One moment, Zeke is taking a break from his rounds as a nurse in Seattle. The next moment, he is plunged into a dusty wasteland where he suddenly finds himself in the care of Haziel, a being with a musical voice and creamy white wings. Zeke quickly learns that Haziel and the other angels—or luminaries—are at war with the evil kittim. He also learns that he is far from any material help, but something about Haziel soothes Zeke; he decides to trust the luminary to help him get to the Creator and onward to home.
But before they can reach the Creator, Haziel and Zeke must first cross enemy lines to rejoin the luminary army. When Haziel is injured, Zeke’s training as a nurse saves Haziel from losing a wing—and sparks a bond that grows stronger by the day between the two. As Haziel and the other luminaries fight skirmish after skirmish, Zeke carves out a place for himself in the medical tent. His healing skills pale in comparison to what real angels can do, but his humble ability also allows the angels to save their healing power for the big jobs.
It doesn’t take long for Zeke to find his place, a human among the divine. But Haziel made a promise to see Zeke home and, once made, an angel’s promise cannot be revoked. Not even when Haziel and Zeke eventually realize how much they mean to each other. Not even the looming battle with hoards of kittim can stop Haziel from making good on his promise, from protecting Zeke by sending him back to Earth. Even if going home is the last thing Zeke wants.
I am no scholar on religion, but I can appreciate the broader strokes of the religious symbolism present in Dandelion. The best I can describe it is that Creech does not seem to be going for metaphor, but rather reimagining the lore or building an alternate universe-type situation starring angels (full disclosure: I have zero knowledge of any religious canon in any denomination of anything). That said, there is no proselytizing or even a real religious moral to the story. In fact, I dare say the luminaries and kittim represent common “good guy/bad guy” tropes in that the luminaries are ridiculously attractive and literally musical and the bad guys are apparently disgusting bug-like creatures—pretty run of the mill there. There doesn’t seem to be any real basis for the war beyond the good versus evil; there is no evidence, no anecdotes, no oral histories shared that explain either side’s good or bad deeds, though the author’s website does explain what’s actually going on via a blog post.
For all that there are these overt religious themes, there seemed to be surprisingly little about religion in the story. Rather, Dandelion reads like a road trip get together, except that the two MCs are walking instead of driving and one’s an angel while the other is a human. The result is that there are passages where they do nothing but walk along and world build. It surprised me, however, how little gets revealed about Zeke and Haziel during this time. The most exciting thing that happens is crossing enemy lines on the down low and Haziel gets injured. Sure, this builds the tension, but it didn’t seem to move the plot or the romance forward any.
When Zeke and Haziel eventually meet up with the rest of the army of angels, the formula doesn’t change much except that Haziel goes off to skirmishes with kittim and always makes his way to Zeke’s part of the medical tent. Again, there are lots of scenes of these two interacting, but it didn’t seem to me like they were building anything like a romance. Personally, I didn’t think Zeke and Haziel had much romantic chemistry. I wouldn’t go so far as to say their entire friendship/camaraderie is forced, but the idea that these two find blinding passion together seemed to be more a function of the genre the book is being published in rather than a compelling romantic subplot.
Whatever romantic notions Zeke and Haziel harbor for each other didn’t really seem visible on page until hours before Haziel is forced into making good on his promise to get Zeke back to Earth, thus separating the two. For me, it made the pacing of the get-together aspect of this story very lopsided and, honestly, not very satisfying because they didn’t seem to really do anything or get to know each other before the supposed climax of being separated. That said, once you swallowed that foregone conclusion, the angst of separation we see through Zeke was blessedly short and pretty satisfying because he tried pretty hard to convince Haziel to let him stay.
Overall, this is a sort of sweet reimagining of a human falling in love with an angel. I thought there were a lot of holes in the plot—like why the angels are fighting a war, why Zeke simply must go back to Seattle, what actually draws Zeke and Haziel together—and the pacing of both the slow, slow, slow burn romance, as well as the action, felt lopsided. Nevertheless, if you really enjoy stories with religious themes or angels or impossible love and a big old happily every after, you’d probably enjoy this.