Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton


First there are nightmares.

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.


The Short Version
Fiery, intricate, original and comical, Angelfire is a fantastic blend of battle and romance. With a very strong female protagonist, a complex male counterpart, and a winding story line, this one is a hit. In an ever expanding genre and an increasing number of things classified as ‘cliché,’ Moulton breaks through the mold with a six foot sword.

The Extended Version
Ellie is witty, funny and sprightly. She’s vivid and distinct, easily liked, and easy to understand. Even in a tense situation, she breaks the tension with a wisecrack. What makes this even better is many of them come natural and without thought—it’s simply how she is. She is the kind of character many readers will identify with: friends with some of the popular crowd but not immersed in it, and not a leper outcast. She has a great bond with her mom and several close friends. From the start, Elli is well defined. This only gets stronger as things progress and she is suddenly thrust into a new and unexpected world. She is fearful. She is unsure. She is willing to admit she’s terrified. She doesn’t know if she can do this. But she tries. Even when it’s hard. Ellie is perfectly flawed and Moulton blends her different sides beautifully.

Then there’s Will. Intimidating and creepy at first, he slips into the story with only a few bumps with his charming six foot broad sword in hand. Intense more often than not, fiercely loyal and singularly determined, his relationship with and views towards Ellie are breathtaking. He is a stunning fighter and fearless when it comes to protecting Ellie. Much of him seems closed off and cloaked but an astute reader can see the layers of depth and complexity Moulton has infused into this character. Though it’s harder to see them, despite his title as Guardian and his experience, Will is still flawed and unsure, adding empathy towards him. He has several of his own struggles, and the torment of it is clear and concise even through Ellie’s eyes.

Despite how strong of a character Will is, he doesn’t overshadow or wash out Ellie. They bring out the best in each other and their relationship and budding romance is absolutely stunning. They have all the awkwardness of teenagers, the level of embarrassment and questions, and the slap in the face moments of realization of their feelings. Ellie doesn’t see Will, an admittedly hot guy, and fall head over heels and become an airhead. She is still the same girl, snarky and funny. The way her relationship with Will evolves makes up a strong part of this book, strengthening both their characters in a tremendous way and paving things for the next installment.

Mixing in with Will and Ellie are several of Ellie’s friends as well as people Will knows. Even the beasties have their own personalities and are as strongly defined as any of the humans. The dissonance for Ellie between what her powers mean and wanting to be a regular teenager is real. The shift back and forth throughout the book between fighting life and normal life reminds even the reader of this. Ellie doesn’t jump headlong into having these powers, she doesn’t accept it at face value, and even when the proof is in front of her, she resists and questions and struggles. This entire play out is handled fantastically, giving credit to Moulton’s abilities not only as a writer but in creating her characters.

The plot is fast paced, descriptive, and intricate. Although there is a large amount of world building to do and lore to explain, Moulton doesn’t data dump in a way that is oppressive. She breaks the large explanation areas up with wit and amusement, and reveals things at a steady and well rehearsed pace. Never once did I have to reread things or stop to figure out the information she shares, nor did I feel like I was pulled out of the book because of the amount of explanation. This book hits huge on originality as well. From the new version of reapers to the battle between Heaven and Hell, Moulton has built something new and fantastic.

There are several shocking twists and turns and unexpected events thrown in. The fight scenes are easy to follow and picture and Moulton’s descriptions and imagery are unique, stunning and vivid. The voice brings Ellie even more to life, keeping with the YA mindset but still pitching it as something that is entirely Ellie. The writing is strong and concise. Despite the length of this book, everything is in there for a reason and adds to the overall air. Little things that seem innocent have relevance, and this book is great blend of action, explanation, and character development. Contrasting the fight scenes are the ones that are intimate, gentle, and tender and Moulton nails both with an easy, flawless fluidity.

Things build to a strong climax before Moulton ties the majority of things up. Ending with a scene true to Ellie’s character, the reader is in a comfortable place to wait for the next installment, though the desire for more of these great characters will be strong. Not to mention, Will’s sword should make many, many appearances of all different kinds…

Overall, Angelfire is a stunning debut. Engaging from the start, filled with humor and fight, it is a great read. Hitting on both relationships/romance and fighting/action, Moulton will draw in a range of characters. While things are set to amp up on both stages in the future books, this first installment is a perfect blend, each one muted yet defined.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062002325
ISBN-13: 978-0062002327


  1. I enjoyed Angelfire even though at a surface level a lot of things annoyed me. I didn't like how Ellie didn't take her powers that seriously - in that she kept going to parties. Arguably, it was admirable that she tried to keep a balance in her life, but it bothered me nevertheless.

    I liked this book b/c as much as it annoyed me, I couldn't stop reading. I was drawn into the story from the very first page.

  2. YAY! Finally something you've read…I've read! LOL. I have been waiting to read this review from you. Of course I already knew how much you loved it but your reviews are so detailed, I love to read them.
    I without a doubt LOVED this book and so glad I got the chance to read it early…though it just makes the wait for the 2nd book that much longer.
    I thought the romance mixed with the awesome fighting scenes and the wonderful blend of characters was perfectly balanced. Ellie and Will played off each others personalities perfectly like you said. I loved Will so much and I will never forget the scene towards the end on the roof… it was so good, left me breathless! And yes, even though he's still chained to your bed….I'll always be swooning over Will!!
    Awesome Review!!

  3. LOVE this book! I so cannot wait til the sequel!

  4. *moan* WANT. I'm so desperate for this book, I canNOT wait for February!
    (If you feel like passing along your ARC...:P)

  5. I loved reading your review and I was like "Yes" this must be coming out soon then I scrolled to the bottom and realized it not out for another month lol!!! Well I must keep myself busy until then!!

  6. I'm so excited for the release of this one. Great review!

  7. man i cant wait for this! i have been looking forward to it for so long now! and you have confirmed that i must get it as soon as it comes out!