Book Review: Courtney Allison Moulton’s “Angelfire”

“Angelfire” is the debut novel from writer Courtney Allison Moulton. It’s part of the HarperTeen Book Series, “Dark Days of Supernatural.”

Here, young adult readers enter yet another supernatural world with its own rules, myths and vocabulary; this time through the eyes of 17-year-old Ellie.

Ellie is a typical high school girl whose world turns upside down when Will, a seemingly normal guy, “awakens” her to her destiny: She is the Preliator, (Latin for “warrior,”) destined to enter another dimension called the Grim and fight demonic beings called Reapers, who prey on human souls an unfairly drag them to hell. Will is Ellie’s Guardian, existing purely to help her fight and remind her of her duties.

SPOILERS!

The title for this novel refers to a special fire that emits from Ellie’s swords, which appear out of thin air when she commands them. The “angel” prefix is a bit more complicated to explain in brevity, however.

Here are two quotes describing some important concepts in the book:

“Reapers are monsters in this world. They hunt human souls… which they harvest in order to restore the armies of Hell for the second war between Lucifer and God. They’re immortal and come in many forms.”

“The Grim is a dimension parallel to the mortal plane. Supernatural creatures live there unseen by mortals and are able to cross over into this dimension. Most humans cannot enter the Grim unless they are true psychics (or the Guardian/Preliator.)”

Essentially, “Angelfire” combines the ancient battle of good vs. evil with newer theories and ideas, interestingly including the notion of having past lives.

After reading the first couple of chapters, I initially made comparisons of Ellie’s fate with that of Buffy in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Just as Buffy had a Watcher (Giles) and was generally considered the slayer, Ellie has a Guardian (Will) and she’s the only Preliator in existence. As I read on into the fight scenes, however, my perception of Ellie’s powers and destiny changed. As Ellie’s powers began to show, she appeared to me more like a ninja in a video game vs. a normal girl with extraordinary powers; perhaps this is what Allison was aiming for, but the latter type of heroine simply appeals more to my personal taste.

In addition, Reapers are described as huge, black, bear/dog-like creatures, who salivate at the prospect of killing Ellie. Although Reapers can take human form, I had trouble imagining such harbingers of death appearing like a rabid dog; it seemed a bit cliché, although perhaps the images construed in my head were different from what the author intended.

Overall, this novel is well-written and the author thankfully provides her characters with contemporary and witty dialogue and expressions. While I personally had a hard time digesting Ellie’s new world, (probably because I’ve read other young-adult, Angel-themed novels,) the majority of young adult readers out there will undoubtedly savor this debut effort.

“Angelfire” is the first novel in a trilogy.