Wm's Reviews > In the Company of Angels

In the Company of Angels by David Farland
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's review
Mar 06, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, mormon, whitney-award-finalists, wm-reads-lds-genre-novels

Note: this is one of the novels I'm reading as a voter for the Whitney Awards. My rating and review may or may not be indicative of how I will cast my vote.

I didn't know what to expect going in. The later books don't do much for me, but the first three books in Farland's Runelords series are quite good so I know he is a good writer. But how would he approach historical fiction? And, more importantly, how would he handle Mormon historical fiction.

Very well, as it turns out. This is a tragic tale, and Farland doesn't avoid the messiness of the situation. But neither does he try too hard to assign blame. Certainly, it's sympathetic to Mormonism, but it's not rank apologetics or sugar coating either. Which is probably why he ended up self-publishing the novel. In fact, he plays things straight -- the mistakes, the hypocrisy, the stubbornness, the fear, the death, the camaraderie, the faith, the differences in opinion, the sermons, the hardships, the miracles. And unlike Gerald Lund in Tthe Undaunted, he doesn't force the narrative -- he propels the story along. Incidentally, Jens Nielsen, one of the characters in In The Company of Angels also shows up in The Undaunted.

And then after the narrative is done, Farland provides a coda that includes a candid look at blame (there is plenty to go around, but as Farland notes, the biggest issue was simple ignorance of body chemistry -- the handcart pioneers were burning way more calories than they were consuming even when food was somewhat plentiful), quick summaries of the rest of the lives of some of the characters and a chapter by chapter look at what is historical and what he made up. It's the right approach, in my opinion.

I have not read much Mormon historical fiction, but this is easily the best example of that genre I've read so far.

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