings, we knew very little about them. We learned that Angels don't conform to modernist models of gender identity and that once they love someone, they love forever. I must admit to finding this fascinating.   The angels touch upon LGBT themes and are a notable parallel between genderqueer/non-binary/genderfluid people. That being said, it's not entirely inaccurate to include Cain as one of them; however, as a member of a species that can ALL change body/shape/gender/sex at will and generally as an alien being, the analogy isn't perfect and there are marked differences between this angel's experience/representation and a genderqueer/fluid/trans human's experience etc.

In terms of GLBT inclusion, since Dark Dates, Sinclair has included several LGBT characters though the portrayal hasn't always been perfect. In Angel Falls, Sinclair introduces us to a gay male couple and another lesbian.  Over all Media and Katie have had the most functional relationship in this series though it's problematic that the major issue they face is resistance of the fact that Media is a Wiccan and Katie is a shifter. In the real world, they would face homophobia and of course problems for being in an inter-racial relationship.  I don't think that a little more focus on this would take away from the fantastical element of the story and it would make it all feel a little more realistic and relatable.

There were a lot of interesting elements to Angel Falls; however, at times the story felt like it just had too many moving parts and couldn't settle into a clear narrative.  If that were not enough, it ended on a cliffhanger which I have long felt is a writer's device to draw the reader into the next novel. If you haven't sold the book by the last few pages, you're not going to sell it, thus making cliffhangers completely unnecessary and extremely annoying. There had to be a better way to set up the next book than a cliffhanger.  That being said, while Angel Falls wasn't nearly as polished as Sinclair's other work, it's a decent continuation of the story.