Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn is the last book to be published in the Samaria series. It occurs a few months after Archangel so you can read this right after that one. They are the only two books set in the same time period, all of the others are set centuries before or after. Archangel is one of my favorite reads in 2010 and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jovah’s Angela and The Alleluia Files so I had high hopes for this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Elizabeth was born to wealth, but circumstances forced her to live as a servant in her cousin’s household. Determined to change her life for the better, she makes the journey to the town of Cedar Hills, hoping that an angel will take notice of her, and take her as his own.

Rebekah is a daughter of the Jansai tribe, raised to hate the angels – and to marry whichever man her father chooses for her. But in her heart, she longs for a different life. And when she finds an injured angel near her village, she defies her upbringing to care for him.

In time, these two women, whose paths will cross, will both find what they desire, in surprising – and dangerous – ways.

I love the world that Sharon Shinn created with her Samaria books. I know there are a lot of series about angels out there but this one is really my favorite. I’m glad that Obadiah got his own story because he’s a character that I really liked in Archangel. He is sent by the Archangel Gabriel to go to Breven and deal with the Jansai. The Jansai are merchants who have no love for angels, especially since Gabriel outlawed their main source of income – the slavery of the Edori. Obadiah is the perfect choice for this mission because of his charming personality. He has a way with words and people can’t help but like him. Obadiah knew that the task wouldn’t be easy but he never expected he’d be suddenly injured in the middle of the desert with resources. Thankfully, a young Jansai girl named Rebekah offers help even though it’s forbidden for women of their race to even talk to men outside of their family, let alone an angel. Interwoven with their story is Elizabeth’s tale as she wishes to obtain a pampered life by being an angel-seeker, a woman willing to have relations with an angel for a chance to become a mother to a precious angel baby.

I couldn’t figure out how Elizabeth’s story intersects with Obadiah and Rebekah’s and was even afraid that there was a love triangle in this book. Have no fear, that doesn’t happen in this book (sorry if that piece of information is spoiler-ish). The narrative changes from Obadiah, Rebekah and Elizabeth’s points of view so we understand better what the characters are going through. Both Rebekah and Elizabeth encounter big changes in their lives throughout the books. They both show how strong and resilient they are in the face of danger and unfamiliar situations. I enjoyed reading both of their stories and I don’t prefer one over the other. Sweet Jovah singing, you can’t help but root for both of these girls! I thought the romance between Obadiah and Rebekah was very sweet, which is a good thing because they both deserve to be happy. Elizabeth also achieves inner peace as she makes better choices in life. I was thrilled by the glimpses of Gabriel, Rachel and even Nathan and Magdalena in this one because they’re characters that I loved in Archangel. All in all, a very satisfying installment in what has become one of my favorite series. I highly recommend this book and the whole series to fans of romantic fantasy or fans of books about angels. I hope I get to read Angelica soon, the only remaining Samaria book that I haven’t read because I want to start on Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series. Also, I think I’d love to read a book set during the time when the settlers first came to Samaria. I think Angel-Seeker is a fitting Retro Friday choice this weekend because it is a love story at its core and we all know that Valentine’s Day is coming up.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn

Yay, it’s Friday! I love Fridays. I think I’ve said it several times in this blog. Anyway, I finished reading The Alleluia Files last night and I thought I’d post a review while the story is still fresh in my mind. I’ve enjoyed reading the first books in the series: Archangel and Jovah’s Angel and I was really curious about this one. It is set in the same world but a hundred years later than Jovah’s Angel and around two hundred and fifty years later than Archangel.

Here’s the summary from the back of the book with some sentences thrown in from Sharon Shinn’s website:

It has been one hundred years since the Archangel Alleluia and the mortal Caleb discovered the truth about the god of Samaria. Legend says they left a record of that truth, though no document has ever been found. In time, an underground cult arose, seeking to find again what Alleluia found. But the reigning Archangel Bael seeks to destroy the small dissident sect of Jacobites that spreads this heretic philosophy.

