Friday, February 21, 2014

World After (Penryn & The End of Days #2) by Susan Ee

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In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what's left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.
Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

Being that I'd originally read and written the review for Angelfall two Christmases ago, (I had posted it until yesterday), I’d forgotten how chaotic and devastating those final moments were. World After picks up from there with Penryn separated from Raffe. She’s wondering how he’s coping and he most likely believes she’s dead. She doesn’t have the luxury to dwell on him so much as she still has to look after her hapless mother and unrecognizable sister and lead them to safety.

This is a terrifying world where people are left to their own devices to survive. Penryn is working so hard to keep it together in this harsh reality especially in the face of her mother’s insults and her sister’s plight. Paige is almost unrecognizable physically thanks to some graphic experiments that the angels performed on her. Penryn has become fiercer about protecting her sister even though she can’t quite bring herself to accept what Paige is transforming into. It’s easy to forget that Penryn is merely a seventeen- old child who needs to be taken care of herself. She is in constant survival mode with every movement is calculated. It also doesn’t help that people seem to believe that she’s some sort of savior who can rescue them. All she wants to do is take care of her family but she is always at that fork in the road where she has to decide if she’s just going to watch her back or be the good Samaritan.

Raffe and Penryn aren’t even together for most of the book except through “flashbacks” provided by Raffe’s sword that’s now in Penryn’s safekeeping. The sword not only provides Penryn with insight into Raffe’s mindset, it also keeps him close to her. She has to admit that she feels something for him and she almost admonishes herself for having a crush on someone – an archangel no less – when there is so much more at stake during this troublesome time.

It’s once Raffe and Penryn finally see each other  that the sparks go wild. Everything is said in a single stare as everything comes to a standstill. I was so thrilled that I was applauding their reunion! It’s also when they finally encounter each other that the weight she carries is truly felt. As they’re escaping a party gone terribly wrong, (what do you expect with out-of-control angels?), Penryn allows herself this one time to be someone in need of rescue. It’s her moment to have a break:

“But for now, for just this moment, I let myself be a seventeen-year-old girl in a strong guy’s arms. I even let some of the what-ifs seep in, the kind of possibilities that might have blossomed between us in the World Before. Just for a little while. Before I carefully fold my dreams away into the vault in my head.”

It's quite sad whenever she refers to life as either the World Before or World After. That sense of hopelessness and loss rings so loudly. She doesn't want to be a hero, she just wants to be a teenager. And when Raffe comes back into the picture, we get a few glimpses of what that teenager may be like. With him around, she regains her sense of humor and it’s nice to see her be playful side even if for a fleeting second. They clearly mean something to each other but neither is willing to reveal too much. In fact, their relationship status could say “it’s complicated” and it would be the truth.

World After is masterfully written. I am in awe of this tragic and complex world featuring our annihilated planet at the whim and mercy of intricate angel politics. Some characters are complete live-wires ready to snap, others are on the cusp of insanity and the rest are simply toiling away, lost and broken. Penryn and Raffe are unlikely partners in this war to regain a home and a future. By the end, Susan Ee does it again with an astonishing cliffhanger that left me clutching at all the mad ideas in my head as to what’s going to happen next. 

~ Bel

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