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Rating: 3 of 5 stars
They’ve been coming here for thousands of years, using Earth as a sanctuary to escape threats from their own kind. Mankind knows them as angels, and one of them left a child upon her death to be raised as a human.
Raea is now a high school senior, and her life as a human is about to end. The crystal shard she bears is not a pretty pendant; it’s a collective of powerful entities who chose her as their Keeper, a protector of one of the four shards that power a machine capable of destroying whole worlds. Those who desire the Starfire’s power have sent an agent to find her, but she’s too busy evading a nosy reporter ready to exploit her secret and dating a hot new foreign student to notice. Nevermind learning what she really is.
Only one person on Earth can help her, the last person she ever expected. But he’s not from Earth. Life as a human would be so much easier.
We all know I’m a sucker for a read that’s of little to no cost. So, along comes Starfire Angels, book one of the Dark Angel Chronicles, and my willingness to throw myself into the fray for free. I’d like to start off by saying Starfire Angels wasn’t all that bad, but it did rub me the wrong way—right from the get-go.
First and foremost of my gripes: the location. North Dakota. Original, sure (whatever). Promising, however—not by a long shot. North Dakota is pretty much the perfect setting to guarantee that I should not, and would be remiss to, expect any kind of diversity from the characters and, likely, their belief system as well. (I’ve known only one person in my entire life from North Dakota and they were unashamed to admit to the lack of variety from their home state. Hate to generalize, but not really.) I had other bones to pick, too, though.
High school. No YA author has managed to get it right yet, and Niles is no exception. Raea Dahlrich is—seriously—bullied by the abecedarian singsong X and Y sittin’ in a tree. I think I’ll let that speak for itself. Also, some girls are mentioned as dressing scantily in order to gain the attention of certain teachers. And, sure, that may work in life, but it’s not the kind of attention they would want, I can pretty much guarantee. Even the laxest of dress codes warrant trips to the principal’s office for showy attire.
And Josh. Poor friendzoned Josh. My biggest issue with him was enveloped in my fear that he would be the third leg of the dreaded love triangle (or, even, love square?) that seemed imminent to form. I’m so relieved that wasn’t the case in Starfire Angles, I could kiss Niles! Thank you for sparing me the certain agony, ma’am!
Speaking of “ma’am”—that brings me to another point of contention I had (within the first chapter). New student, Pallin, introduces himself to the class and addresses a lady as “ma’am.” Raea immediately draws the conclusion that he must have had some kind of militaristic unbringing or involvement of some sort. That rubbed me the wrong way 1) because I am in the military and 2) where I come from, “ma’am” and “sir” are just plain ol’ good manners, and you’d better have ’em or else you’d be wishin’ you had later. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe they just don’t make ’em like they used to, but “manners = military” came across as terrible characterization/foreshadow on Niles’ part.
As did the purple eyes and fingerless gloves of dear Elis.
Let’s talk Elis. He is Inari, same as Raea; a Crystal Keeper of the Starfire Crystal which contains intelligent, sentient beings that hold the power to destroy, create and protect whole worlds. He’s a solid guy, reliable, good through and through. Really. So it only makes sense that he’s ostracized as a freaky creeper, right? Not! It pained me to watch a sweet, helpful kid like Elis weather petty immature teasing daily for Raea, especially after discovering his reason for being there in the first place. I mean, come on. Don’t gotta make martyrs of everyone!
And along the lines of martyrdom—Raea is a damned fool. She is receiving all these bad sings from the hot new student, Pallin, so she decides—of all things—to go visit him at his hotel room. She knows that Elis has suspicions of Pallin’s being a Shirukan, enemy of their kind, and yet she decides to go pay him a friendly visit after school. Yeah, that’s smart. SPOILER »
And, what do you know, Pallin rapes her for it! Lovely!
But all of that, every juicy morsel of crap mentioned above, doesn’t come as close to BAD as Niles’ writing. Allow me to justify with examples.
Elis started down the stairs.
A black-clad figure stepped into sight and put an arm around Raea. Golden yellow wings opened for a moment. Pallin. He was Shirukan. And he held the rod-like weapon of his kind in one gloves hand, ready for use.
The resonance warmed through him, ready at his call.
[“You’re kind don’t kill.”]
[“How would you know?”] Elis hesitated…
[“It’s forbidden by the Keeper code and your precious Starfire.”]
Elis wanted too. For all the pain that ripped through him, Elis wanted to end it.
He end this now, guaranteeing Pallin would be no more threat to them.
She laid on the bed in Elis’s room.?
(All bold mine.)
Just a small taste of the lackluster, underwhelming narrative I had to deal with to trudge through this mess. The spareness of details made for a difficult time sorting out the world beyond the human front in Raea’s life. Without details, and expansion, everything from the past, from that other life, seemed so intangible, so unimportant, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth.
And, at 90.5%, the chapter was called FINAL ULTIMATUM. I just… I have no words for that.
Not to mention the cowardly tendency to hint at sex (with a thumbing of a belt or the vague remembrance being made into a promise, etc.), which I found to be tactless and frankly a huge cop-out. Pallin’s express sexuality was a something I sense remained a huge grey area for the duration of each manuscript. It should’ve either been emphasized or extracted from Starfire Angels, not just thrown in as cheaply as it was.
There was almost nothing holding this thing together. Even the pacing sucked. The horrible attention to minutiae lent to a sluggish flow, too, except in the second-to-last chapter, where things went from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds… and then slowed again, all the way until the end.
But…! I see promise.
In spite of all that, I dare say I’m ready for more. The sequel, Broken Wings, and the prequel, When Angels Cry, are ones I’m on the lookout for. I don’t know if I’ll stick to this series the whole times, but I’m willing to give it another go. As for this one—
✩✩✩ 3 stars. I liked it.
I shouldn’t have! And I’m prolly gonna regret this! (Hope I don’t.) But I did like it. Mostly because of the alien world of Inar’Ahben. I’m hoping to learn more about it. And Elis. He’s a sweetheart, what can I say? I have a soft spot for angels that just chases trouble down.