Archangel

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With a lot on my plate lately, it was sort of inevitable that I would fall into my comfort zone and re-read an old favourite rather than tackle the list of new to-reads that I have right now. Sometimes, you just need a bit of a mental break – and nothing but revisiting a world discovered ages ago will do.

However, since I’ve never written a review for this book, I thought it was about time.

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I discovered Archangel at a jumble sale at which you could fill bags and boxes with books for a pittance, and it was ages later that I read it. But in the tumble of abandoned classics, neglected YA, and trashy magazines, it stood out – and firmly cemented itself as a favourite.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a religious person. I have no overt complaints or problems with the institution of religion, but it hasn’t particularly called to me as an adult, nor have I sought it out.

Archangel then, may seem like a strange favourite.

It’s set on a world called Samaria, in which angels have holds in each region, mingle and mate with humans, and intercede with God on their behalf on issues of weather, health, and faith. It follows two main characters: Gabriel, who is slated to become the next Archangel (leader of the angel host), and Rachel, the woman who is chosen by God to become his wife, and thus, the next Angelica.

Gabriel is a stubborn man, determined that his term as Archangel will bring many changes for the better. Rachel is perhaps even more stubborn, though also more prideful, and much of her story is of trying to find her place and come to terms with the new life that she is expected to lead. They’re often frustrating characters to read about, but I was so emotionally invested in their story that I would plough through even when discontent.

This book is a simple read. It’s filled with faith, and it’s also filled with singing. Music is a central theme in the story simply because its how the characters communicate with God. The descriptions of music made me wish that I was more gifted with melodies, and it was easy to hear the lovely songs in my head as I was reading.

Though the story is that of two people brought together to wed, it isn’t precisely a love story. Rather, it’s a tale of pride, stubbornness, evil, and curiosity. The cast of characters is diverse, with various personalities coming together to form a very believable tapestry – even considering that some are angels.

Because I have read several other books in the series, I know that the stories of some are mentioned in passing in the narrative, which was a fun little surprise. For that same reason, I’m also aware that this book is not, in fact, a theological novel. While it deals with faith, with God, and with angels, its actually a science fiction novel, which makes it that much more brilliant. While you won’t get the full effect (or any of it, really) if you don’t read the other novels, the truths and stories revealed in the later books made me love this book even more.

This first novel in the series of Samaria books sets in place the world that is built upon in the later novels without going into so much detail that it becomes tedious.

In short, if you’re looking for a quick read that includes angels, a campaign for human rights, and a super awkward duo getting married, this is the one for you.

Children’s Classic I Loved As a Kid

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Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.

The question this week is:

What children’s classic couldn’t you read enough when you were growing up?

Before I answered this question, I frantically googled whether or not Harry Potter counted as a children’s classic. Determining that it did not, the answer became clear.

I adored Black Beauty as a kid.

I read it over and over again, often crying from the very beginning because I already knew what was going to happen. I was never particularly attracted to tragic stories, but this one absolutely captivated me.

I grew up on a farm, but to my chagrin we never had horses. I always wished for them and I loved visiting friends who had them. We had donkeys and a mule (who was the meanest creature ever), and I used to talk to the donkeys as if they could understand me while I brushed them. I’m still a little convinced that they could.

Black Beauty was a book that really affected the way I thought about animals. It was the first book I read with anthropomorphic characters, and I still to this day think of animals as beings with thoughts and feelings like my own. Objectively, I know that the human brain operates differently than animal brains, and that animals like snakes are incapable of love… but I can’t quite shake the feeling that animals can understand me and feel the way that I feel.

It also opened the door for me to other books with anthropomorphic characters. I went on to read and enjoy Watership Down, Narnia, Warrior Cats, and countless others.

Not only did Anna Sewell write an excellent story, she touched millions of lives as well. She died five months after its publication, but lived to see Black Beauty become a success. It sold millions of copies, and readers were so outraged at the treatment of horses that actual changes in law took place because of it. The punishing use of the bearing rein was outlawed in Victorian England, and taxicab fees for drivers were greatly reduced as well.

Black Beauty wasn’t written for children. Sewell wrote it so that people would understand the plight of horses – and she succeeded greatly.

If you’ve never read it you’re really missing out on a fantastic classic.

What children’s classic did you pore over as a kid?