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After reading The Moon Dwellers (Book #1 Dweller trilogy), I became hook to David Estes’ style, so I decided to read Angel Evolution (Book #1 Evolution trilogy) which was his first novel. I’d love to be able to give it the rave review that I gave Moon Dwellers, but alas, I cannot. He was still able to reel me in, but I found issue with a lot more things in this novel. I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their first novels because any reader or writer knows that the first work is usually not one’s best work. I will definitely do the same for Mr. Estes because I know from reading Moon Dwellers that his technique has improved.
Taylor is a freshman at the University of Trinton when she meets Gabriel Knight. She notices a light shining around him that no one else seems to see. She is curious about him, but also seems to fear him. She later learns that Gabriel is an angel and soon falls in love with him. Little does Taylor know that their meeting and her infatuation was planned as Gabriel was sent there on a mission for his people…to convince Taylor to join the angels in the Great War against the demons. However, as Gabriel spends time with Taylor, he develops real feelings for her. This leads to internal conflict for Gabriel…does he follow his orders and get Taylor to join the angel cause and help with “the plan” or does he follow his heart and protect the one he loves even if it means going against everything he knows?
The plot and story line of the novel did hook me. I like the fact that the characters are in their first year of college and that parents play a very minor role (they’re hardly mentioned at all). I like this in contrast to most other YA novels where the characters are in High School, making the characters slightly more mature (although you must take into account that it’s their first year and their first time away from home, which is usually when most college students are the craziest). I also like that the world of Angels and Demons in this novel is very different than most other Angel/Demon novels I've read (i.e., Fallen and Hush, Hush). You pretty much have to forget everything you learned in Sunday school or Church when you read this; there are no religious aspects to this world. The story of how the Angels and Demons came to exist is different, they have more powers, and their views in regards to humans are different.
However, there were a few things that annoyed me about this book. First, being my second novel by Mr. Estes, I notice that he likes to give the reader more than one character’s point-of-view (POV). When done well, as in The Moon Dwellers, this can be unique, versatile, and enlightening. However, in this novel it often became annoying and confusing. It is particularly annoying and confusing when he switches POV several times within the same scene or chapter. Let me also point out that the entire story is told in the third person, so the constant switching wasn't always necessary. There were actually instances where I found myself saying “ OK, whose mind are we looking into now?” Finding out what was going on in the minds of everyone was great and all, but seriously not worth all the confusion with the switching. I think that having the story in the third person rather than first allows for much better options to get into everyone’s head.
My second issue is a rather minor one, but I was still annoyed. There was one instance in the novel where I felt Mr. Estes overstated the obvious. Taylor and Sam are at a pizza parlor with Gabriel and another guy (not mentioning names to avoid spoilers). Sam orders 3 pizza pies to eat between the four of them (a bit too much food if you ask me). The point of the scene is to show some rivalry between characters as they eat the pizza. The part that annoyed me was that Mr. Estes broke down the basic math. Three pies, 10 slices in each, half of one pie was eaten, 25 slices left, two characters ate 12 each, yadda, yadda. I understand that this is a YA novel and I’m all for details, but I feel that sometimes authors really need to give readers the benefit of the doubt and have confidence that they can follow along without everything being explained. In this case, assume the reader is able to do basic math (or at the very least knows how to use a calculator). I’m pretty sure if I asked my 12 year old niece “if there are three pies with 10 slices in each and half of one pie was eaten, how many is left?” she’d know the answer, even if it took her a minute to think about it. Plus, the exact math was not the real point of the situation, so why spend so much time explaining it? Granted in the end it didn't deter me from finishing the book, but I did spend a moment thinking “seriously? That needed to be explained?”
Third, Taylor as a character contradicts herself. She goes on and on about how her mother taught her to be strong and independent and yet time and again she give into temptation. She talks about how she’s not going to let Gabriel control how the relationship progresses, even shows it by not letting him hold her hand or put his arm around her in public. However, she gives into him rather quickly. Although she admits to not having much experience with relationships, I don’t feel that a woman who claims to be so strong and independent would give themselves to someone so easily and so quickly. I feel that Gabriel should’ve had to work harder to convince her. Maybe it would've made the book longer, but it would've been a bit more realistic and made Taylor a stronger character.
Finally, some characters and their interactions annoyed me. Sam is extremely annoying, which I’m sure Mr. Estes was going for. How she and Taylor could be friends for so long considering that they’re polar opposites (Sam a beautiful, shallow, vain socialite and Taylor an average looking, modest, and socially awkward introvert) is beyond me. To Sam’s credit, however, she does really care for Taylor and it is sad that it takes so long in the book for us to truly see any real substance within Sam. Having said that, throughout most of the novel every time she said anything I wanted to scream "oh, for the love of God, shut up!"
Taylor's use of the word "man" (e.g., "Are you screwin' with me, man?") bothered me as well because I just didn't feel it fit Taylor's character, at least not the way I pictured her in my head. Granted it was only a few instances but that only made it feel even more unnatural. When Gabriel used the term (e.g., "Look, man, I didn't expect to...") it felt a bit more natural to me because of when and how he said it and because of the kind of character I envision him to be. But when Taylor said it, it just felt wrong. I believe there are some characters in books (both male and female) that are presented in a way that its natural for them to say particular slang terms and phrases such as this. I just don't feel that Taylor is one of those characters.
I also think that some of the dialogue between the characters, particularly the comical moments, felt unnatural. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give an example without giving too much away, so all I can really say is that the some of the jokes were cliché and felt forced.
And I hate the nickname “Tay”. Just need to say that.
I always like to read what other reviewers post before reading a book, just to see what the consensus is. I recall one reviewer stating that Taylor is unaware at how “special” she is or that she’s pretty and that is all you need to know about the plot. I disagree. First, while it is pivotal to the plot, Taylor’s specialness and attractiveness are not the only things at stake here. There are a lot of internal conflicts going on within Gabriel and they’re not all centered around Taylor, although she does bring things to a head. Gabriel has been trained from birth to think a particular way and to follow orders, but he seems to have questions about a lot of his “training” long before he met Taylor; Taylor just gave him more reason to question them. Second, the way that Taylor is “special” is not the sort of thing she or anyone else would be aware of. As far as her realizing that she’s pretty, that’s normal among teenage girls. I know of very few young girls that are completely well-adjusted (even the ones who are obnoxiously so on the outside, like Sam, aren't when you look deep into them).
Overall, I wasn't thoroughly impressed with this book, particularly after reading The Moon Dwellers. So if you’re reading this book first and you find yourself questioning whether you want to read anything else by Mr. Estes, I implore you to read Moon Dwellers before making that decision. If you are reading this book first and you really love it, I say brace yourself because it gets even better. I do plan on seeing this series through and I will give you my perceptions on the other two books. I recommend this book to all Angel/Demon fans because it’s different from other Angel/Demon novels. I did like this book, but The Moon Dwellers is still my favorite Estes book.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)