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Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
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it was ok
Recommended for: Buffy fans, Final Fantasy VII phallic sword fangirls

Honestly, it sounds a bit too much like Buffy for comfort, except Giles is a hot guy with a Cloud-strife-esque buster sword.

Still, I'll take a look.

ETA: READ IT. Okay, here's my non-spoilery review.

A good effort. Which seems patronizing, but really, after struggling through the whole thing that's the only compliment I can really muster.

I mean, she certainly writes action 'well' - and by 'well' I mean, you can clearly visualize what's happening, except it feels more like dancing while counting in your head (and one and two and three) then really letting the passion flow out of the writing. I think part of that had to do with the fact that a lot of the fights felt like fights for the sake of fights (more on that later) than something moving and intrinsically tied to the emotional and narrative plot. Still, good, clear fight scenes.

The idea is pretty interesting too, though let's be honest: we're only calling this 'unique' because it's decidedly different than Twilight (plotwise anyway) and now and days so much paranormal YA feels like an endless simulacrum, so when you find a book that 'goes against the grain' (and again, in the slightest of ways), you take notice. But if you've watched Buffy, this isn't any different. Stop me if you've heard this one: girl demon-fighter chosen one reincarnated again and again to keep fighting those demons. Only she can defend the world against yadda yadda. And there's the guy devoted to watch - er - protect her. Except, unlike Giles, he's young and hot (okay Giles was hot but...) and carries a 6 foot sword, only, I'm guessing, because the author is most likely an embarrassing FF7 fangirl whose been taught by Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth that guys with really long phallic weapons are hot (and really, they are and it is. Can't fault her on that).

I mean, it has the potential to be interesting, but I've just seen it all before. Still, even with a pretty well-trodden premise, a great writer could twist it into something really compelling. But that's the problem. Moulton put in a great effort, but she's just not a great writer. Not yet anyway. She's decent. But her writing style is lacking and unfortunately clearly shows her lack of technique/writing sophistication.

So much exposition in the Q+A style with Ellie asking stupid questions that someone in her position, in the current situation that she's in (after just discovering her powers for example) would not ask. Certain question that I felt the author just threw in there just so the readers would have this bit of info. Sometimes it wasn't even important to know. And trust me, there are much better ways to introduce interesting plot elements than just *random fight* "Hey Will? *asks question*" "Well Ellie, *answers*". Some of the exchanges between the two are just so laughably ridiculous you just can't imagine a regular person reacting the way Ellie does in the situations she's in. And you can tell this is just awkward maneuvering by the author to make sure we know some piece of information, or to set up for a joke that she really want to put in there. When you stop seeing the story and start seeing the strings, you know the author's doing something wrong.

The fights were also, though clear, slightly annoying. Like I've read in another review, there's a difference between action and adventure. Adventure has the action, that is actually important to the plot, moving it along in different and interesting ways. Action is just the random fighting that happens. And you get that a lot. Fights that happen in the middle of Ellie/Will's 'date' or something just to spice up the narrative, and to give the characters an excuse to angst over each other in-battle. It's like the random fights in an old school J-RPG. Walk walk walk OMG FIGHT then walk walk walk on to the next plot point.

And the writing. That's the biggest issue here: the style of it. Honestly, the writing was extremely flat line. The author seems to be able to convey teens pretty well, except there's so little personality in her writing, it barely ever really comes out. This is even more of a problem when the book's in first person. First person narratives ESPECIALLY need a great, engaging voice, and some of the sentences are so clunky, so dull and heavy-handed, it was tough just to keep reading. The very opening of the book was where I realized I'd run into problems with this. Boring. No flare, nothing engaging, nothing to stir the reader's interest, to get the juices flowing. Just: Ellie is in school. Class ends. She gets paper. HUH? Really? Isn't the first rule of writing to hook the reader from the get go? It doesn't have to be flashy, but think about the great books out there, the evocative setting, voice, something *interesting* happening that reveals something about who the character is, and this was just so balls out dull I almost put it down right there. I mean, don't agents and editors WARN writers about that type of stuff? It's like, every conference, that's what you hear. Opening pages, opening pages. What happened?

