Alice isn’t having the best of days – late for work, missed her bus, and now she’s getting rained on – but it’s about to get worse.
The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. That’s were Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem he doesn’t want to fix – Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.
What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side?
As we’ve recently established I’m a sucker for a great cover, it’ll come as no surprise that I love the cover for Blood and Feathers. Pye Parr did a stunning job on this one. Lou Morgan’s debut novel is my second read this year that featured angels after Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest, only this time we were definitely on the side of the angels. However, by choosing as main viewpoint that of the ostensibly human Alice, Morgan is able to create a little doubt in the mind of the reader on whether the heavenly angels truly are the good guys.
One of the best things about the book for me was Morgan’s intricate angelic hierarchy which ran from heaven to hell and back. From the Archangels down to the Fallen, who are of course led by Lucifer, we meet several sorts of angels. There are the Fallen, who dwell in hell; the Twelve, who are Lucifer’s main generals; the Earthbounds, angels who had their wings clipped because of some trespass and need to serve out their time on earth as if they are in some sort of angelic purgatory and during their time there mentor the halfbloods; The Descended, angels who oversee the Earthbound and interact with mortals; the Travellers, angels who travel to earth to live among mortals as humans to report back to heaven about what it is like to be human. And these are not even all the sorts of angels we meet, in fact, it feels like there are even more we haven’t met yet, ones that Morgan could just pull out in the next book. The angels are divided into Choirs, tribes led by the five Archangels, based on their powers. In the back of the book there are even reproductions of the sigils that mark each angel or halfblood as belong to a certain Choir, based on the Enochian script developed by Dr. Dee. Morgan has clearly done a lot of research and there is a sense we only see a fragment of the mythos she’s created for her world.
This world is our modern world, though it’s never quite clear where exactly the story takes place, not even whether it’s the US or the UK. In a sense, the world above ground is very much only a backdrop to the story, a surface for Alice and company to walk on, to rest their heads when needed and to interact with each other. Morgan’s true world building is set in hell, in the different levels we travel through and in the shape angelic, and Fallen, powers manifest. Like her creation of her angelic hierarchy, hell seems a place where a lot of detail is still hidden in shadow waiting for Morgan to reveal it at a later date. Similarly, we don’t visit heaven, but if it were possible to enter a book and explore its universe on your own, we could just walk in there and find it fully formed.
In addition to some fabulous mythos-creation and world building – or should that be hell building – Morgan gifts us with some memorable heroes. Alice, the main character, is strong and despite all that happens to her certainly isn’t a victim. She doesn’t take her fate lying down and keeps questioning everything the angels and the Fallen tell her. I loved her spunk and her snark. She also had great chemistry with Mallory and Vin, two of the most important secondary characters. I loved their banter, they reminded me of some of my favourite snarky characters, such as Buffy and her scooby gang, Castle and Beckett and Fiddler and Hedge. And refreshingly, there was no hint of a romance, let me repeat that, no romance anywhere in the narrative. Not that I’m opposed to romance in my reading, but in urban fantasy a strong romance thread is almost cliché. There is also a lot still to discover about our protagonists, such as Mallory’s history, Vin’s history, and what exactly did Alice do in her past that makes her so leery of alcohol. So there is plenty of ground still to cover character-building wise in further books.
Of course, a story can’t stand on background building and characters alone; they have to do something as well. Luckily, Blood and Feathers has a great plot, which kept me hostage until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, otherwise I would have finished it in a day. There were great twisty-turny happenings, though there were one or two twists I’d seen coming. From the moment Alice steps inside out of the rain until the final line of the coda, the story flies past, it never loses pace, without going so fast that it leaves the reader breathless and confused. Blood and Feathers is a great debut novel, in which Morgan displays a distinctive voice and a great sense of humour. If you’re looking for a fun, smartly written read, you can’t go wrong with Blood and Feathers. The book will be out from Solaris later this week.
This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.