Posted on May 7, 2007 by Flames
Written by Faith Hunter
Within the realm of post-apocalyptic novels and settings, there are books that inject religion into fire and brimstone and then there are those that fast-forward into a totalitarian, bleak, hungry future where hope is a luxury. In the realm of Seraphs, the main character, Thorn St. Croix, lives in a world that is somewhere in between. Angels, demons, neo-mages (advanced humans that lack souls), and biology are all at play in an ice age following a biblically-inspired apocalypse.
Seraphs is the second book in a series of three good vs evil stories; the main plot is fairly solid and as a nice surprise—you can pick up this book without reading the first one. Thorn deals with the consequences of her actions from the first novel Bloodring, the animosity of “humans” toward her, and is caught up in a chain of events that lead deep under the mountains. The plot isn’t what makes or breaks this novel; in order to understand the book’s merits and flaws, you need to take a closer look at the main character within this setting and her supporting cast.
Thorn’s character is a neomage, a race of human mistakes who survived three, separate biblical plagues in the womb during the apocalypse and are born without a soul. Physically, they are lighter and more fragile, but are attuned to elemental (or God) power. Thorn has the ability to work magics with stones; there are many instances where she does something that “isn’t supposed to happen” because she “wasn’t trained” and “doesn’t know the rules.” In other words, Thorn is pretty freaking powerful for a character that supposedly has no idea what she is doing. Unlike other Mary Sue characters, however, Hunter does try to inject a sense of reality by exploiting her emotional flaws and placing her within a realistic, alienating small town.
Much of Thorn’s supporting cast is loyal, brave, and sometimes complicated. Characters like Auric have their own secrets; humans like Rupert are fearless, knowingly throwing their lives at risk in the war between good and evil. Some mysteries ebb and flow throughout the book, like the character of Lolo and the organization of EIH.
Before reviewing any book, I always read the back cover and the inserts so I can gauge what genre the book I’m reading falls into. After reading the tell-all back cover and taking a peek at the front cover, I believed this to be a post-apocalyptic story mired in Revelations. In reality, Seraphs is a book that should be classified as paranormal romance, not post-apocalyptic. Since I’ve read non-romance novels that have mentioned succubae (of course the twist there was that they fed on energy, not souls), it didn’t occur to me that this was a story based on sexual tension. Simply, there was more “sex” and “promises of sex” in this book than there were in the last paranormal romance novel I read—and that book claimed to be one. Built into the setting, uncontrollable, sexual urges on the part of neo-mages and angels alike are hard-wired into the “suspense” and “biology” of the setting. The dark forces use horrifying breeding programs; Thorn’s sexuality is a primary theme throughout the novel, driving the suspense to cause you to wonder when (and where) she’ll lose her self-control.
While sex in itself is not an unsavory topic for any book, nor is it something to feel prudish about, I was disappointed by its discovery. Here was a really great, unusual story written by a female author. Here was a real, tangible setting that played with religious taboos, idioms, and beliefs and made angels real. Here still is this powerful, base human instinct that surpasses all sense of reason in beings that are decidedly not human. There is so much story here, so much potential for a mystery surrounded by controversial religious myth that the sex is not only a distraction, it simply blackens out what this story could have been without it. However, if I had known that Seraphs was a supernatural romance novel, I would have approached the work much differently.
Mechanically, the writing is visual and punchy; Hunter uses good word conservation and doesn’t blather on for extended periods of time about one topic or another. Parts of this book could have been longer; Lolo is confusing because she is a character that waits-in-the-wings for much of the work but is referenced at important points in the book. I would have also kept the entire work first person; letting the mystery unfold through subtle clues would have added another layer of suspense—one that could work with the tone of the work. The ending came too quickly, and I would have preferred a much, different way to go about it; without giving too much away, let’s just say that there are temporal shifts and other things at play that are very confusing, uber-powerful, and unnecessary. Because there are no other neo-mages present within this book, it is hard to get a sense of scale who or what Thorn is. When you find things out about her, because you have little examples to go on, revelations about her character aren’t as shocking as they should be.
If you like paranormal romances, then Seraphs will entertain you, provided you want to be enthralled by the tease of power, both sexual and magical. If you like post-apocalyptic works, then read Seraphs for its setting. Simply, this book has different things to offer to different readers, and even though paranormal romance is not my preferred book of choice, it may be yours.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli