Cerridwen Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4199-2068-4
Hey, don’t look at me like that. Blame it on the RWA – they nominated this book into the finals of the Best First Book category. Since Viola Estrella’s Angel Vindicated is the first digitally published book to penetrate the wet and moist womanhood of the RWA, curiosity compels me to pick this one up and scrutinize it closely. Perhaps it is a RWA thing, since heaven knows they don’t get urban fantasy most of the time, but while this one may be good for RITA, it won’t make the grade for the… uh, GIGGLA awards. Yeah, that’s it, my awards will be called the GIGGLA awards. Oh, whatever.
As you can imagine, there are angels in this story. Sorry, that will be Angels, with a capital A, because it ain’t exotic or urban until we peg a capital letter in front of everything. The setting seems like it’s a pile of urban fantasy clichés as well as romance novel clichés tossed together even if they contradict each other. We have the obligatory but irrational gender separation thing, for example, because male Angels have too much testosterone, apparently, to deal with violent demons. And yet, there are also male Angels of Death.
The heroine is the biggest cliché of them all. Abby Angel thinks that she is ugly mostly because she has red hair while the other Angels are blond. I’ve never come across such a heroine before, that’s for sure. But in this story, she has three hot guys panting after her! Abby is like a bounty hunter. She works for the Denver Messenger of God, delivering a thumbprint to the heart of any demon who misbehaves. Three thumbprints and you’re out, that kind of thing. In other words, these demons can corrupt up to three humans before they are banished to hell. Is it just me or that’s a little bit… lenient on the Angels’ part? Then again, maybe they are all busy looking for husbands to marry and procreate with.
Yes, the ultimate ambition of these Angels is to fall in love, lose their wings, and have babies. I am not joking. On one hand, male Angels are forcibly made into ex-Angels because of that dangling thing between their legs, which implies that somehow being an ex-Angel is inferior. And yet, these female Angels aim to lose their wings and have babies? Clearly, getting married and popping out brats are more important than fighting evil and keeping demons in check. Make your own right-wing affinity with the RWA joke here. Seriously, after reading this story, I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets a good idea why enough RWA members love this book so much despite the fact that it aspires too hard to be a post-pornographic Anita Blake wannabe, only with the skank toned down to a level that won’t give an RWA board member a heart attack and with extra romance novel clichés (like how the heroine’s hair color automatically makes her butt ugly).
Oh yes, the story. One fine day, Abby has to deliver a thumbprint. Boy, can you imagine that Abby gets beaten up by four demons who refuse to willingly accept her thumbprint? I know, demons who don’t like to be pegged like that, how shocking! I bet all that testosterone doesn’t seem so bad now, eh? Before this latest embarrassment, Abby had also humiliated herself pretty spectacularly five years ago. Back then, another thumbprint delivery service turns into an Angel Hoochie Hot Happy Meal Delivery when the demon she is supposed to give the thumbprint to ends up giving her… you know. And these people make all the male ex-Angels become desk clerks because those males have too much testosterone? Maybe it’s time we all convert to Scientology. At least Xenu has a cool spacecraft and he doesn’t enforce gender discrimination on anything with a pee-pee.
At any rate, someone is killing the Angels, and Abby is convinced that she is on to something after the demons left her a sinister warning when they are done being beaten up that twit. Abby’s superiors seem curiously disinterested in pursuing the matter, so Abby decides to seek out the help of the demon that seduced her, Simeon. Judd, an ex-Angel, is jealous of Abby’s time with Simeon because he wants her too. And then we have another guy, Kaleb, who is from all appearances Simeon’s human doppelgänger, only with personality traits and interest that make him a perfect match for Abby. Or is he?
The mystery is pretty dry and the resolution is abrupt and too convenient. I know this story has Angels, but come on, that doesn’t excuse the deus ex machina resolution, really. The characters seem to be paper cutouts taken from better or more established urban fantasy romps out there, Abby is a twit, and the story ends in a cliffhanger-type thing where Abby has two men panting after her supposedly plain behind.
Angel Vindicated is like a right-wing take on those Anita Blake books out there, with all that truly nasty stuff taken out. What are left? Some very flimsy and often contradictory world-building, very familiar takes on urban fantasy central casting stereotypes, a dry plot, and a lack of closure for the romance. All these may be good enough for the RITA, but I’m not sharing their enthusiasm one bit for these Angelic poster girls for the joys of marrying a man and popping out his babies.