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End of Days by Susan Ee fantasy book reviewsEnd of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days is the third and final book in Susan Ee‘s post-apocalyptic PENRYN AND THE END OF DAYS trilogy, one which pits seventeen year old Penryn Young against hordes of angels who seem intent on bringing about the end of the world. More like an alien invasion than the Rapture, these Old Testament angels have decimated entire cities, leaving the remnants of humanity’s population to scrounge in the streets.

Penryn has it worse than most, being the sole carer of her paraplegic sister Paige and her schizophrenic mother; struggling to keep all of them alive in the wastelands of San Francisco — at least until she manages to secure a truce with an injured archangel called Raffe, and gradually come to an understanding of what exactly the invasion is really about. Told in first-person narration by Penryn, the trilogy is bursting with action and mayhem, but is immensely readable thanks to the shortness of the chapters (some only a couple of pages long) and the quick-as-lightning pacing.

Following on from Angelfall and World After, this final instalment has Penryn and Raffe — their uneasy alliance now more of a simmering attraction — seek out a doctor that might be able to reattach Raffe’s angel wings and reverse the horrific effects that human/angel experimentation has wrought on Paige. But in conversation with Raffe’s one-time friend Belial, Penryn learns some dark truths about Raffe’s past, and the abilities of the angel-sword she now wields.

A choice lies before her: to support Raffe in his bid to take over as Messenger of the Angels, or to stand with her people and fight against the endless slaughter. Achieving the former will mean the deaths of thousands, but Raffe’s leadership is also the only way to ensure the departure of the angels from Earth. To do the latter is to participate in a hopeless cause, and yet Penryn has never been one to give up without a fight.

Personally I think End of Days is a satisfying conclusion to what’s certainly been a wild ride, though I have my reservations about the romance that takes place between Penryn and Raffe (I know it’s a prerequisite for YA novels, but I honestly felt the story could have done just as well without it) and how the plot was wrapped up in a rather slapdash manner.

I’m not a mind-reader, so perhaps this is an unfair assessment, but towards the final chapters I could almost feel Ee’s interest begin to wane — the paragraphs became short and choppy, and the ending felt rushed, with more than a little disregard for the “show don’t tell” rule (there’s what is otherwise quite a poignant talent show put on by the ragtag group of human fighters — unfortunately Penryn is at pains to spell out just how poignant it is rather than allow us to simply experience it for ourselves).

Some may feel let down by the lack of answers to be found in End of Days (not least the question of where the heck God was during this angel insurrection) but throughout the three books I always appreciated the fact that the angels remain largely mysterious in their origins and motivations. Like the aliens in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs or Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, humanity never really learns much about them, being too preoccupied with trying to survive their apocalyptic onslaught to glean any real answers. It not only makes them more threatening, but keeps the focus solely on humanity’s plight.

That said, there are some hints as to Uriel’s long-term plans if you read between the lines, but for the most part Ee leaves the whys and wherefores of the angel invasion opaque. Instead, the real focus of End of Days is in the love story between Penryn and Raffe — sadly to the detriment of Penryn’s relationship with her mother and sister, who take more of a backseat this time around.

I feel like I’m flip-flopping a lot on the merit of this third and final instalment, as for every pro there was a con. This time around the twins Dee and Dum were grating, with banter that didn’t sound like anything real people would actually partake in, and yet I found the plight and backstory of Belial (an antagonist in the previous books) utterly unforgettable — easily the most heart-rending component of the trilogy as a whole.

So it’s with a certain amount of bitter-sweetness that I finish Susan Ee’s popular trilogy, though in the process of writing this review I discovered that it’s already headed towards a big-screen adaptation (with Sam Raimi at the helm, no less). Following in the footsteps of Katniss Everdeen as the female protagonist of a dystopian trilogy, spunky and street-smart Penryn should prove a worthy successor.

Penryn & the End of Days — (2012-2015) Publisher: It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with Raffe, an injured enemy angel. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco, where Penryn will risk everything to rescue her sister and Raffe will put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

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  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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