Review: Strange Angels by Lilith Saintcrow

Release date: June 2009

I have a simple measuring stick for whether a YA book has believable characters. It’s a simple, accurate measurement that I’ve relied upon for years; and it has much to do with the fact that even when I was a teenager myself, teenagers annoyed the piss out of me. The angst! The brooding! The “Wah! You don’t understand me!” attitude. The stupid choices. The mood swings. The general fumbling to become a real person.

So when I’m reading a novel with a teenage protagonist, I usually concede that the characterization is well done when I find myself grinding my teeth and wanting to strangle him or her. Strange Angels comes complete with some very well done characterization. The last time I wanted to wrap a fist around a fictional teenage character’s throat was JK Rowling’s Order of the Phoenix. To be completely honest, I didn’t like Dru very much, even as I sympathized with her. I believe this is one of the marks of a great story, if done properly. Strange Angels does it correctly.

Strange Angels cover
Strange Angels cover

I’ll try not to spoil anything in my review that wasn’t already given away in the back cover blurb. I make no promises, though, as it’s pretty tough to review a book without speaking of what happens. At least, it’s difficult to do without making myself feel like I’m back in my Advanced Placement English courses from high school. Oh, the angst! Anyway…

Dru Anderson is sixteen years old and has what her grandmother called ‘the touch’. She travels around the country with her father slaying wulfen, hunting ghost and trying to stay alive. The whole thing gets a lot more complicated, though, when someone turns dear old dad into a zombie and sends him back home to Dru. Being a dutiful and well-trained daughter, Dru manages to blow her father out of his misery. Mmm… rotting corpses in the living room!

What’s a self-made orphan (her mother was killed years before) to do? In Dru’s case, she goes to the mall. You remember she’s a teenage girl, right? Right. While there, she meets a young man named Graves. The family-less,  mall-dwelling Graves befriends our young lady in distress and, while trying to help her, is bitten by a werewolf.

The pair return to Dru’s home and barricade themselves in. They spend their time researching wulfen and bewailing their dwindling food supply. Then, an ally appears – or is he? Christophe is a djamphir, a half-vampire. While he seems to want to protect Dru, he also has an agenda.He claims that Dru is more important than she ever could have imagined.

So Dru’s new job is to separate friend from foe, truth from lies; and to decide whether to stay in town to  try to avenge her father’s murder/ zombification or to skip town and take refuge with Christophe’s group of monster-hunting djamphir friends. Is there a door number 3, Chuck? You’ll just have to read to find out.

Strange Angels is a perfect urban fantasy for teens, and has enough interesting tweaks to supernatural stereotypes to keep UF fans of all ages clamoring for more. I’m curious to find out what happens in the next volume. Although I should probably mention in the interest of disclosure that I’m a big Lilith Saintcrow fan. I’ve not yet found a single one of her works to be of anything but the highest quality of storytelling. I say ‘yet’ only because I haven’t read them all and anything is possible. So if YA isn’t your style, try one of her popular adult UF series: Jill Kismet or Dante Valentine.

Read more about Strange Angels here.  That blurb is 100% better than the one on the back of the review copy I received.

[xrr rating=4/5]