The trends in paranormal fiction have been moving on apace from the vampire standard. Werewolves and zombies have taken their turn as protagonists, and in the last few years angels have moved onto the scene. I haven’t really sought out any of the angelic paranormal fiction, partly because the one attempt I made was full of wafty, superior, rarified and, well, angelic characters that I found a bit dull. I wasn’t sure how the basic background was ever going to translate into textured and rather more human personalities, which I prefer.
Then Text Publishing sent me Paula Weston’s Shadows, the first book in the new Rephaim series, and I thought: Oh, this is how it works!
The story is narrated by Gaby, a young woman living in a Queensland beachside town, as she nurses her still tender wounds, a year after the terrible car accident that killed her twin brother.
The trouble is that Gaby isn’t quite what she thinks she is, and there are a lot of people who want to know what actually happened to her and her brother Jude. Well, I say people, but really, all of these visitors, who wish to visit varying degrees of agression on Gabe, are actually the Nephilim, the half-human, half-angel children of fallen angels. They call themselves the Rephaim now, and they are far from what one might think of as angelic.
One of the first on the scene is Rafa, a warrior who featured in Gaby’s recurring nightmares of fighting with demons. Only – are they dreams or memories? Is Rafa a friend or a foe? As those seeking Gaby and Jude start showing up in idyllic Pandanus Beach, the question of allegiances is shifting constantly, because Gaby-now doesn’t remember who she was, or what her alliances were then. She doen’t know who to trust, but then her very human friends get tangled up in these skirmishes and, like it or not, Gaby has to start doing something about it all. But who’s got her back, and will she ever remember who she was?
The story goes at a cracking pace from page one, and is full of fabulous, full-bodied characters like Rafa and Mags, Gaby’s best friend. There’s action, sexual tension, suspense and some hairy moments where Gaby is called upon to do things she can’t remember how to do. Some of the unanswered questions are frustrating, but there the reader shares Gaby’s frustration, because she can’t work out who she was and what happened to her, let alone who to trust.
The Australian setting is distinctive without being overwhelming, and the writing flows smoothly (and with frequent wit) as it rockets along to the conclusion. This first part of the story is wrapped up, although obviously, as the first in a series, there are still a lot of things to learn when you read the last page.
In any case, if you’re a bit lary of angelfic, as I was, this is a great story with a rollicking pace and engaging characters, so if you’re going to try the genre, this is a good place to dip your feathers in the water.