Yet some survived. Among them is Tamar, child of cultists, raised in captivity among the angels. Tamar believes that the Alleluia Files exist. She is determined to find them, and to free the people of Samaria from their fear of Jovah. In her search, she encounters the angel Jared, one of the members of his kind who have come to question the wisdom of Bael. Together, these two uneasy allies will journey the length and breadth of Samaria, risking their lives and the lives of their comrades, seeking a truth that will alter the face of Samaria forever…

At the same time, the angel Lucinda learns that her mother was a Jacobite — and Lucinda herself might have the key to uncovering the truth about Jovah.

Pretty hefty summary, huh? I tweaked the summary from two sources because I wanted to give a better, spoiler-free picture of what occurs in the book. As with the other Samaria books, this one revolves around certain characters, namely Tamar, Jared and Lucinda, and their interactions with each other. Tamar is a feisty and fiercely determined woman, brought up by Jacobites. She has been on the run her entire life and has a hard time trusting people. On the other hand, Jared is a happy-go-lucky type of angel. Even though he’s technically the leader at Monteverde, he’s never been passionate about anything. Tamar and Jared are total opposites, even in their beliefs, and it was such fun to watch them get on each other’s nerves because it’s so obvious that they admire each other underneath all the arguments. I have to admit, Jovah comes up with the most unlikely pairs but they end up suiting each other nicely.

While all of that is happening, the angel Lucinda is having her own adventures. Lucinda was brought up by her Aunt Gretchen in an isolated island called Angel Rock. Lucinda is an interesting person because you’d expect her to be shy and reserved, having grown up in an island with a population of twenty, but she’s not. She’s open-minded, eager to learn new things and does not back down when she’s being intimidated. At first, I kept thinking about what was Lucinda’s connection to the other characters and I only realized it around the middle of the book. I was so excited to finish reading to see how it will all unfold. I’m sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to mention spoilers.

The Alleluia Files is another excellent installment in the Samaria series. This series has become my favorite when it comes to books featuring angels. Although to be fair, there aren’t a lot of angel books out there. I highly recommend this series to fantasy fans. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Jovah’s Angel by Sharon Shinn

Jovah’s Angel is the second book to the Samaria series and the sequel to Archangel, which I read and loved last April. This book is set one hundred and fifty years after the Archangel Gabriel’s time. Thanks to Celina for picking up this book for me when she went to a sale in Fully Booked. I know of a couple of book bloggers (namely Charlotte, Angie and Michelle) who love this series based on their comments in my review of Archangel.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

More than a hundred years after the time of Rachel and Gabriel, Samaria is in deep turmoil. Charismatic Archangel Delilah has been injured and forced to give up her position, and she has been replaced by shy, uncertain Alleluia. What’s worse, ungovernable storms are sweeping across the country, and the god never seems to hear the angels’ pleas to abate the bad weather. Unless those prayers are offered by the new Archangel…

And she also posted an interesting tidbit as well:

What I find intriguing about this book is that there’s no villain. There’s no power struggle between ambitious individuals. It’s all about man vs. the environment, with a healthy dose of man vs. faith.

Yay, I noticed this tidbit while reading the novel too! I kept thinking to myself that it was very interesting that there was no villain to this story. The novel revolves around complex characters, their beliefs, how their lives are all intertwined and how they deal with a world that is rapidly changing. I liked the contrast between the deposed Archangel Delilah: dark, vibrant, and outgoing and her replacement Alleluia (nicknamed Alleya): blonde, reserved and not much of a people person. Delilah has a striking and lovely voice and she has the kind of personality that naturally draws people to her. Alleya, on the other hand, is shy and quiet. The whole land was surprised when the god chose her to replace Delilah and she struggles to give her best in her role as Archangel even though she never wanted to be one. Alleya would much rather have her nose buried inside a book than have political dealings with the influential people of Samaria.

Also included in the fascinating mix of characters are best friends and scientists Caleb and Noah. Although it is set in the same world as Archangel, Samaria is now on the brink of an industrial revolution. Both Caleb and Noah are inventors with their own specializations. It was interesting to note that in a land full of believers, Caleb is a self-proclaimed atheist. He thinks that science has more power over faith and there isn’t enough proof in the world for religion. Like Archangel, there’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it never becomes overwhelming. I liked Caleb and his insatiable thirst for knowledge and how he can focus on one problem until he arrives at a solution. I know it’s not obvious based on my blog but I was an electronics engineering major back in college (I never practiced and now know next to nothing about the field) so I can somewhat relate to Caleb’s interest in science. I really enjoyed reading about this world and this set of characters and I can just imagine that the rest of the books in the series will be just as wonderful. I wasn’t expecting what happened in the ending but I loved how it all worked out. I think it was just perfect.

