Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Review: ANGEL by Cliff McNish

(bk cover courtesy of

This little novel is all about angels and their great love and duty beholden to us. The story plot differs from contemporary angel stories- the possibility that the fallen angel can achieve redemption and is not evil. There are also the truly beings of the Light who try so hard to assist us everyday. The author’s standpoint is that perhaps there are just not enough guardian angels to go around, we share them. As a result, they have to choose which people to save. I kind of agree with this, because it explains why some people perish and some live, witnessing bright light.

The two main characters are Freya and Stephanie. Freya has always been able to see angels in her visions and her family sent her to psychiatric wards. Presently at fourteen, she has managed to convince herself it is an illusion. Until one day, a black angel starts tailing and then appearing to her. Stephanie is an outcast, truly obsessed with the angelogy, collecting and making statues, sigils and so on. In truth, Stephanie can’t see angels at all. Their lives are intertwined when Stephanie gets transferred to Freya’s school. Stephanie feels that it is her mission to ‘save’ others who don’t see angels and this makes her an outcast.

The black angel is called Mestraal. Means the most loved. Angel language is hard to decipher, he explains to Freya, and they are not immortal. Mestraal challenges the girl if she can truly change the world by rescuing all the suffering. Some end up dying, which is why he has become darkened with depression.

His brother Hestron contrasts as a white angel, lovely white wings, blinding light, and blond. Freya is given her wings and attempts to save people. At first the job seems normal, until Freya feels the hurt and pain of multiple cries for help. Her wings are like sensors, live animate entities. During a very important mission, where she cannot decide who to save, Hestron gets sandwiched between colliding vehicles. His death and the mourning of all is so poignant and heart wrenching. You would really want to thank these beings for sacrificing themselves in order to ensure our wellbeing. Hestron knew he would perish but still went forward.

Freya doubts her ability and for a while refuses to go out to comfort her wards. Sometimes our efforts seem hopeless. Meanwhile, we see the mental deterioration of Stephanie. After being rejected countless times, the deranged girl sets herself and her angel things alight. Sensing this danger, as well as her brother, Freya chooses to rush to Stephanie’s aid. She is overwhelmed by the fumes and fire burning to extract her. At the same time, her only brother Luke is drowning. Defying the odds, Freya heads for the river and attempts to keep Luke alive. Her wings are already badly damaged and can no longer support her. Will she die together with him? What happens to Stephanie?

The healing of brokenness, hope, unconditional love and unexpected friendship shine forth in this story. I just could not put it down, the words were simple, yet brings out the action, rise and fall of emotions. It has reinforced my belief that angels exist and do protect us. Think of incidents where people have come back from beyond, or felt invisible force intervening. My favorite angel is Mestraal, he represents each one of our broken selves. He wanted to give up on the human race, but was so inspired by Freya that it can only spur us to fight on the good side.
Copies are available at National Library. Very worthwhile reading.