A Shimmer of Angels
Lisa Basso, of San Francisco
To be published on January 29, 2013 at £7.90
16-year-old Rayna Evans has spent the last three years in a mental institution for seeing angels—intent on remaining free, she ignores signs that she may be slipping into a world she has tried to climb out of. When her hallucinations begin showing up at school, can she keep her sanity and prevent students from dying at the hands of angels she cannot admit to seeing? Psychiatry, fantasy, and realism come together here in a story of a young girl struggling with identity, secrets, and confronting her greatest fears.
So much of today’s fantasy novels are about young people keeping secrets, but when so young, and without any motivation to keep quiet what happens to those kids that speak out about the monsters? To see a story unfold through the experiences of a girl from a mental institution is curious and fascinating, and not in the morbid Victorian fascination of watching ‘the crazy people’ from the balconies… ok maybe a little. But angels over vampires are a refreshing turn to the over-done myths of popular modern culture.
If you were expecting to see the insides of the asylum and what it’s like to be with other crazy people, this is not the story for that. A Shimmer of Angels follows selfishly close to Rayna, which even she picks up on (to an extent). Far from Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rayna is already out of the institute when the story starts. Though you do get a glimpse of the institute, but don’t expect any more than ‘learning not to turn your back on a schizophrenic.’
More than being a story about angels, it is a love triangle between a gifted human and two cagey angels (aren’t they all?). However, the linear flow of the story is very easy to follow and to be enchanted by. A Shimmer looks like it will become a great substitute for the void that twilighters will feel now that the final instalment of films is over. And the fact that it is out in January means it will not just be a rebound love, and has the opportunity to be the next franchise to become ‘multi-platformed’.
I hope that the screenplay is not far behind the print release, the visual aspects of A Shimmer will easily reel in a fan base. You can almost feel the ‘soft feathers that looked like they should be oily’ and when the dark shadow swirls on the wall you might jump when the nightlight flickers. I say nightlight as this book does not want to be put down. The story moves on quickly, you might think you have found a slow passage but Ms Basso is only luring you in so that she can jump spectacularly into a new direction.
Although the story line moves on quickly – and sometimes a little too quickly, and possibly predictably – the character interaction is great. You will get more plot and fall deeper in love with the conversation than in, shall we say, a mid-air fight where wings are town off? Ok, so Basso can make quite the fight scene, the kid still only takes two sentences to walk/bus across the city. Don’t expect scenic journeys, you’re not getting it.
Yet, this isn’t described as a flaw to Basso’s writing, whether it was intentional or not, the entire novel IS Rayna. You can feel her heartbeat, you can tell that this is a childhood lost to an insane asylum, a young girl forced to grow up as she was held in a young age – all the while proving repeatedly that she is only 16 years old. Young Adults will love this; the more mature young-at-hearts of us may get annoyed by the constant technical use of short, snappy sentences and youth idioms that we left behind in the last generation. But it suits Rayna, and the interaction with her heavenly boy toys is wonderful.
Two of the biggest concerns, which will affect the entire series, is one, there is not enough angelic and heavenly pun based jokes. Two, the earlier reference of Twilight has another impact; remember that joke of ‘Hey Renesmee, Jacob got off with your mum – twice.’ Well yes, that.
The ending was, almost predictable, but in a rather fun way. It will make the next instalment worth the 12 month wait. If I were you, I would pre-order this on Amazon straight away, and as soon as those feathers flutter through your letter box, don’t think you will be putting down for a little while.
As above, Rayna is a very believable character. Young women will ‘get’ her, even though she has experience – and not experienced – an awful lot that they have. Basso has crafted a character the reader can fall into easily. The way A Shimmer is written makes it directly through Rayna’s eyes, if Rayna doesn’t realise, the reader doesn’t realise, you will have to hold on until her mind understands.
A Slither of Hope – January 2014, I am so excited for this.