Wings of the Wicked is book two in the Angelfire series by Courtney Allison Moulton. If you read my review of Angelfire, you'll know I wasn't a big fan of that book. In general, I actually liked the overall concept of the series, but a lot of the choices and the writing style just didn't connect with me. I went into Wings of the Wicked hoping for the best. I wanted to like the book, the characters, and hoped that the writing had improved. All of that did happen, to an extent.
Let me start with what didn't work for me with Angelfire and still doesn't work in Wings of the Wicked. The demonic Reapers. They're just not frightening. When they pop up from the Grim, slobbering, screeching and basically announcing their arrival by saying things such as "Come out and play!", I laugh. Funny = not scary. I will admit, the demons towards the end of the book do pack more of a punch, but nothing that will keep me up at night.
Another issue I had with book one was the problem of showing vs. telling. Every time Ellie "felt" any strong emotion, no matter how devastating, romantic, frightened, I only knew because I was told she felt that way. The author did a better job of conveying the emotions of the characters, especially during a part in which Ellie experiences a catastrophic loss, but still, it could have been so much better. For example, she mentions that Will says something "in that way of his that turned my insides to jelly" as if I know what she means. But, I don't. Show me the effect it has on you, how it makes you feel. Don't just tell me that it creates that response in you, because I'm not going to simply take your word for it. Here is another example of a lost opportunity: in the beginning of the book, Will introduces Ellie to Marcus, another "good" Reaper she knew in past lives. Instead of Ellie sharing a flash of memory or a burst of emotion tied to her past, she simply mentions how his face is familiar, that she has a flood of memories and that Marcus is her friend, simple as that. Later she is hesitant to take Marcus out with her friends because she knew "how rowdy Marcus could get", as if I know what she's talking about. Give me a snippet of a memory to go along with the observations. I can't become fully vested if I'm not involved in the important aspects of the story.
In my review of Angelfire I mentioned that the revelation of Ellie's true nature really bothered me. Guess what? It still does, a lot. Without giving it away, I'll say that it's just weird. Surely there was a way to make Ellie unobtainable and fearsome and place a huge block between her and Will without going "there". What Ellie really is is a hard pill for me to swallow. I get that the author is probably trying to make the stakes very, very high, which would make a payoff at the end of the series extremely satisfying. But this hurdle seems impossible without a lot of backtracking or no happy resolution. Maybe I will be forced to eat my words with the series conclusion. I actually hope so, believe it or not.
I spent a good bit of time during Wings of the Wicked, as I did during Angelfire, re-reading lines and paragraphs to make sure that I understood what I had just read. Some of the lines felt redundant, saying the same thing but in a different way. For example: "I need to have a normal life on top of all this. I need some kind of normalcy" (pg 48, ARC) . It's not necessary and makes the book way longer than it needed to be. Another example, not necessary (and redundant), are passages like this:
"Some part of me believed him when he said he'd never eaten a human before. It was hard to imagine a boy that hot eating people, and eating people was just all kinds of wrong." (pg 32, ARC)
Now for my last gripe, I promise. I think, based on what I've seen other people say, and from a few spots in the book, that Wings of the Wicked is supposed to contain a love triangle. Will loves Ellie, and Ellie loves Will. But Cadan also loves Ellie, or so he says. Cadan had such a small impact on me in Angelfire that I never mentioned him in my review. He plays a larger role in this book, but not much. I don't know offhand how many scenes he has (five, maybe six?), and they are short portions of time, but in that small bit, he has fallen hopelessly in love with Ellie and will love her until he dies. The love he has for Ellie causes him to make a few great choices that do change the course of the story, but I just didn't get where the undying love came from.
Alright, now for what I did like. I did admire the fact that though Ellie is deeply in love with Will, she intends to remain her own person with her own identity separate from him. She doesn't give up her friends, family, or school life (including the PROM! Yay!). Having said that, I'm just going to pretend that the fact she hangs out with humans puts them all in the same danger she faces every day. Anyway, I admire that about the character, because so many heroines give an outside life up at the first sign of true love.
Speaking of true love, I do love Ellie and Will. But I'm not going to lie, that's mainly due to Will. He is honorable, respectful, and brave; but also kind, self-sacrificing, and hot, carrying himself with a certain princely charm. I am sort of smitten with Will and hate that he must endure the many challenges he faces, like Ellie's mood swings, not to mention almost certain death at any moment.
The action sequences. They simply kicked butt. When other portions of the story seemed to drag for me, the fights woke me up and got my heart pumping. I know I said the demonic Reapers aren't scary, and they aren't. But the way Ellie and Will fight them is so fierce. That girl has a wicked way with a sword!
When I sit here and try to sift through my thoughts of Wings of the Wicked, I'm very conflicted. It was a definite improvement on Angelfire, that's for sure. There were several things about it that bothered me, such as some of the writing and choices. For a large portion of the book, I could have set it down and left it, without a moment's bother. But the last half of the book, the last two hundred pages or so, I found myself very interested in the outcome. I'm still not sure if it's because I was truly enjoying it or because I had invested so much time that I wanted to see the story through. But I was reading, and I actually cared. So that in itself says something about Wings of the Wicked.
"He really was terrified, as if the most frightening reaper on the planet was no scarier than a mouse, and yet put him in a tux and it was the Apocalypse." (pg. 492, ARC)
* I received an ARC of Wings of the Wicked from Harper Teen, in exchange for an honest review. *show more
by Andrea Thompson