Just for fun, I like picking out quotes from books that I read and I note down the ones that resonate with me. This is one taken from one of Alleya and Caleb’s conversation somewhere in the middle of the book:

“If love makes you sad, you acquire a little depth, a little compassion. If it makes you happy, you learn how to be joyous. Every relationship should color your soul to a certain degree, don’t you think? Every friendship, every love affair – each one should build up the chambers of your heart the way a sea creature builds the chamber of his shell.”

And this one is part of one of the final scenes and I’m not going to say any more than that to avoid spoilers:

“Yet the world is the same as it always was. It is merely that you see it with new eyes.”

This can be a standalone novel but I would recommend that the entire series be read because why miss the awesomeness? I, myself, am looking forward to what’s in store in the rest of the series. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

They say that the next trend after vampires will be angels but I don’t think there are a lot of good books about angels out there. Archangel seems to be the exception and it has been recommended a couple of times, I don’t even remember where’s the first time that I saw it. I saw a copy when I picked up A Conspiracy of Kings and decided to get it as well. I know that Angie mentioned that this is one of her favorite angel books so I knew I was in for a treat.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

Angels and men exist in harmony on the world of Samaria. Every twenty years, a new Archangel is chosen to govern the land and lead all the people of Samaria in a great musical chorale to honor the god Jovah. But Gabriel, the Archangel-elect, finds himself constantly feuding with Rachel, the bride who has been chosen for him by Jovah—and he is slowly coming to realize that the aging Archangel Raphael has no intention of giving up his power, even if it means all of Samaria could be destroyed.

Oooh and Ms. Shinn also posted her favorite scene from the book. I think that’s my favorite too! I don’t think it’s spoilery so I’ll post it here as well:

My favorite scene: The one where Rachel wakes up under Gabriel’s wing. That’s actually the scene I had in my head most clearly before I started writing the book, so it’s the scene that I worked backward and forward from as I came up with t e rest of the story.

Before I write anything else, I just want to ask what’s up with the cover? I’m going to go ahead and assume that that’s Rachel but what is she holding in her hands, a feather and a glowing ball of some sort? It’s not part of the story at all. I’m glad I’ve heard so many good things about this book because otherwise, I wouldn’t have picked it up based on the strength of its cover alone. I’ve only read one other Sharon Shinn novel and that’s Summers at Castle Auburn. I enjoyed reading that book but it’s YA and Archangel isn’t so I knew that the writing would be somewhat different.

I loved the worldbuilding in this book. The setting is a fictional country called Samaria, where angels co-exist with humans and they pray to the god, Jovah for all kinds of intervention – weather, health and general well-being. All angels are born gifted with incredible musical ability and they pray by singing. Every twenty years, an Archangel is chosen to govern the whole country and every year, the Archangel leads the people in singing a mass, the Gloria, in praise of the god. His angelica (or her angelico if the Archangel is female), the god’s chosen wife (or husband) must sing by the Archangel’s side. If they don’t, the god will strike down lightning from the heavens and destroy the world. Isn’t that interesting? There’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it’s not preachy and it isn’t too much that you’ll be overloaded with information. I think it’s just enough to show the religion in that world and the strength of the characters’ beliefs.

I also loved the characters in this book. Both Rachel and Gabriel are solid characters. Rachel is strong-willed and very stubborn and even though she knows it’s a great honor, she’s reluctant to become the angelica. Gabriel is arrogant and self-assured but he loves the land and the people and only want what’s the best for them. The story is told from alternating third-person points of view of these two so we get to see how things develop from both sides. I love that even though they’re meant for each other by the god’s mandate, they still have to work for it. It’s definitely not love at first sight and they keep rubbing each other the wrong way. Love-hate relationships for the win! ♥

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to reading the other books in the Samaria series. I have a feeling they’re going to be great! I also have copies of the first two Twelve Houses and I hope those books are just as good. If you’ve read Ms. Shinn’s work, please leave a comment to tell me what you think of them. Also, what are other angel books that you’ll recommend?