Title: Wings of the Wicked
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Teagan Books
Series: Angelfire #2
Other Reviews for This Author: Angelfire
Sometimes, you read the first novel in a series, adore it, and then wait way too long to read the next novel. Angelfire was a fabulous debut novel in many respects - it was a large novel that read quickly, which is no small accomplishment, and it had well-written action sequences and pieces of mythology that pulled me in as a reader. The writing felt immature, but there was so much to enjoy about the novel that nothing else mattered. So, why did I wait to read the second book in the series? No idea. I have a perpetual fear of a good series going bad, so I avoid reading the next book subconsciously. This happens frequently. After several months post-release, I got the lady balls to pick up Wings of the Wicked and hope for the best. You know what readers? It totally surpassed my expectations and improved on the first book's issues.
*Note* Here there be spoilers for book one, Angelfire
The past year has seen a monumental change for Ellie's life. She has fought demonic Reapers nightly with swords made from the fire of angels. She has combated darkness and fought Reapers that were close to Lucifer himself. Nothing prepared her for taking on the life of a warrior angel - or her status as the Preliator, a physical incarnation of the archangel Gabriel. Ellie has been destined for great things. Since awakening to her powers over angelfire and the inevitable war with the Reapers, Lucifer's minions, Ellie's world has changed forever. Not only that, but she has started to remember her past lives as the Preliator, including all of the relationships that she fostered within each incarnation. The most important relationship was always with her Guardian, Will.
Ellie's relationship with Will has slowly heated into a passive passion over the centuries. Despite her lack of remembrance of every moment in their history, Ellie knows that Will is her most trusted companion and her friend. Since he came into her life and told her about her Preliator status, he has been there for her at every moment. They can never be together, yet they are closer than ever to admitting just how far their bond has come. Their relationship ebbs and flows as they grapple with their feelings for each other and the brutal consequences that could ensue from acting on them. Will has to watch himself with Ellie more than ever. As darkness wages war on the angels, they both come to understand that death can visit time and time again, separating loved ones and warriors with no care for their feelings.
Since Ellie's first battles as the Preliator, she has gained some ground and gotten into a routine - or as close to a routine as one can get when battling Lucifer's minions. She and Will have mutually attempted to keep their relationship from going too far, not wanting to risk angelic wrath. Calm rarely lasts when working against dark forces. Cadan, a Reaper that, despite Will's initial perceptions, seems to display a level of kindness, has informed Ellie of Reaper plans to uncover an ancient artifact that could spell her demise. Killing the Preliator has happened before, but the delayed reincarnation period would give Lucifer and his minions ample time to take over the world. Ellie now has to use her skills and her angelic friends to the best of her abilities, or else she risks losing the world to Lucifer for good.
The cover model on this book - and the other two book covers in the series - says a lot about the basis for Ellie's character. She may be put in the traditional kick-butt heroine urban fantasy role, but she has a strength and intensity that matches that role. She wields twin swords that can manifest angelfire at her will. She battles demons two to three times her size on a nightly basis. Yet, there is the more traditional teen side to her in the ways of romance and socialization. Her pre-Preliator existence was made up of parties and hanging out with friends, and she has since romanticized it because of her current not-so-normal existence. Since the first book, Ellie's grown into her strengths and displays a lot of the confidence that the cover model displays on her character. She no longer is in the beginner's stage where she has to worry about learning how to defend herself or clamming up in the middle of an important battle. Truly, Ellie is presented as a very strong character. Her weakness for the human part of her life is understandable - who would want to give up what makes them feel like a normal human when they have the weigh of the world on their shoulders? - but can get old at times. Yet there's a definite shift in her perspective about what it means to be human and to keep those she loves safe in this novel. In the first novel, Ellie was more inclined to risk the safety of her human friends and family because of her compulsion to balance her new status as an angelic warrior with her old life as a normal teenage girl. Wings of the Wicked shows growth for her as a character in that she begins to see just how destructive her behavior can be. The maturation that Ellie undergoes in Wings of the Wicked is great, and for many teen readers it will show her progression towards being a more self-sufficient heroine. There's a lot to admire about Ellie. Many of Wings of the Wicked's plot twists are scary things that challenge her deeply as a character. Moulton is not afraid to get her character's emotions contorted and battered. Ellie is shown as being a girl that survives. She takes her life in stride and, while keeping the weakness of her humanity, proves that she can be a tough girl that can overcome a lot of crap.
