I'm not a fan of angels in fiction. In addition to the concern Henley expresses on her website about not wanting to go through God's middleman, I also notice the media tends to get angels wrong. No, I never thought that when a bell rings an angel gets its wings, but I was shocked in 7th or 8th grade to discover that no, angels are NOT actually dead people, but created beings.
There are a lot of things about angels in Eye of the Sword that I personally disagree with, despite Henley's extensive Christian work history. Full disclosure, I did not read the first book in the series, Breath of Angel, so it's possible some of these points were addressed there. However, in Eye of the Sword:
- Humans and angels can have children, and the end result is Nephilim, who are neither giants nor bad. (See Genesis 6, where God is very angry, in close conjunction with the angels taking human women as wives. One explanation, though not the only one, is that God needed the flood to wipe out the half-breed Nephilim from the Earth.)
- Female angels can bear children of human men.
- Unless I read wrong, angels seem to be able to die as humans die.
- Outside of heaven, angels seem to consistently look like humans (aside from wings they hide under a cape).
- Many angels spend their time with humans, acting more or less like humans; I saw little evidence of them thinking about God and His affairs.
- Angels can't get to heaven if their stairway is missing.
But I personally can't view angels with the same flexibility I give dragons. Angels are absolutely real, Biblical beings, not figurative portrayals. They are involved in human affairs, and are second to God. Even if we speculate that God created countless worlds (and I love to speculate about that), would the angels themselves be so drastically different in those other words?
Even allowing that angels might be different in other worlds, Eye of the Sword takes place in a world where the term "comain" is used for people who seem to basically fulfill the function of knights. I don't agree with everything Orson Scott Card has to say, but he (and I believe many others) argue that in fantasy, if you use a new term for an item, there should be a good reason for it. If someone's eating a fruit that looks a lot like an apple, and tastes a lot like an apple, and grows on trees that look like apple trees, and is made into pies that taste like apple pies, it's probably best to just call the fruit an apple.
So by that logic, I as reader assume that the so-called "angels" and "Nephilim" are supposed to be MORE similar to the real angels and Nephilim of our world, than the king-serving, sword-and-shield bearing, horse-riding "comains" are similar to the knights of old. And given that these angels and Nephilim do not at all match up to my expectations, I got alternately irritated and offended when reading about them.
Anyway, angels obviously fascinate a lot of people, and just a cursory look at Henley's website reveals how much they interest her. She has an engaging writing style and writes a good fantasy. I'm almost certain I would have really liked Eye of the Sword if the angels had been another race, aliens, or something besides "angels." That said, angels are so popular, I would imagine they helped the book sell.
So! What you think about fantasy portrayals of Biblical things like angels? I'll review the book tomorrow.
Here are the other blog tour participants:
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
(I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a review.)