*This review will contain spoilers!*
First off, I need to say a massive thank you to Patchwork Press, for accepting my request to review this book from NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
I haven't read a book about fallen angels, or any of this type of mythology, since I read the Fallen Angel duology by Heather Terrell, way back three years ago. I've been wanting to explore the genre further for a while, I just didn't have a good segue into it, but when I spotted the Ignite series on NetGalley I knew that I had to request them.
'Ignite' follows Penemuel, our main protagonist, and her twin brother Azael, as they travel around America doing demon-y things. When we join them, Penemuel (or Pen, as she prefers) is massacring the patients and staff of an asylum, and Azael is waiting to reap their souls for Hell. While Azael is reaping, Pen waits in a tree outside for him, keeping a watchful eye out for any angels that might come and attempt to interrupt their work. Everything is going swimmingly, until a golden boy with golden hair lands in the tree above her: the archangel, Michael. Except for the fact that Michael died, hundreds of centuries ago, because of Pen, so it's impossible that he can be back... Isn't it?
I'm not sure if it's just because I haven't read a book of this genre in a couple of years, but I found it really hard to get into the first half of the novel. I enjoyed Pen's narration (the constant referencing of old literary texts was something that I really enjoyed, and I'm definitely going to look into reading 'Paradise Lost') and I enjoyed the back and forth exchanges between her and Azael, but something just didn't click for me. The scene where Pen attempts to reanimate a soul to access the memories, but the memories have all been wiped, was definitely intriguing but it seemed a little rushed, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. The premise was definitely unique though, and that's something that's difficult to do in a genre like this.
However, after Pen was placed on the mission to guard Michael, and her and Azael split up for him to go and track Lilith, the story became much more interesting for me. Instead of just being demons up to no good, the relationship between Pen and Michael was really captivating, and I appreciated the fact that it wasn't insta-love; it definitely took some time for them to realise that they had feelings for each other. I thought it was pretty obvious that Pen had had a crush on Michael's first incarnation, but I'm glad there were no love at first sight droning speeches. The mirroring between their relationship and that of Romeo and Juliet was quite obvious, especially considering that the play was referenced at multiple stages throughout the novel, but that makes the events of the second novel even more intriguing; will they get their happily ever after, or will these star-crossed lovers experience the same fate as the original pair?
Other than the relationship of Pen and Michael, there were more positives throughout the novel. One of the main themes is the difference between good and evil, and the fact that there are many shades to every person. Angels are white, and demons are black, but Pen and Michael can both admit the fact that they have shades of grey in them. I believe in yin and yang, in that all good needs some bad and all bad needs some good, but the fact that most of the characters in this novel have quite extreme beliefs is very well discussed.
'I couldn't fight for Heaven when their definition of good was so narrow that it excluded any instance of weakness. When it punished doubt. Being righteous does not always mean being right. It simply means trying to do what you think is right.'
In that respect, it's rather a philosophical novel. Just because we've seen Pen ripping out throats, does that mean she's entirely evil? Or does the love that she feels for Michael give her the essence of goodness back?
I also really enjoyed Azael's darkness, in contrast to Pen's conflicting emotions. I can't remember a novel that I've read that has been narrated by a demon before, so in some ways it was kind of disappointing that we didn't experience the viewpoint of a demon so convinced by what Hell stood for. However, that changed when we reached the epilogue, narrated by Azael. The exchange between him and Lucifer was brilliantly written, exuding a darkness that we never experienced in Pen's viewpoint, and the characterisation of Lucifer was exactly what I'd been hoping for throughout. It would have been good to get more of Azael's story, including what went on when he was trailing Lilith around the country, but the bit that we did get was written very well and I definitely appreciated it. However, during Azael's viewpoint we discover that the demons have already taken over Heaven, meaning that we missed the dramatic conflict that had been built up to throughout the entire novel, which was kind of disappointing. The set-up for the second novel has definitely been established though: Pen and Michael on the run, Azael on a quest from Lucifer to kill them both, all angels stuck in purgatory... It should be a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
I will admit, it all does sound a bit like an episode of 'Supernatural' to me, but I don't mind that so much because I do really enjoy the TV show. I'm also lucky that I read this novel when I did, because I can now move on to the second book straight away (after reading the novella, 'Entice') whereas if I'd read the first book when it was released a couple of years ago I would have been beyond frustrated by the cliffhanger.
There are some negatives to this novel: the beginning is slow, there are some speeches by Pen scattered throughout that make you want to roll your eyes (an example being towards the end of the novel when she declares she'll never stop trying to find Michael, then contacts Hell after the first setback...) and there's a constant switching between the spelling of 'pendant' and 'pendent', but other than those little issues I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I was going to. I'd definitely recommend it if you are a 'Supernatural' fan, or a fan of angel/demon novels in general, because it was a lot of fun to read and it managed to put a unique spin on the genre. Fingers crossed that the second book will be just as good, if not better.