To say nothing of the other characters would be blasphemy - especially when Moulton has some sexy male ones in Ellie's life (and yes, there are other characters, too.) Will is still a character that readers will swoon over. And swoon. And swoon some more. He's written primarily for swooning. He has an angst factor and definitely isn't happy all of the time, but he cares deeply for Ellie. Moulton has managed to write their relationship in such a way that readers will really understand how the two of them are so close. It's a combination of their past experiences and their guardian/guarded relationship. The downside is that, of the two heroes, Will has much more angst. It makes him Ellie's easy choice, but it also makes the relationship a bit too flip-floppy. There is a lot of hopping back and forth between whether these two should stay together or stay away from each other. There's textual justification that makes a certain amount of sense, but at the same time the reader gets to the point where they just want the characters to man up and make a decision - especially considering how much they like each other and how long their bond has lasted. Despite the focus on Will and Ellie's relationship, Cadan is the male character that really stands out in Wings of the Wicked. Not only does he have the cool vibe that comes with being a male demon/Reaper, but he also gets actual depth. There are times when he's too taken with Ellie for not much of a reason (because the reasoning behind his like for Ellie is not nearly as solid as Will's, which only makes it more obvious that there really isn't any mystery to the love triangle). There are also times when Moulton makes him deep. That is why, at the end of Wings of the Wicked, there was such a strong desire from perspective for Cadan and Ellie to get together. He's a demon and is dark in many ways, but he also has a set of morals and doesn't want the world to be destroyed. He also cares for Ellie and wants to do what will make her happy, even if it means going against his father and Lucifer in order for it to happen. A lot can be said of a character that gains the depth and balance like that - more so when the character, like Cadan, is a character that many would perceive to be purely untrustworthy.
Ellie's other angelic companions are interesting and entertaining, too, but they never get to be memorable like the main characters are. They mainly serve as being useful side characters for battles and information gathering for the advancement of the plot. There isn't anything wrong with them, and the side romances that occur with a few of them are great, but nothing about them stands out to the reader so much. Ditto goes for the human characters, although Ellie's human best friend grows more in this book (even if it's just in personality strength) and becomes much more entertaining. Moulton does best with Ellie's parents as good side characters. Not necessarily because they are around often, but because Moulton makes a very good point to show, in a few scenes, just how pivotal Ellie's relationship with her parents is in the long run of the novel. The reader sees just how strained her home life is under the surface because of how awful her father has become, and the reader also sees just how strong Ellie's mother is. Ellie really gains a new appreciation for her parents in this book, and in some ways it makes up for just how absent they were in the series so far - although the downside is that it comes with emotional baggage for Ellie. Still, a very satisfying set of character growth and advancement that makes the story feel more than an urban fantasy just meant to thrill.
The writing's progression from book one was surprising. Having read both books in ARC form, it was very noticeable that the writing had undergone a raise in maturity between the two novels. Angelfire had an overabundant amount of simplistic phrases that didn't add much to the story from a stylistic point of view. They kept the novel's pacing at top-speed, but the book read to a slightly younger audience because of the phrasing within the text. Wings of the Wicked felt like a step up. It came up to the plate and said, "Hey, I'm going to present this story even better than my prequel did." The sentences felt better constructed. There were more compound and complex sentences, and the writing and exposition took a step forward in terms of establishing itself as a unique voice. The pacing remained high, surprisingly, which just goes to show how the writing matured. The good parts of it stayed strong while the bad parts of it got stronger. Not only that, but Moulton actually managed to tell a lot of story in 500 pages. Some sections were more expository or character-driven than others, but all-in-all there was a lot packed into Wings of the Wicked. A lot of action, too, which helped keep the story from becoming stale. The general construction of everything just felt well done. This is a novel that really does need its page time, and it doesn't make the size seem like something inaccessible to its readers. Large books are hard sells in today's market, and it's even harder to find large books that actually have good pacing. Moulton's action scenes remain my favorite part of the text - she finds the perfect balance between dialogue and fighting, and she manages to make each scene feel tense and surprising. Some of them really ratchet up the book's levels of tension, and the story is never without villains that want to see Ellie gone for good. If there's one downside, it's that the villains have cliched dialogue. It feels like cartoon dialogue. Like a good cartoon, the strong action scenes seem to be coupled with very dramatic phrases spoken by the villains. It didn't ruin the book for me, but it made me roll my eyes a bit and wish that the villains had more to them as characters. It's not something that readers are going to particularly complain about if they are reading the series for the angelic mythology and action, but it will get noticed by readers wanting more from the reading experience.
Wings of the Wicked is a book that will remind readers of just how much they loved the first book. It's a paranormal urban fantasy with a lot of romance, but it ultimately focuses more on the action and fantasy than the heroine's complicated love life. The main characters are solid and the writing underwent a great improvement between books. Some of the side characters fade from the memory too fast. The villains cash in on the cheese factor too much. All in all, the reading is fun and over 500 pages seem to fly by. Then, you realize that there's only one book left and you'll be extremely sad when you finally read it. This series isn't for everyone, but readers looking for books that suck them into a world full of tension and action should do themselves a favor and pick this book - and it's prequel, Angelfire - up instantly.
Cover: These covers capture my attention. The backgrounds are always cool, although they really don't have much to do with the settings in each book. The heroine looks fierce, her outfits never feel like they're cashing in on her sex appeal, and the twin blades are freaking scary.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Copy: Received from publisher/publicist for review (Thank you, Heather and Harper Teen!!)