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.
Synopsis for Book One: The Fallen
Orphaned since birth, Aaron is suddenly discovering newfound -- and sometimes supernatural -- talents. But not until he is approached by two men does he learn the truth about his own destiny, and his role as a liaison between angels, mortals, and Powers both good and evil, some of whom are hell-bent on his own destruction...
Synopsis for Book Two: Leviathan
Aaron is on the run from the Powers that killed his foster parents and took his younger brother, Stephen. With his dog, Gabriel, and Camael, a former Powers' commander, he is drawn north to a small town in Maine. Here, Aaron, who still hasn't accepted this newfound heritage, finds comfort in the isolated, tight-knit community.
But when Camael and Gabriel go missing, and their landlady suddenly attacks Aaron, he is forced to learn more about the War in Heaven and the many Powers that are fighting for dominance... of humankind.
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 Kate brought it to mine. She'd given me the first omnibus volume as a gift, and from the moment I caught sight of the cover under the newly-torn wrapping paper that hid the book from view, I can, in all honesty say that I could not wait to read it.
As you can see from the synopses posted above, The Fallen chronicles the journey of Aaron Corbet, a regular teenaged boy living in a small town whose concerns initially have to do more with figuring what he would like to do once he graduates high school and how not to blush each time he crosses paths with the girl he likes. Unfortunately, for Aaron, his life takes a drastic turn (for the worst?) when he finds himself with the newfound ability to speak and understand tongues -- and yes, I know it sounds very biblical.
The fact of the matter is, biblical is not too far from the truth of things. Aaron is a Nephilim -- the child of a mortal woman and an angel, and this accounts for his ability to understand and speak foreign languages like Brazilian (which is what the girl he's crushing on speaks) and other foreign languages -- and yes, even Canine.
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 my Dad once mentioned to me, 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.
Now while I've yet to read the second volume of the omnibus set (Kate's got me reviewing that one too, by the by) containing Books 3 and 4, as a reader I find myself deep enough into the story to know that this is not just Aaron's story, though he is right in the thick of things. 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 do work and also have to sleep), and this is not because the writing is complicated, because it is anything but. It is a book that you find you want to pace yourself, because it is a read that encourages you, as a reader, to pause, consider and think.
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 buy.