By Karyn Henley
I’ll admit, at first the cover design had me edgy and expecting something dark, more along the lines of paranormal or horror than fantasy. Fortunately, the old adage about judging a book by its cover came through for me and I was delighted to find an exciting story set in a unique fantasy world, built on a very intriguing premise. The dark mood set by the cover doesn’t carry over into the story itself.
The story begins when a haggard young man staggers into a temple courtyard. Melaia, a priestess, offers him shelter, but before the stranger can accept he is attacked and killed by a vicious hawk, which Melaia chases away. Already shocked by what has happened, she is even more stunned to find that the murdered stranger has wings growing from his back.
She moves the body into the temple to be prepared for burial and await the return of the high priestess, Hanamel. Before Hanamel returns, however, another stranger arrives—the hawk that killed the stranger, this time in human form.
His arrival throws everything Melaia thought she knew into chaos, leading her to discover that what she has always been taught about angels is not entirely accurate, and there are many things she has never been taught at all.
As circumstances and events unfold, Melaia is drawn deeper and deeper into an ancient feud between two brothers, now immortal, whose battle destroyed the stairway to heaven, trapping countless angels in the world of mortals, with no way to return to their home.
I had a little trouble understanding the workings of the story world at first, until I realized that I was expecting the angels in the story to be and behave like the Bible tells us real angels do. Once I stopped trying to apply that template to the story’s angels, everything made a great deal more sense and was very easy to follow.
The scenery and descriptions in this book were just beautiful. From towering cities built on the brink of high cliffs, to the joyful dance of a fire angel in the flames of a campfire, you are in for a visual treat with Breath of Angel. And the story’s inhabitants—from green-skinned sylvans to varying ranks of angels, each with different gifts and abilities; from shape-shifting immortals to gruesome draks (spy birds with human hands instead of feet)—form an enthralling cast you’re not likely to forget quickly.
My only complaint is that a lot of the major plot points of the story almost seem ‘too easy’. A piece of earth-shattering, life-changing news arrives, altering everything Melaia thinks she knows about herself and her identity; she acts shocked for a while, and then just moves on, seeming to take everything in stride. And while the story’s ending is fantastic and a perfect conclusion to the rest of the plot, there is little buildup to that ending, so it hits somewhat out of the blue.
Along that same line, Melaia’s character definitely changes, grows, and matures over the course of the story, which is good, but there really isn’t a visible turning point. There doesn’t seem to be a point at which she hits rock bottom and decides “okay, I’m going to stop fighting it, here’s what I have to do, now I’m going to do it”. There were a couple of instances that I suppose could have been turning points, but they didn’t come across that way openly. Melaia does struggle with a lot of the things she’s facing and dealing with, but she seems to be just going along with it anyway, playing it by ear.
Aside from that, Breath of Angel was a very unique and exciting adventure that had me hooked from page two.
You should know that as I sat writing this review, a bird flew into the window behind me; you will have to read Breath of Angel to appreciate the heart attack it almost gave me.
I am legally obligated to inform you that I received this book in exchange for my review as part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. There. I have informed you.