Rating: 3.75 stars
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All Brendan Connolly knew about his father was that he was a second-rate magician who walked out on Brendan and his mom when Brendan was three. Brendan’s life was pretty normal right up until he opened a trunk in his attic. Inside the trunk, Brendan found a necklace and a note from his dad telling him to wear the necklace as protection. And from that moment on, weird things started to happen.
Lorygdarain, also known as Dar, showed up. Luckily, Dar is Bren’s guardian angel. Brendan happens to be in need of a guardian angel because it turns out that Brendan’s dad was the Death god, Arawn. Another god has killed him and now those powers are Brendan’s and Brendan is not ready to handle either his new powers or his new reality as a baby god.
Dar is having his own problems. In addition to taking care of Bren and trying to teach him to use his new powers, Dar has also fallen in love with his charge. Love, in fact all emotions, are new to Dar and he is having his own trouble dealing with that. For Brendan, Dar is only person/being he can trust in his newly wavering reality. Dar is also scary, powerful, gorgeous and Bren falls in love immediately.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the gods that killed Arawn are coming after Brendan. They want Arawn’s powers any way they can get them, even if it means killing Brendan and the universe in order to obtain it. It is going to take a miracle or maybe just a god called Bob to save Brendan, Dar, and maybe the universe. Can things get even stranger?
I love Andrea Speed. I never know what strange and wonderful ideas and stories are going to emerge from her brain and warped imagination. Turns out this time it’s Strange Angels, a tale of a half human/half Death god in love with a guardian angel. Strange Angels is full of the weird and wildly peculiar elements I have come to expect from this amazing author. We have obscure band references, odd beings wearing t-shirts showcasing humorous sayings and/or relatively little known cultural meanings, off kilter characterizations, and a story encompassing a wide range of knowledge on various subjects. And gods, we have lots and lots of gods, from every religion possible, a veritable pantheon of gods.
Strange Angels starts out on its quixotic journey off kilter right from the very first sentence. The reader is plunged into the story somewhere around the middle of the tale when so much of the exposition has already occurred and there’s no clear linear history to be found. When we meet Brendan he is confused, knocked on his butt in the middle of a fight, and somewhat amnesiac. Trust me, the reader will be there right along with him. He is confused, we are confused, and a complete explanation of the immediate events will not be forthcoming.
From the first page, Dar is already Brendan’s lover and guardian angel. We meet him smack dab in the middle of a fight to protect Brendan from the clutches of a band of nefarious gods hellbent on killing Brendan and absorbing his powers. But we won’t know that until much later in the story, right about the time we meet Bob, the god of what, we aren’t exactly sure. And this is typical of so much of this story. How Brendan and Dar meet, why they meet, and all those little details the reader loves so much won’t be revealed until almost the end of Strange Angels. And in between, we will meet Ares, and Sy (that would be Osiris), a snake god called Degei, among many others. There will be battles and visits to worlds both nauseating and astounding. And while all these elements make up for an entertaining and sometimes gross tale, I am just not sure you could call it a romance.
I liked the characters of Brendan and Dar, especially Brendan. He is accessible and understandable in his confusion over his parentage and his ability to use his new powers. But their relationship? That feels a little hollow. We just don’t get enough of any interplay between them to believe in their romance. Had the story concentrated a little more on their first meeting and their first forays into a meaningful relationship and romance, then I think the love between Brendan and Dar would have felt grounded and much more authentic. But as it is we are left having to take their word for the depth of their love, and that’s just not enough.
Romance aside, all the other characters, Bob the god, Baltor, Degei and the rest are wonderfully fleshed out. They are quite terrific and I loved spending time with all of them, no matter how much goo and gore was flung around in the aftermath. Here is a little example of what you are getting into:
What was that supposed to mean? Bren looked between them, confused, but the grin fell from Bob’s face. Without saying a word, Bob turned and headed back into that narrow, inexplicably appearing corridor.
Bren walked up to Dar and asked quietly, “Is there some backstory I should know?”
“No. We should be wary about completely trusting him. You can never trust a god, especially one who’s been kicked out by the others. That makes him a liar amongst liars.”
Bren didn’t understand much about this new world he was inhabiting, but he was starting to get that everybody who ever interacted with gods fucking hated them. They were petty, cruel, greedy, maniacal, capricious, childish, hardheaded, mean, egotistical, stupid, flighty, and ignorant. In other words, they were exactly like human beings, only with the ability to destroy entire worlds with a sneeze.
Bren had no idea how any universe had survived, or how anyone worshipped these people. It’d be like worshipping his Uncle Ed, the pot dealer/deadbeat dad who, last he’d heard, was in a Tijuana prison.
Now I loved this story. It’s offbeat, dryly humorous, full of obscure references, and totally strange in almost every aspect. I actually reveled in its weirdness. And that includes a slightly jerky narrative that at times seems more non contiguous than the Hawaiian Islands. And while I absolutely appreciated what Andrea Speed was trying to do here, I can see where some people will be frustrated, confused, and more than a little dismayed at the story and lack of smoothness in the narrative.
So do I recommend it? Absolutely. If you are a fan of Andrea Speed, then you know what you are in for. However, if you are new to this author, than perhaps you might want to start with her Infected series. It is one of my all time favorites and is an addicting introduction to this marvelous and impossible to box in author.
Andrea Speed always includes a soundtrack for each novel. The soundtrack for Strange Angels can be found here.
Cover art by Simoné, Cover design by L.C. Chase. This is a marvelous cover, colorful, dynamic and perfect for the story within.