It is one thing to wonder if angles are real; it is another to wonder if you should trust them. And it is something else entirely to wonder if you are an angel.
Karyn Henley’s Breath of Angel begins in a temple, where everything is clear and the world is limited. When the novice priestess Melaia is drawn out, she discovers that certainty is elusive and the truth is wild – even the truth about herself.
The world of Breath of Angel is painted with precision, with colors deep and bright. It feels tangible, each part crafted individually. Henley has populated it with all sorts of creatures – some wonderful, some strange, and some horrible.
The characters are also varied, also well-drawn. Melaia herself stands out – a more memorable and more flawed heroine than fantasy usually gives. The plot feels a bit flighty – without steady objectives, dangerous turns in the story given no meaning – but it keeps you entertained beginning to end.
Artistically, the book had two main errors. For the first, Karyn Henley plunged into the story without laying the groundwork. Halfway into the book, she was still springing basic facts on the readers. The first revelations, and some of the later ones, came without proper build-up.
The second error is that characters repeatedly did things that made no sense. It makes no sense that the villain should waltz in and proclaim his secret identity to four young girls; it makes no sense that the heroes set off on dangerous missions without considering the details. (“Say, does anybody know where, in this large building full of hostile persons, we need to go?”)
On the moral side, the tactic of dressing like a “street woman” to slip past guards was wrong on several levels.
These missteps dampen the novel, yet it remains enjoyable. Breath of Angel weaves a vivid world and a rich mythology, in a story that never stops.
Note: Breath of Angel is Book One in the Angelaeon Cirlce; Book Two, Eye of the Sword, is the featured book of this month’s CSFF blog tour, and I hope to review it tomorrow.