Sunday, December 15, 2013

Series Review: Rebel Angels by Gilian Philip + Giveaway (US/CA)

#1 in the Rebel Angels series
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 368
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#2 in the Rebel Angels series
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 400
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a review for the first two books in the series, and there are NO spoilers!


I can't really explain why I like these books, but I definitely do like them. Even though I should hate them.

They're filled with fairies. Really enigmatic, brutal, inhuman fairies. That I would normally hate, but I don't.

They do and say things and I have NO CLUE why or what they mean. Part of that is because they're fairies and I guess that goes with the territory. Part of it is their language, which is all Highlander and slangy. The rest is because I think the author has a whole lot of explaining left to do.

Some of this is revealed in bits and pieces as the story progresses (which I like a whole lot), but mostly I don't think I'm going to be getting any convenient info dumps to help explain the world. This is one of those cannon-bomb yourself into the world and hope you manage to swim kind of situations.

And I think I'm kinda doggy paddling.

Reading these books feels like watching the Spanish channel where I can sort of piece together what's going on, but there's a whole lot I have to shrug off and admit I have no clue what they're going on about.

At least there's Conal, who is main character Seth's brother and a significant character in his own right, and he's clear as crystal. And saintly. He's kind of like an Aragorn with his whole beloved-by-all do-gooder morality and rough appearance that does absolutely nothing to hide his halo of wonderfulness. And, just like Aragorn, I can't help but love him.

But his brother Seth, he's not really a nice guy, even though Conal always looks out for him and has an inexplicably unwavering faith that Seth can redeem himself. And he kind of does.

See, the thing about Seth is he's like a dog that is always peeing on your carpets and stealing your last slice of cake and ripping up your favorite sweaters. But then it turns around and does something super sweet like cuddle when you're sad.

I can't wrap my head around Seth, but my general feeling is that I really want to like him and I keep latching onto all the glimmers of goodness he occasionally let shine through. Either way, he's caught my interest for sure.

The glimmers are my first favorite thing. Gillian Philip does a great job crafting little relationships that are full of tenderness and awwww. Seth and Conal have that whole "brothers in arms" thing going on that I LOVE. It's made even cooler by their matchy match pets of awesome (each brother has a wolf and a waterhorse, and I'd probably read this series solely to spend more time with these creatures). Dog lovers will appreciate the relationships with their wolves, especially.

I'd mention some of the other relationships, but they'd be huge spoilers so I won't. But just know, there are relationships with humans that are tender and beautiful and heartbreaking.

My second favorite thing is the world. Now, again, I don't fully get this world. There are all kinds of rules and history and motivations and creatures and I'm not sure how they all fit together and what they all mean. But I'm having a ton of fun figuring it out.

Finally, my third favorite thing is villainess Kate. She has creepy henchmen (SO ewww), inexplicable power, and a game plan that I only partially understand.

What I DO understand is that this lady is full of secrets, she is totally NOT what she appears to be, she is EVIL of the best kind, and her nefarious plotting is the long-game kind (which I LOVE). The series spans centuries, and Kate's plots slowly unfold in a cat-and-mouse game against Conal and Seth who are trying to bring her down in a razor's edge dance to which only Kate seems to know the steps. It's tense, it's heartbreaking, it's confusing, and it's a lot of fun.

Bottom line

This series is strange, but also strangely beautiful. Gillian Philip reminds me of authors like Rachel Neumeier and Sharon Shinn, with the authorial chops to overcome things that would normally send me running.

Don't expect concrete. Don't expect the traditional approach to storytelling with a linear plot and a clear framework for the story. Time jumps by centuries. Characters appear and disappear. Connections are not always readily apparent. The story is as harsh and bewildering as fairies themselves, and her fairies may be the most convincing to me as a result.

This is a hard series for me, but it's a rewarding one. The glimmers, the characters, the moments between them. The losses and triumphs. The determination of war and the crushing defeats.

I may not be sure exactly where I'm going or who I'm going there with when reading these books, but I'm certainly in for the long haul.

* This review is for Firebrand and Bloodstone. The third and final book of the trilogy Wolfsbane will come out July 2014, and I'm having a hard time waiting.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about the Rebel Angels series that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Interested in my interview with Gillian Philip?


  • What you can win: Two winners will each received a finished copy of Bloodstone, book two in the series
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is open to US/CA addresses
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on December 31st 

1 comment:

  1. Well, now, this review has caught my attention. I'm totally awed by it considering we just finished up a story with very non-concrete world building and we both agreed it was awful. This one seems to be confusing, hard to figure out what's going on, but all in a worthwhile sort of way. I'm totally taken aback by the sheer fact that you are enjoying a FAIRY story? It sounded a titch boring to me from the jacket cover. After reading this you've captured my interest: especially when it comes to the "matchy pets" - the wolf and the water horse. Ok that sounds REALLY cool!!! I also am intrigued by the special relationships between characters. The relationships sound right up my alley. I'm fearful though because I'm not very good at filling in, I'm a spoon fed plot reader, do you think this one will be over my head and too difficult for me to read? I do have to say I've read and TOTALLY enjoyed R. Neumeier books, she's an impressive writer who always captures my attention with her attention to detail and impressional 3-D character depictions. Let me know what you think.... you were kind enough to send me a hard copy of book #1. I still have it on my nightstand.


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