CSFF Blog Tour: Sabres, Cherubs, and Guardian Angels

During the blog tour of Angel Eyes, I wrote a post considering different aspects of the angels’ portrayals and their foundation in Scripture. Now that Shannon Dittemore has continued her series, I will continue mine. The portrayal of angels may be classified one of three ways: biblical (taught in Scripture), anti-biblical (contradicted by Scripture), and speculative (neither confirmed nor denied by Scripture).

So here we go:

Angels called Sabres worship God near His throne – The Sabres bear a resemblance to the four living creatures of Revelation, whom John saw around the throne and who “never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.’ ” They are also similar to the six-winged seraphim Isaiah saw flying above God’s throne, “calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ “

But the Sabres can’t be the four living creatures. For one thing, there are twelve of them, and for another, they aren’t covered with eyes. Nor does their description match that of the seraphim. Although the Sabres have some biblical antecedent, they are speculative inventions.

Cherubs are small – Pearla, the Cherub, is a small angel; the demonic counterparts of her “cherubic order” – “impish” spies – are apparently small, too.

The Bible makes some mention of cherubs, or cherubim. They were a prominent aspect of the holy art of the tabernacle and the temple, and the Ark of the Covenant was overshadowed by golden cherubim. In the desert, when Bezalel crafted the Ark, he made the “cherubim of the Glory” of one piece with its cover. Centuries later, when Solomon built the temple, they made “the chariot” – two sculptured cherubim who spread their wings above the Ark in the Most Holy Place.

It is clear that those sculptured cherubim – whose design God had given to David – had two wings. We’ll get to the importance of that later.

Cherubim, together with the flaming sword, guarded the way to Eden and the tree of life. The four living creatures Ezekiel saw were cherubim – angels with four faces, four wings, and a multitude of eyes. “When the creatures moved,” the prophet wrote, “I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army.”

The walls of the temple Ezekiel saw – like the walls of the temple Solomon built – were decorated with cherubim. In the temple of Ezekiel’s vision, each cherub had two faces.

In chapter 28, God speaks: “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you … You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. … Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

Pearla, the Cherub, was called “little one” by the archangel Michael. One cannot imagine Michael extending the same endearment to the cherubim guarding Eden, or the four living creatures, or the “guardian cherub” of Ezekiel’s prophecy. One word you would not associate with the cherubim of Scripture is “small”.

In making imps and cherubs small, Broken Wings is drawing from culture and art, not the Bible. Indeed, the small cherubs make a very different impression than the cherubim of Scripture. Yet given the diversity of cherubim even in Scripture – two wings, four wings, two faces, four faces, covered with eyes, covered with jewels – I am reluctant to call Pearla the Cherub anti-biblical.

God assigns to human beings Shields (guardian angels) – In Acts, after Peter’s miraculous escape from prison, he came to the house of John Mark’s mother, where the believers initially thought he was “his angel”. Christians have believed in guardian angels since the beginning of the Church.

Two verses in Scripture support the idea. In Hebrews, the author writes, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” The Gospel of Matthew recounts Jesus saying, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels always see the face of my Father in heaven.” This is even more in the way of guardian angels, because it implies that God does attach specific angels to specific people.

The details of “our” angels, and how they minister to us, are unknown to us. Maybe the popular idea of an angel who is always near us is correct; maybe the angels watch from heaven; maybe they come, from time to time, as God directs. The “Shields” in the Angel Eyes Trilogy are a sound biblical idea, even though the specifics are by necessity speculative.

CSFF Blog Tour: Broken Wings

The truth, when uncovered, can cause a lot of trouble. Brielle knows this, after all the chaos stirred up when Damien discovered the secret of her eyes and Jake’s hands. That trouble is now on the back-burner, where it’s simmering to a boil. In the meantime, Brielle has enough to handle with the truth the angel unearthed in the cemetery.

Broken Wings is Shannon Dittemore’s second novel, continuing what she began in Angel Eyes. It’s a second act, but it feels like a middle-act. Dittemore handles the “before” events with enough skill that you could begin the story here, if you wanted, but you would be missing something.

What mainly creates the impression of a middle-act is the story-lines that are only begun and those that never really come to a head. Nothing is concluded. The end of the book does not set the stage for new conflicts; it merely lowers the curtain on a drama full of unfinished fights and unanswered questions.

