Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Shattering Halos by Sunniva Dee

In this new adult, paranormal novel involving angels, of both the fallen and non-fallen variety, we meet Gaia Samuelle, an eighteen-year-old girl who miraculously survives a vehicle accident in which her closest friends are killed. In the course of her recovery, she becomes aware of an angelic figure that only she, apparently, can see. This, it transpires, is Gabriel, her guardian angel, who rescued her from the accident, an action which was clearly in breach of the rules. In a further breach of the rules, he continues to reveal himself to her, and they fall in love. This will have cosmic consequences.

The story is told in the first person, largely from the point of view (POV) of Gaia. However, there are also sections written from the POV of Cassiel, another angel who is fallen. He spends his time seducing women and girls, and naturally has his eyes set on Gaia. Both Gabriel and Cassiel are interesting characters, with a blend of supernatural powers and human frailties. Although fallen, Cassiel appears as mischievous and self-indulgent, rather than evil. Gabriel, while not fallen, is smitten with Gaia. This surpasses his understanding. He is confused by the fact that he is not punished for his behaviour.

Gaia is not as interesting as she might have been. There are moments, particularly in her interactions with Cassiel, when there is a nice ambiguity about her character. She struggles against her attraction to him. When she is with Gabriel, she is reduced, at times, to a gibbering idiot. The thing that most disappointed me about Gaia is that she doesn’t really get to play any active role in the story. She is merely a passive observer of most of what unfolds around her. This is true throughout, but most especially in the final battle scenes. She is able to do little more than watch the conflict on the angelic equivalent of television. I would have liked to see her with a crucial role to play.

The minor characters are interesting, including several other angels and, most of all, Gaia’s feisty Italian friend, Marina. There is a nice scene when Marina’s uncle, a former Catholic seminarian, tries to have his wicked way with Gaia.

The plot is fairly unremarkable. Good versus evil, etc. etc.; a pivotal point in history when the future of heaven and earth is to be decided. The battle scene is quite well described. There are moments in the middle of the book, as the relationship between Gaia and Gabriel is developing, when the story becomes a little slow and gets bogged down. Huge issues are avoided, in particular, the question of how Gaia and Gabriel’s relationship can have any real future. The old ‘I will become mortal for a time and age with you’ motif might have been called upon, but wasn’t.

The sex scenes between Gaia and Gabriel (and the almost-sex scenes between Gaia and Cassiel) are sensual and erotic. Humour is often used well. However, in some of Cassiel’s first person POV scenes his nonchalance and pseudo-teenage voice is a little overdone.

There is enough here to lift this debut novel slightly above the level of ‘good’. I will give it 3.5 stars, rounding this up to 4 stars where half stars are unavailable.

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