Although I gave this book 5 solid stars, I had to think about it a bit before writing a review. It was chock full of so much stuff that it took some processing.
So first off, let me say that I adore this series. I think I may adore it even more than usual simply because I avoided it for a long time. I am not a fan of supernatural creatures; I generally steer clear of any books that involve angels, demons, vampires, mermaids, werewolves, mythological creatures of any type, and fairies. It especially annoys me when said creatures have some sort of alternate spelling in the text or title. It puts me to mind of a person I know whose name is spelled "La-a" and pronounced "La-dasha." Seriously? Enough already with the teenaged-I-have-to-be-different-somehow nonsense. I hate it when an author insults her young adult audience by writing to their immaturities.
So Cynthia Hand, bravo for writing an incredibly good coming-of-age story set against a supernatural backdrop where the premise is believable. I think that's the best part; the whole fiction of angels is so well-integrated that I can believe it while knowing it is all fictional conjecture.
As this is the second book in the series (and I read them all 3 back-to-back), I have to say that it in no way suffers from middle-book syndrome. Each of these books has a strong theme. This one is death. It sounds depressing, but the whole subject is handled in a way that enables the reader to work through it right along with Clara. If Cynthia Hand's objective was to write something that would help a teenager deal with the death of a parent, then she definitely achieved it.
The plot moves along at a good pace. There are a lot of new mysteries along with some old ones resolved. This book series is amazing the way it surprises me; just when I think I've figured it all out, it goes a completely different direction. I think two of the best things about this story (in this installment) are that Clara's father is not the deadbeat she thought he was, and Samjeeza has a lot more dimensions than first appeared.
The characters, oh the characters! Clara, who grows in maturity and self-confidence and overall depth without losing the fact that she's still a teenager. Christian, who is the definition of ever-faithful friend and overall cool guy. Tucker, the strong cowboy we love - what more is there to say about him? Maggie, the mom we all want. Jeffrey, the brother we don't understand. Angela, the friend with all the right smartass comments and moments of insight.
The love triangle is just so emotional. It is difficult to pick a "team," and I'm not exactly sure I like that idea anyway. The reason it's difficult is because of how expertly Cynthia Hand has written it. Does the girl who is growing in maturity make the logical, smart choice or the maybe-won't-last-in-the-long run-emotional choice? It's the heart or the head. I do not envy her at all because I, for one, am in love with both guys! As is she!
I cannot say enough about how good this series is. And I don't even know what else to say, except that you should read it.