Wednesday, 8 August 2012

‘Blood and Feathers’ – Lou Morgan (Solaris)

Now here’s a book that got a lot of people excited when Solaris announced that it was on its way, me included if I’m being honest. Well, I did get excited but then I stopped to think for a bit and all of a sudden I wasn’t really that excited anymore.
I mean… angels? Everyone knows that angels in Urban Fantasy are just the latest attempt to come up with a different species that does exactly the same thing as vampires and werewolves (and even zombies) have been doing ever since Kelley Armstrong and Laurell K. Hamilton started their series. Did you notice the subtle appearance of ‘Angelic Urban Fantasy’ around about the time that the ‘Twilight’ books were in full swing? I did and it didn’t leave me hoping for much here.

The book still piqued my interest though and it was a Solaris book after all. If I can rely on Solaris for one thing it’s that their Urban Fantasy doesn’t follow the usual lines so I had to give it a shot. I’m really glad that I did. It only took a few pages for ‘Blood and Feathers’ to dispel my fears and it just got better the further along it went. If you’re feeling a little jaded with Urban Fantasy then I highly recommend you pick up ‘Blood and Feathers’ for a read. I think it will be just the tonic that you need.

Blurb copied and pasted, from elsewhere, today. I’ve got about an hour and a half to post this before Hope wakes up from her nap… :o)

Alice isn't having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grand-scale worse. The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. the angels must act to restore the balance - or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory - a disgraced angel with a drinking problem - alice will learn the truth about her own history... and why the angels want to send her to hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn't just hell's demons that Alice will have to defeat...

A book that opens with a giant mouth in someone’s front garden and a man being killed by his own house. If that doesn’t get you interested then I genuinely don’t know what else to say. This is what you can expect from ‘Blood and Feathers’, a dark and compelling read that promises great things for future books. I actually wish it was August 2013 already so I could be reading the next instalment ‘Rebellion’. You’ll feel the same as well once you’ve finished reading.

I’ve just mentioned the impressive hook that Morgan uses to get you reading more and more. Not only is there a mystery to be solved here there are several other, smaller, mysteries tied up in it, all waiting to be solved. In that respect everything is paced almost perfectly; just as you think you’re getting the whole picture you find more pieces of the puzzle that need to be fitted together. The onslaught of angel names made it a little difficult for me to follow at times but it’s worth sticking with for the moment at the end when Morgan hits you with the answers and at least one surprise that I never saw coming.

I wasn’t sure though that Alice was the best person to be taking us through the plot though, at least to start off with. Our heroine knows so little about her origins that her awe, at this new world, can sometimes get in the way. We’re dealing with how she feels about it all, not what is actually happening. The plot isn’t stifled so much as slightly obscured by this but this does change as soon as Alice starts to accept her situation. This is when Morgan starts to throw some really nasty stuff at Alice (a trip into Hell is only the half of it) and she grows a lot in a short space of time. I’ve got a feeling this will continue in ‘Rebellion’, I really hope so.

The war between Heaven and Hell is a ruthless affair and this is made very clear in the frontline soldiers that Morgan sets against one another. There’s no time for romance with civilians here; the angels in particular are so far above humanity that the concept would be alien to them even if they weren’t fighting all the time (something that really makes them stand out on the page). And what a fight… We’re looking at a cold war here that occasionally bursts into life with a vicious heat. No punches are pulled (and I’m thinking of the final chapters here) and there is also a lot of politicking going on in the background. The battle lines may look clear but the cold-bloodedness of the angels leaves you in no doubt that we are the last thing on their minds. There are hidden agendas at play here that I can’t wait to see come to fruition.

So, a debut novel that suffers from a character that is perhaps a little too ‘new’ to be a truly effective narrative voice. When you balance that against the rest of the book though… You can’t really complain too much. ‘Blood and Feathers’ is an awesome read that will have you eagerly awaiting the sequel, just like me.

Nine out of Ten

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