I am giving this four stars for the strength of the writing, the excellent pacing, and the engaging story. It’s obvious the author put a lot of work in to this story and even though it uses concepts readers have certainly seen many times before, it remains interesting and engaging. I don’t think authors need to reinvent the wheel. They just need to show me a new take on the old form. I think this novel does exactly that.
However, this book is constructed around the notion that the Abrahamic god and his angels are indisputably real. That in and of itself is not in my opinion a bad thing, but in the U.S. where this book is set, religion has become inherently political. The author also adds to this feeling by referencing the 9/11 attacks, another inherently political time in American history.
Because of this I wish more had been done to show nuance. For example, if the main character had some quality normally in opposition to right wing Christianity, like being gay or a person of color, or being a woman, which I thought would have been an especially good choice considering that the warriors of god before him were all women. I would have also preferred if atheism were portrayed in a different light, perhaps more sympathetically. I didn’t like [how Sam’s mother lashed out at him for not believing in god in the first part of the book. (hide spoiler)]
I’m in an odd spot because I am a believer (though I am a polytheist and not a Christian) but I find religion in novels to be a dicey thing to portray well, probably because of how contentious religion is in my culture. Because I do have faith, though, I suspect I reacted better to this book than an atheist might, so if you are in fact an atheist be prepared for the heavy inspirational messages.
That said, I do enjoy some of the things the author did to portray apocryphal Christianity. The angels are cool characters (though I was hoping for the crazy portrayals like the ring of eyes etc), the fight scenes are great and epic, it’s implied that Muslims have a religion just as valid in-world as Christians and Jews. Elemental spirits and demons factor in to the mythology in unique ways. Both Sam and the antagonist think they’re doing god’s work, a nuance I appreciated. Satan and Lucifer being separate angels with different functions was also a great idea. The author does a great job of explaining why heaven is limited in how much its denizens can intervene in human lives.
Ultimately I read this book in day without stopping, and when an author can do that it means they’ve produced a good book. Fast paced, action packed, with nary a spot that made me slow down and say, what the hell was that? Worth reading. I think if I had a Christian teenager in my life, I’d have them read this.