Archangel: Action-packed, with the potential for so much more!
Archangel, by D. William Landsborough, posits a simple question: What if angels and demons were real, and started a war, and then the demons won?
Enter Archangel. Following the adventures of the archangel Uriel, Landsborough introduces readers to a world that has already lost. Lucifer has brought forth his demons to the surface of Earth, shrouded the planet in darkness, and defeated the angels sent to fight him.
Ten years later, Uriel breaks through the clouds, ready to figure out what went wrong and begin the fight anew.
Overall, I enjoyed Archangel, but I was left wanting more. A lot more. Landsborough teases potentially provocative questions of religion and morality throughout. Why does God allow Lucifer to conquer Earth? How does Lucifer have the power to keep God from destroying everything? Is God actually good, or is there something more to God’s relationship with the universe and the creations that inhabit it?
Yet I felt like these questions were pushed to the side in favor of a traditional fantasy story caked in religious rhetoric. This might appeal to some people, but to me, I wanted to explore the deeper metaphysical themes precipitated by the concept behind Archangel.
Regardless, the personal journey of Uriel is compelling, for Landsborough injects plenty of interpersonal conflict between the newly arrived Archangel and the angels that have fought on the planet’s surface for ten years. More importantly, Uriel meets Shandra, a half-demon who really made this story worth it for me.
In some ways, I felt like Shandra should have been the protagonist of this book. Uriel is cool, but as a character, his motivations and narrative didn’t really compel me (though they may have if those deeper questions of morality and religion were explored further). Shandra, however, was a fundamentally intriguing character that bridged the gap between the “spiritual” beings of this world (angels and demons) and the humans of this world.
Fortunately, we received plenty of chapters from Shandra’s POV, but every time we deviated from her story, I wanted to get back to it. I almost wish the entire story WAS from her POV, rather than Uriel or the other characters who receive a chapter or two.
All of this being said, I encourage anyone who has an interest in stories based on religious rhetoric to explore Archangel’s pages. The action drives relentlessly toward a conclusion that, while not unexpected, does hint at the questions I so wished were explored further.
Onto the scores!
Writing: 7/10. Landsborough keeps the pace moving along with action-packed scenes and character driven chapters. At times, the POV was somewhat foggy, and I felt as if in-scene, it hopped from Limited to Omniscient on accident.
Character: 6/10. I hate giving this low of a score for the characters given how much I loved Shandra, but it’s exactly for that reason that I give only a 6 for Character. Shandra was a compelling character; another, named Dante, intrigued me later, and Uriel has his moments, but I can’t give higher than a 6 because I don’t feel like many of the characters had the depth necessary to make me care about them. And I must include another important detail.
Throughout the tale, I felt a clear imbalance in the number of men in the story compared to women. Almost all of the angels were men (except one or two that I can recall). The other women with names were Shandra (a half demon) and Isabelle (a witch who is essentially an evil creation of a demon). All other women are described as prostitutes or dead. Shandra’s role in the story kept the book from devolving into just a tale about only men and the heroics of men, but given the asexual nature of angels as described in this book, I’m surprised more of them weren’t “female,” or that Landsborough didn’t just make them as genderless.
Setting: 7/10. Landsborough clearly spent a lot of time building the world of Archangel, and it shows. Each angel has a role in a hierarchy, as do the demons. The setting lacks in giving me a clear sense of place; occurring in a fictional locale on Earth, I never had a clear idea of where on Earth they actually were, or where Heaven and Hell were metaphysically in relation to Earth.
Plot: 7/10. This book series has tremendous potential to explore intriguing moral and metaphysical questions regarding the relationship between God and the intervention of the divine into the affairs of Earth. Now, as a person raised in a traditionally Christian household (though I don’t really ascribe to that version of religion anymore), the mythos of Christianity has a lot for Landsborough to inject into the conflicts of this tale. And he can also similarly find opportunities to flip the script, and explore why Lucifer fell, or why God chooses not to intervene directly, or why God lacks omniscience or omnipotence. If future books explore these questions, Landsborough will have made a truly compelling narrative.
I want to see Uriel question whether God has the best intentions!
I want to see more demons like Shandra!
I want to see more humans like Dante.
Overall: 6.75/10. Archangel receives only three stars, but it’s a high three stars, more like a 3.5/5. Great job Landsborough, and keep up the good work!