Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Favorite Reads: Archangel

my favorite reads button

My Favorite Reads is a meme hosted by Alyce from At Home With Books.  You simply blog about books you read and loved before you started book blogging!

The book I chose this week fits into the theme I've set for the month, angels.  It's not only one of my favorite books, but the standard by which I measure all books about angels.

The book:  Archangel by Sharon Shinn

archangel cover

Archangel takes place in another world called Samaria.  There, humans live with angels in a bit of an uneasy partnership:  angels are the governing body, more or less, and since their songs and prayers to Jovah keep Samaria running--bringing water, sunshine, even manna from heaven if they ask for it--humanity is fairly reliant upon them.  And the angels in turn generally feel pretty superior.

The highest-ranking angel in all of Samaria is the Archangel.  As the book opens, the young Gabriel is preparing to take over this post from his predecessor, Raphael.  He knows that in order to rule he must find his Angelica, the human woman (angels are only allowed to marry humans) destined to be his wife.  And when I say destined, I mean Jovah's got his hands all over this world:  most people in Samaria have stones inbedded into their arms at birth that flare when they meet the man or woman they're supposed to marry.

Unfortunately for Gabriel, his Angelica, Rachel, is not inclined to be singing to save the planet or making babies with one who is winged.  In point of fact, she's a slave.  Yes I know--you would think a world ruled by angels would be utopic, but it's not.  There's a nomadic race on Samaria that is considered fair game for slave traders.  The angels look the other way because the nomads don't rely on them to sing prayers--they sing their own prayers, and the angels kind of hate them for it.  Rachel's entire tribe was wiped out in a raid, and now she's a slave in a wealthy household.  And she remembers it was angels that attacked her tribe.  So girl's got some issues.

Nevertheless, Gabriel carries her off to his aerie, and Rachel tries to train for the changing-of-the-archangel ceremony on the Plain of Jordan and learn how to fit into the angelic community.  And she also gets to know her husband, sexy sexy Gabriel.  Yum.  With the wings and the shirtlessness, and the dark looks and leather pants (because angels HAVE to wear leather pants, that's like a rule or something...).

What I love most about this book is the absolute believability of the characters and the setting of Samaria.  I can see most of the locations in my mind--to this day--as if I'd visited them myself.  Shinn really does a great job of transporting you to another world as you read the book.  Rachel and Gabriel I got to know as if they were friends, but even the secondary characters are wonderful.  I was totally pissed when the second book in this series didn't take up where this one left off so I could find out what happened to them after laying awake for nights on end wondering.

Plus, the music--this novel bleeds music.  At the aerie, there's someone singing constantly, and the angels live and breathe music.  Being able to sing is also a pivotal part of Rachel's personality and how she heals herself emotionally from the trauma of being a slave and seeing all her family and friends murdered.  I can't imagine reading this book without mentally trying to set it to music.

Archangel is a brilliantly written novel that has all the themes I love to read about--not just love (I did mention this was a love story, right?), but equality and freedom and even the importance of faith.  I can't recommend it enough.

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