Look, I know that at least in terms of paranormal Young adult lit, the standards are decidedly lower. You can hate on me for saying that, but with some of the crap coming out, it's true. It's become so corporate and commercialized, it's really about trying to hit certain points that Twilight proved will absolutely bring in the target audience (romantic wangst, monsters, special heroines, hot boys etc). Not to say that Angelfire is Twilight level. You can tell the author was really trying to do something more with it. But because standards for paranormal YA have dropped so low and fangirls have become increasingly easier to please, hitting those points become far more important than the writing and execution. That's why I suspect this will get a sizable following. And really, I feel like that's become the main marker of success for YA novels.

But the fact remains that in the hands of a more experienced and sophisticated writer, this book could have been a lot more than it was. The premise is interesting enough to bring in the readers and, again, it does indeed hit all those 'young adult paranormal' points. But the writing and execution of it was just so juvenile, I can't in good conscious give it more then a 2.5. Maybe 2.8. It's nearing a 3, but just not quite good enough to get there. I'd say, if this was a story I found on or one of those sites where amateur writers post up their original fiction, and if I read it, I'd give it an enthusiastic review saying something like, "This is great! You need to work on A, B, and C, but if you keep writing and working on your craft, you'll definitely be good enough to get published one day! Keep it up!" Because that's exactly what this story read like: a decent but ultimately flawed manuscript written by someone with talent, but who just ultimately isn't ready to get published yet. And yet is IS - hence the low marks.

Again, I'll probably get tons of 'unhelpful' reviews on this, though let's face it, the 'unhelpful' or 'helpful' buttons are fairly pointless, used by fangirls/anti-fangirls/the author to hate on reviews that don't immediately agree with whatever opinion the button-presser has about the book. Still, this is just my honest review. It's just not a decent enough book for me to honestly recommend it to anyone other than those who already have pretty low standards when it comes to books. Especially those for whom YA supernatural lit represents the pinnacle of literature.

PS - Strong heroine? Let's get this straight. Simply being able to fight doesn't automatically make a female character 'strong'. Particularly when she seems revel in being protected by the Hot Nice Guy who we know is a Nice Guy (ie) syndrome) because of his numerous (and fairly self-indulgent, not to mention creepy for a NUMBER of reasons) displays of 'noble' self-sacrifice. I really wish authors would realize that it takes more than a sharp weapon to make your heroine impressive.
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Reading Progress

June 13, 2010 – Shelved
February 3, 2011 – Started Reading
February 15, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Crowinator This is a great review and a very fair criticism of the author's writing -- I think she will improve over time, too, but this definitely felt amateurish. I'm still working on my review (so slow, I know) but I agree with everything you say here, especially your point about how Ellie isn't exactly a strong heroine just because by the end of the book she can beat up some reapers without Will saving her butt every two seconds.

Camilla I absolutely agree with your review. I just wish the people at the publishing house would be more frank and open minded as you to criticize most of the work that is being published, otherwise we wouldn't have such crappy books.

message 3: by Kiki (last edited Aug 17, 2011 08:15PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kiki So so so true. I love your review. It's perfect.

(Especially your little PS. Just...thank you.)

message 4: by Cory (new)

Cory I dunno. I liked Twilight more than this. And, IMO, Twilight was pretty bad. But at least it wasn't littered with clunky prose. Meyer only overdosed on with her purple prose. And she was awfully repetitive. This was a painful read. Nor would I say it's more original than Twilight either. It's just kind of meh. I've seen Blood +, and Bleach, and I've heard about Buffy. I feel like her prose is on par with LJ Smith's. They both have interesting ideas, but their characters and prose are sub-par.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

being a FF7 fangirl myself, doesn't necesarrily mean that this book was good. it's bad and bad and gets even worse. Like, please. Ugh. Good review though :D

message 6: by Vi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Vi Vi Thanks :)

It's a damn shame, because when I first heard about this book I was stupidly excited. The writing didn't live up to the premise. As per usual in YA.

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