A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m a sucker for paranormal angel books. It may be the religion major, or the Catholic, in me but I find this concept so much more intriguing then the vampire/werewolf/etc realm, probably because it is based in a concept that so many people believe in and it’s interesting to see what an author will do with an already established belief in a fantasy genre.
Yet so often the YA angel/fallen angel stories fall flat. The only series I have found that catches my interest is the Hush Hush saga by Becca Fitzpatrick. Not that I love the protagonist, but the world building is done well and the author is good at harnessing male voices. I was hoping this series would follow in the same vein, but I honestly was majorly disappointed for about the first half of the book. There were so many YA stereotypes and cliché’s from the helpless female character who’s voice falls flat to the completely ditzy and boy-crazy best friend to the conveniently absentee parent (or in this case, adoptive parent). There is not much improvement once the two guys who comprise the “love triangle” with the protagonist enter the narrative, with Devin being pretty much devoid of personality and Asher seemingly a poor imitation of Patch Cipriano from Becca Fitzpatrick’s series. The “love triangle” angle was also a disappointment, for it’s incredibly one sided and not believable at all that the protagonist is torn between both guys.
Now, there were some aspects of the book that merited the 3 stars (it probably should’ve been 2.5 stars, but goodread’s doesn’t allow it and I figured it deserved to be rounded up). I thought the mythology and premise were really interesting, but poorly executed and delivered. There’s not a stark heaven/hell, angel/demon dichotomy, rather the “Order” and the “Rebellion”, neither which is inherently evil or inherently good. There is not a “demonic” side which I appreciated, both were still seen as factions of types of angels, the Rebellion simply more in tune with the earth since leaving the Order. Deeper issues are explored which blur the lines between which is the more righteous side, such as is it ethical to predestine fate? And if it does exist, does interfering with it equate to freedom? There are so many interesting possibilities and potential here, but then it is poorly delivered in the narrative- for example, Asher drops the bomb about the Order and the Rebellion during a “spooky storytelling” around a campfire in front of the entire junior class. It’s painfully juvenile and seems to suggest a lack of creativity in plot devices.
I also really wish other aspects of the stories had been expanded upon, because they’re made to seem relevant but then are never explained. Such as the constant reference to the protagonists “evil” ex-boyfriend, Jordan, who is constantly referenced as though he is a shadow constantly haunting her. Yet an opportunity to perhaps discuss abuse or the misogynistic treatment of women in our society is glossed over and his scarring impact on the protagonist never really explained (aside from a brief mention of him cheating on her). Or the implementation of one of the protagonist’s human friends having a steadfast and loyal desire for her, to which she just continually brushes him off. Again, what is the point of this?
Overall there were some good ideas in the story, but it was congested by a thoroughly boring main character, shallowly written love interests, a love triangle that falls flat, and forgotten plot devices and loose ends throughout. The last few chapters did provide an upturn in the reading experience, moving out of the human realm and showcasing the deeper issues and quite frankly the things that were actually interesting instead of shallow love triangles: the interaction between the Rebellion and the Order, the severing of an important truce, the true implications of having no free will, as well as the mortality of the main character. Though irritating as it is that the book ended in a total cliffhanger, the cliffhanger is probably the main reason I’m willing to spend my time reading the second. If you’re looking for a quick and easy read, like the genre, and aren’t too picky with your character development, this should prove to be an interesting enough read.
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