It’s the eve of his eighteenth birthday and Aaron is experiencing dreams of a disturbing nature. In the darkly violent and chaotic dreamscape, Aaron is an armor-clad warrior in the midst of a bloody conflict. He can hear the sounds of weapons clanging, the screams of the stricken, the pathetic moans of the dying, and another sound he cannot quite discern. But as he gazes upward, he suddenly understands, watching as hundreds of armored warriors descend on the battlefield from the sky above. It is the sound of wings beating the air unmercifully. The flapping of angels’ wings.
As once I read somewhere, there is actually no place in the Bible where angels are described as beautiful, peaceful guardians hovering protectively over children. The first feature story I wrote involved – among other stuff – some street art guys and a stenciled angel. Since then I started to secretly sneak in every feature story the word “angel”. It was a sort of a hidden trademark. And it was a funny playing, too. Anyway, I don’t love angels as heavenly creatures. I love angels as concept. And I love getting book recommendations from friends because they bring stories I wouldn’t have otherwise known about to my immediate attention. Case and point – I hadn’t heard about Sniegoski’s The Fallen until a blog brought it to mine. The story is about Aaron, who discovers he’s a Nephilim — the child of a mortal woman and an angel (fact of the matter is, biblical is not too far from the truth of things).
As a reader, I haven’t really come across that many stories wherein the hero is of angelic origin. Most of the ones I have and remember reading were from well back in the 90’s, when the trend for angels back then were mostly of guardian-angel ilk. The Fallen is not that. As once I read somewhere, there is actually no place in the Bible where angels are described as beautiful, peaceful guardians hovering protectively over children. What they are described as are Messengers, and the most memorable appearances where they make their appearances are those where the places they go to find themselves dealing with either death or destruction. In the Old Testament, the final plague that God sent was the death to the all the firstborn in houses unmarked by those who knew that the final plague was coming. If you’ve ever seen Disney’s the Prince of Egypt, pay close attention to the light that starts up in the sky and then runs through the city like a mad wind with a mind of its own. Yup, you got it: Angel. Pretty heavy, I know, but I think that’s what drew me into the story most of all. The conflict between Good, Evil and the gray areas found in between is a theme that crops up in a lot of stories. Sniegoski’s The Fallen understands this trope and ties his hero’s story with that of the Fall, when rebel angels took up arms against the All Father, lost in the war and were consequently banished from Heaven.
Perhaps we can say that this is a story about Choice, and Aaron, as the main character, serves as the medium by which we, the readers, find ourselves considering questions like: What is Good? For that matter, what is Evil? Is it as simple as telling black from white, because then, what about the various gradations of gray that lie in-between? Is it possible that something good could end up serving evil as well? If one is good, does that mean they are completely immune to doing evil? Well, don’t look at me. I don’t have the answers — but if you’d like to talk it over a cup of coffee, chocolate or tea, let me know and we’ll set something up.
Sniegoski’s characters are strong, distinct and memorable, and whether they be the (percieved) good guys or the (again, percieved) bad guys there is something in them that makes you — or well, me, as a reader, want to understand more. There is Gabriel the dog, who worms his way into your heart with little to no effort at all, and then Camael, the uptight, former leader of the Powers who develops a rather endearing addiction to french fries. There is Verchiel, current leader of the Powers – devoted to the Creator, singly-focused on ensuring the eradication of every Niphilim in existence as they are a stain in the Almighty’s Plan. There is Vilma Santiago, clearly Aaron’s love-interest, who I have to wonder what role she’ll play given that there are two more books to go. And then there is the Morningstar — yup, that Morningstar. But I won’t elaborate on that. After all, the point of this review is to get you guys to hunt up the books and read as I did.
The Fallen is a read that will have you turning pages and running through chapters until you hit the back cover and either (a) be incredibly glad that you are lucky enough to have the last two books sitting, unopened on your shelf, or (b) you could be like me, going through each and every bookstore in the city, frustrated that all current copies of these books are ridiculously unavailable. I finished the book in two days (not for want of putting it down, but I also have to sleep), and this is not because the writing is complicated, because it is anything but. If you’re a fan of any sort of mythology or books that springboard from mythology, you will definitely enjoy this read. If you aren’t, I am totally willing to take the blame for any interest sparked; And finally, if you’re a fan of strong character-driven writing balanced with a plot that makes you want to guess, this is definitely worth the read.