All sorts of forces are at work in this story – demonic and angelic, human and divine. The designs of the demonic enemies are kept largely hidden; the purposes of God are more mysterious still. To Dittemore’s credit she gives God an unseen but present role, never fully explaining Him. Her characters are left to trust, or not trust. Like we are.

Shannon Dittemore keeps interest alive throughout Broken Wings, seasoning it with dashes of excitement. I enjoyed the development of Kaylee, and the textured introduction of Olivia. Marco – over this book and the first – strikes me as a bit of an idiot, but that’s acceptable in a secondary character.

I liked Jake and Brielle a little less this time around. Strangely enough, the reasons are related largely to their romance. I thought it shallow and selfish that Jake – with a miraculous healing gift in a world full of suffering, dying people – essentially reduced his criteria for healing people to, How will it affect my girlfriend? And no one will ever justify why Brielle would not wait until Jake was done healing a bleeding, unconscious person before she began kissing him.

I also thought unmarried Christians should be more hands-off than they were, though I know that the majority opinion is probably against me. And the author’s use of a few (mildly) crude words was a bad thing

Despite these moral missteps, the book had a solid spiritual foundation, themed in trusting and worshiping God even when we don’t understand. Shannon Dittemore dealt creatively with the speculative element, and the characters were strong and, on occasion, winning. Even by the standards of professional writing, the prose of Broken Wings is notably good. Those who like books about angels will find this the sort of thing they like. Even those who don’t may make an exception.


And now, happy campers – and unhappy ones, for that matter – here are the links:

Broken Wings on Amazon;

Shannon Dittemore’s website;

and the CSFF’ers, as our organizer Becky Miller calls us:


Gillian Adams

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Karielle @ Books à la Mode
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Shane Werlinger

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Angels in Art and Reality

A few months ago, the CSFF toured Eye of the Sword. The book’s “angels” set off discussions as to what angels really are and if the beings in Eye of the Sword merited the name (you can guess, by the quotation marks, where I came down on the question). Now, for Angel Eyes, I would like to consider different aspects of the angels’ portrayal and what foundation they have in Scripture.

Angels are sometimes female – From the Victorian era onward, much of angel iconography has been of beautiful women with wings. Some Christians have said, in reaction, that all angels are male. This is not quite the whole truth.

All angels shown in the Bible are male. But, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” The fact that the Bible does not prove the existence of female angels is not itself proof that no female angels exist.

I will, then, classify Shannon Dittemore’s use of a female angel as “speculative”.

Angels have wings – Ezekiel, in his extraordinary call to prophethood, witnessed the four living creatures – cherubim, with four wings. Isaiah, in his commission, saw seraphs with six wings flying around God’s throne. Daniel wrote that Gabriel came to him in “swift flight”.

The four-winged angels of Angel Eyes are, then, a mixture of the Scriptural (at least some angels have wings) and the speculative (we do not know that all have wings, or any beside the cherubim have four wings).

Angels have halos – Ah, no. This is another idea about angels we derive from art and not from Scripture. But since the Bible never counters the idea, it comes under “speculative”.

Angels are beautiful (and demons are hideous) – As far as I can recall, the Bible says nothing about the appearance of demons. Angels are sometimes described – the four living creatures in great detail. They made a strong impression on Ezekiel; I daresay they would make a strong impression on all of us.

I cannot do justice to the description of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1 and 10; I will only mention the premier facts: the cherubim had four wings, four faces, forms like a man’s, feet like a calf’s, and were covered with eyes. I am sure that if we ever saw the cherubim, merely aesthetic beauty would fall into its true insignificance, but no one will consider this description one of beauty.

Daniel also described an angel he saw in a vision: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”

The appearance of angels often had a kind of radiance. When the angel appeared to the shepherds, “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” Of the angel who rolled the stone from Jesus’ tomb, we are told, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” When the women went to the tomb, they were met by men in “clothes that gleamed like lightning”. Jesus Himself said that He would return in His glory, and the glory of the Father, and “of the holy angels”.

Perhaps the angels were beautiful, but what most struck those who saw them was light, brightness, glory – and what such people usually felt was fear.

