Thursday, April 7

Breath of Angel - a review

Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley

After witnessing a terrible murder, Melaia, a young priestess, is suddenly thrust into a supernatural struggle.  Beings once thought to be legends are revealed to be truth.  Immortal men.  Angels.  Shape Shifters.  Malevolents.  There is an ancient blood feud between two immortal brothers which came about after the destruction of a only path from earth to heaven.  With the stairway destroyed, angels are trapped on earth, dragged into this feud.  The angels seek to restore the stairway, but do so a debt must first be repaid.  After being dragged into the story, it soon becomes clear that Melaia will play a role in the restoration – she’s just not sure how.

Breath of Angel is the latest book to enter into the Young Adult/Teen fantasy fiction market, especially in trying to appeal to fans of the Twilight Saga.  It’s not a vampire story (thankfully), but its target audience seems to be teenage females.

I am not a teenage female.

So why did I read it?  Well, I didn’t realize the target audience when I ordered it.  Also, I do love a good fantasy story.  If a story is well told and the characters are engaging, I don’t care as much what the target audience is.   However, Breath of Angel just didn’t work for me.

One: I didn’t connect with the main character at all, she didn’t seem relatable.  Some of the most famous Fantasy heroes start off as simple people.  They are living an ordinary life, nothing out of the ordinary happening before they are whisked away to their adventure, a whole new world opening before them.  Luke Skywalker was a farmer working for his Uncle.  Same for Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle.  Even in Twilight, Bella is an ordinary girl before being opened up to the world of vampires (And yes, I have read all four Twilight novels so when I reference it I know what I’m talking about). 

In Breath of Angel, Malaia is a priestess.  Specifically she is a chantress, similar to a bard in many stories.  She’s also an orphan.  She also has the ability to see the spirit’s of people near death and through singing can sometimes offer enough healing to keep them alive.  What part of this is ordinary?  Sure, Harry Potter did some strange stuff before the world of wizards was open to him, but even he thought it was weird.  He still wanted to place himself in his regular, ordinary world.    Being introduced to a character such as Melaia where they are already aware of and use some of their strange gifts makes them hard to fully relate to.

Two:  I did not get a firm grasp of the setting.  Besides the generic plains, forests, and castles, there isn’t much that differentiates this world from others.  How is this any different than medieval Britain?  Is it supposed to be?  I had no idea if it was supposed to be a fantastical representation of a real world, or if it was supposed to a brand new location, like Middle Earth.  Descriptions of locations were weak and hard to connect to.

Third: This was the first book in a series.  Though the ending didn’t resolve anything major, I can’t imagine the story needing more than a total of two books to complete.  Given that the book was under 300 pages, I would rather see this book lengthened (to near 400 pages) and have the story contained in one book instead of spread through multiple.  Maybe the author has some tricks up her sleeves, but I don’t know.

In reading fantasy, if I cannot connect to any (or all!) of those two elements, I cannot fully engage the story.

So in all of this, were there any good elements?  Sure.

We are instantly thrust into the story.  We aren’t subjected to pages and pages of exposition at the beginning.  Instead, we meet Melaia as she meets an injured man near the temple.  Shortly after that he is murdered by man who can shape shift into a hawk.  From there Karyn keeps the story moving at a relatively fast pace.

With this fast pace, Karyn is careful to not let the audience get bored.  Though I think sometimes the story went too quickly, I’m glad it didn’t slow either.  I never knew what to expect from the story since things were constantly changing.

For a fantasy story from a Christian publisher, I was extremely worried cheesy elements of faith would be forced into the story (especially since it contains Angels).  I am pleased to say this is not the case.  Though there are small elements revealing Karyn is a Christian, the book is not didactic and did not carry cliché spiritual metaphors.

Even though I did care for the book and had trouble with the main character, I do think those within the target audience will enjoy the story.  It is a welcome break from vampire lore and though small elements of romance appear it is not the main theme nor is it sappy.  Rather, it is the tale of a girl thrust into a world much stranger than she ever expected.  But it is definitely a far step from modern favorites such as Harry Potter, Eragon, and even Twilight.

2/5 stars

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I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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