World After by Susan Ee

world afterWorld After is the long-anticipated sequel to Angelfall – a self-published novel by Susan Ee which seemed to sprout wings and take off (bad pun intended!) when it was released two years ago. Angelfall was a massive success which seemed to take the book blogosphere by storm. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the sequel especially since the first book ended with a colossal cliff-hanger.

But the real question is does World After live up to hype? Well…yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, once I finally got around to reading it, I literally could not put it down (and cursed when my phone rang with only 3% of the book still to go on my kindle!). However, I think the anxiety of the long wait between the books and the hype surrounding them has maybe done this book a disservice. I only read Angelfall last year so I have not been waiting as long as some fans but I think all the anticipation has maybe built it up more in my head so that naturally I felt a little let down which it didn’t fully meet my expectations. Nonetheless, World After is a solid read with an exciting plot and quirky yet endearing characters that really propel the narrative.

Angelfall really concentrated on the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse and World After certainly continues that theme but also greatly expands on it. The human survivors are trying their best to endure the devastation that has befallen upon the world. This means desperately trying to scrounge for food and shelter. At the end of the first book, Penryn once again found herself in the company of The Resistance when Raffe (believing her to be dead) carried her to her mother and Paige and flew off, presumably to continue his quest to regain his beautiful angel wings rather than the demon wings he now sports.

Penryn, frozen by the scorpion demon’s stinger and aware of her surroundings but unable to communicate with anyone, finally comes around. She is initially viewed as an objection of suspicion and it is only the intervention of the twins (dubbed Tweedle Dee and Dum by Penryn) that she narrowly avoids being shot by nervous refugees. It doesn’t help that her sister Paige now resembles an abomination and her mother is as crazy as ever. Penryn and her family are allowed to take shelter with the group of people assembled by The Resistance, but when her sister Paige is captured by some of the refugees, believing her to be a monster, the situation escalates into a massacre and Paige runs off.

Penryn once again takes to the streets, her mother and another survivor called Clara in tow, desperately searching the city of San Francisco for her little sister. When Penryn and her companions are captured once again by Beliel (the demon responsible for stealing Raffe’s wings) and are taken to Alcatraz (a deliciously creepy and gory setting), they bear witness to the angels’ true goal and learn just how far these agents of the divine are willing to go to bring about the true end of days – Judgement Day itself.

It is when she escapes into the stronghold of the new Aerie (where she has discovered Paige has gone) that Penryn is finally reunited with Raffe – who since leaving her company has been on a mission to bring down Beliel and retrieve his wings. Will Raffe help Penryn with her plans to rescue her sister or will he follow his own agenda? You will need to read the book to find out!

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What I loved about the book:

Penryn: Penryn is a great YA protagonist – tough yet at the same time equally caring of her family. I liked how capable she was and how she sought to protect her family at all costs. Although she greatly misses Raffe and cannot help but think about him (sometimes at less than opportune times) her infatuation with him never overshadows her primary concern: making sure her family survives against all the odds stacked against them. Penryn really is a worthy hero even though she has a hard time seeing herself that way.

Paige: Paige breaks my heart. What this little girl has had to go through is absolutely devastating. She has been mutilated and turned into a ‘monster’ by the angels who kidnapped her in the first book – yet in many ways this little girl is still the most humane character of all. I am hoping that we will get more Paige time in the next book and that the bond between her and Penryn is explored in even more depth.

Penryn’s mother: I loved getting to see more of the mother and how even in her insanity sometimes she makes the most sense out of everyone. I get the feeling Penryn’s mother is going to be a really big player in the rest of the series as she clearly has some knowledge which cannot be fully explained away by her madness.

Tweedle Dee and Dum: the twins once again make an appearance and although they are not present for most of the book when they do appear they make a big impression and completely steal the show for me. Love them!

The chemistry: Penryn and Raffe have oodles of chemistry – their scenes together practically sizzle with UST. No real action on the romantic front in this book but plenty of tension-filled looks and glances. Just enough to appease the romance fans without overtaking the plot.

The plot: World After was just as action-packed as the first book although the stakes didn’t seem quite as high this time round. Still the plot kept the reader guessing and I was highly entertained by all the twists and turns in the story.

Pooky Bear: The sword (hilariously and irrevocably dubbed ‘Pooky Bear’ by Penryn) was a character in and of itself. I loved the ‘flashback’ sequences the sword showed Penryn of Raffe – made of for his lack of physical presence throughout most of the book which leads me to…

What I didn’t love:

Not enough Raffe! Seriously that is my biggest criticism of the book. Raffe played such a huge role in the first book it was a disappointment to see him relegated to a supporting player in this one (though I think he will again play a big part in the next book for obvious reasons). I really missed the broody, sarcastic angel and jumped for joy when he finally re-appeared (three-quarters of the way through the book!!).

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However, even though World After did not quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations, the book was very exciting and the story well-rounded. There were plenty of action and fight scenes, lots of good post-apocalyptic creepiness which I really enjoyed, a multitude of gore expected for the genre, mixed perfectly with the right amount of pathos and humour. Penryn and Raffe’s scenes were particularly rife with witty repartee and the way they bounce off each other was very entertaining. I must also give the author kudos for her world-building. It is one of the aspects of World After that seems much stronger than its predecessor Angelfall. You get a real sense of just how bleak and hopeless everything really is and the landscape is much denser than the first book.

In short, World After is a worthy sequel and although I didn’t love it quite as much as Angelfall, I feel that this instalment has really set the right tone for the rest of the series. The slightly slower pace and more descriptive and detailed scene-setting have greatly paved the way for a (hopefully) kick-ass third instalment (I believe the series is going to be about five books in total?). This was my first read of the year (I am woefully behind on my reading this month – I blame life!) and I hope the rest of my reads are just as enjoyable as this one.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

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Quotes I like:

“I look up to say something but he puts his finger to my lips and whispers, “Don’t talk. You’ll just spoil my fantasy of rescuing an innocent damsel in distress as soon as you open your mouth.”

“He glares at me as if he already hates it. “What is it?” I consider lying but what’s the point? I clear my throat. “Pooky Bear”
He’s silent for so long I’m beginning to think he didn’t hear me when he finally says, “Pooky. Bear.” “It was just a little joke. I didn’t know.”
“I’ve mentioned that names have power, right? Do you realize that when she fights battles, she’s going to have to announce herself to the opposing sword? She’ll be forced to say something ridiculous like, ‘I am Pooky Bear, from an ancient line of archangel swords.’ Or, ‘Bow down to me, Pooky Bear, who has only two other equals in all the worlds.’ ” He shakes his head. “How is she going to get any respect?”

“It’s amazing how many times we need to go against our survival instincts to survive.”

“It is painful to see that people prefer a bad guy who looks like an angel to a good guy who looks like a demon.”

“I shove the wooden debris out of the way until I see the smudged face of the teddy bear. “There she is.” I carefully pull out the bear and sword. I proudly flip the bridal veil skirt to show him the scabbard. Raffe stares at the disguised sword for a second before commenting.
“Do you know how many kills this sword has?”
“It’s a perfect disguise, Raffe.”
“This sword is not just an angel sword. She’s an archangel sword. Better than an angel sword, in case that’s not clear. She intimidates the other angel swords”

“You’re not Fallen are you?”
“From everything I’ve heard, that would just make me more sexy to you Daughters of Men. What is it that you all see in bad boys?”

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