Yet I wonder if Christians’ fantasy-novel descriptions are – at least in part – consciously metaphorical. C. S. Lewis wrote that “Devils are depicted with bats’ wings and good angels with birds’ wings … because most men like birds better than bats.” Perhaps Christian novelists portray angels as beautiful, and demons as hideous, for the same reason.

So to finally reach the conclusion, Shannon Dittemore’s descriptions are speculative, with a measure of Scriptural truth.

C. S. Lewis also wrote that angels “must be represented symbolically if they are to be represented at all.” And it is surely true that if we are to write novels about angels, much of what we write must be speculative. Angels remain hidden from us. I do not mind the speculation, though I believe Christian writers should refrain from contradicting what the Bible reveals to us. And in that, Angel Eyes holds true.

CSFF Blog Tour: Angel Eyes

When Brielle Matthews returned to Stratus at the beginning of winter, the cold inside her was greater than the cold without. She left a tragedy behind her in the city; she did not guess its players would follow her out of it. Far less could she imagine how the world changes when you see it through angel eyes.

Angel Eyes is the debut novel of Shannon Dittemore. It’s Young Adult, and in many ways it lives up to the label: teenage leads, barely breaks 300 pages, a smattering of pop culture references, an adolescent romance.

It also lives up to its other labels. Christian. Speculative. Fantasy. This novel is far broader than its Twilight references. Stratus is a nowhere town, a shard of universality in itself. The city is apparently Portland, but it could be anywhere. The characters are too human to be pinned in their environment.

This sense of universality comes, in part, from the style. The style is, for me, the most compelling part of the book. Most of the narration is in the first-person, some is in the third, and all of it is present-tense. Shannon Dittemore matches adjectives well and freshly (the fleecy sky, for example), and she has a talent for creating pictures a reader can feel. At the book’s opening, Brielle watches a train pull away from the station: “It’s empty now, but I stare after the steel snake as the heaviness of good-bye squirms inside my chest, locked away in a cage of frozen bones and tissue. Will I ever thaw enough to say the word?”

The spiritual element is strong, with a dose of the angel-demon warfare suggested in the Bible and so vividly imagined by Frank Peretti. Yet if some of this is expected, there are new concepts, including one particularly satisfying and surprising use of angel mythology.

Brielle’s spiritual journey was well-managed. Dittemore drew her, through relationships, farther than she would have gone on her own – subtly, convincingly handled. By a Christian measurement, the novel is sound. Though some of the angelic portrayal was speculative, none of it was anti-biblical.

It did, however, bother me that the book showed so positively a believer getting into a romance with an unbeliever. I realize how unusual the circumstances were, but that almost makes it worse. There are no extenuating circumstances, no reason for a Christian to wrap his life and heart around someone who rejects his Lord as a fairytale or tyrant.

The climax had excitement and complexity, but the heroes were too haphazard. It was not only that they plunged into a crisis when a moderate amount of good judgment would have kept them out of it. They jumped into the fire with no idea what they were going to do next. They never had a plan. And they didn’t need one, because other characters forced their hands time and again.

A few things in the novel were too convenient, not really squared against the reality of the story. [Spoilers] Marco’s confession was never explained, nor did we ever learn why the police believed he had been recaptured. And the big one: After they discovered the children held captive in the warehouse, they did not call the police because Marco was with them. But that made no sense. Couldn’t Marco have just waited in the car? Or even taken the car? At least they could have given him a head start before the cops showed up.

[Spoilers continue] And even if it was inevitable that Marco be rearrested – so what? Why would Brielle and Jake put their own lives – and forty-two children – at risk to ensure that Marco didn’t end up in police custody? Logically, morally, they had no reason not to call the police.

I noticed these things, but to be honest, I did not think of them much as I read. Angel Eyes is an engaging book, with the style and the spirit to keep you in it. Shannon Dittemore has entered the Christian speculative fiction scene with talent, and as a reader, I welcome her to it.


Now, briefly:

Angel Eyes on Amazon;

Shannon Dittemore’s website,

and Facebook page.

And the blog tour:
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham

Theresa Dunlap
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen

Emileigh Latham
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller

Anna Mittower
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower

Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Note: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.