Thursday, March 17, 2022

Book & Audio Review: Archangel by Sharon Shinn


Sharon Shinn
Narrator: Tamara Marston
Series: Angel (Book 1)
Publication: Ace; Reissue edition (April 1, 1997); Audible Studios (July 20, 2010)
Length: 398 p.; 17 hours and 8 minutes

Description: From national bestselling author Sharon Shinn comes a stunningly beautiful novel of a distant future—where the fate of the world rests on the voice of an angel...

Through science, faith, and force of will, the Harmonics carved out for themselves a society that they conceived as perfect. Diverse peoples held together by respect for each other. Angels to guard the mortals and mystics to guard the forbidden knowledge. Jehovah to watch over them all...

Generations later, the armed starship Jehovah still looms over the planet of Samaria, programmed to unleash its arsenal if peace is not sustained. But with the coming of an age of corruption, Samaria's only hope lies in the crowning of a new Archangel. The oracles have chosen Gabriel for this honor, and further decreed that he must first wed a mortal woman named Rachel.

It is his destiny and hers. And Gabriel is certain that she will greet the news of her betrothal with enthusiasm, and a devotion to duty equal to his own.

Rachel, however, has other ideas...

My Thoughts: Gabriel, an angel, is in line to be the next archangel when he and his wife sing the Gloria at the upcoming annual celebration. The first problem is that, while Gabriel knows the name of his potential wife, he doesn't know where she is. He has only six weeks to find her before they have to sing together. 

Rachel in a slave in Semorrah for five years. She was born a farm girl. When her farm was attacked, she was a small child whose body was sheltered by the dead body of her father. When the attackers finally left, Rachel ran until she was found by the Edori who adopted her and raised her. She found happiness and a young man to love. But then their encampment was attacked by Jansai raiders looking for slaves. Rachel was captured and sold and left wondering about the fate of the rest of her adopted family.

Gabriel is reluctant to give up his search for Rachel in order to attend a wedding in Semorrah but as the next archangel he needs to get along with the wealthy merchants. He is very surprised to find Rachel there. He takes her back to his mountain Eyrie to marry her and make sure that she's ready for their vocal performance.

Rachel isn't pleased with what she sees as Gabriel's high-handedness. She has been filled with rage at her situation for most of her life. She had just convinced a young woman to buy her as her servant and then free her when Gabriel swoops in and wrecks her life again. It doesn't help that Gabriel doesn't have time to spend with her to get to know her. He's busy trying to deal with the consequences of the current archangel's actions which have done nothing to keep that harmony that their god Jovah requires. 

So, there is Rachel in the Eyrie where she is trapped since the only way to get to it is to be flown by an angel and she is deathly afraid of heights and suffers from vertigo while Gabriel is off meeting people. There is the jealous rival who has always wanted Gabriel and is doing her best to sabotage Rachel. And there are the music practice rooms where Rachel is introduced to recordings of the great angelic singers of the past. Rachel refuses to sing herself leaving major uncertainty about her ability to fulfill her role at the Gloria.

Then there is the villain of the piece in Archangel Raphael who has held his position for the previous twenty years and who doesn't want to yield power to Gabriel. But the more Gabriel looks into things, the more he sees what Raphael has neglected. Gabriel comes to believe that Raphael doesn't believe in Jovah and has convinced his supporters that Jovah is a myth. Raphael has encouraged greed and lawlessness and is ruining the harmony that Jovah requires. 

This was a stunning story quite different than the book summary. It actually reads as a fantasy with some science fiction elements like screens to talk to Jovah used by the oracles and devices implanted in babies which let Jovah know about and keep track of the population. The current generations don't know about the history of their world or about the goals of the founders or the existence of a ship in space. There are winged angels and humans on the world. There is a god named Jovah who can be invoked by the singing prayers of the angels. Jovah can control the weather and sometimes sends down medicinal plants or necessary seeds.  Jovah is their god. 

I enjoyed this story which is the first of the Samaria series and look forward to rereading and listening to the rest. 

Favorite Quote:
"Only the strongest are put through the fire," Josiah said. "And the forge creates things of great strength and beauty."

"Then I shall be truly glorious by the time my tenure ends."
I've owned the paperback since before 2008. The audiobook was a recent purchase because it was on sale. I got the Kindle because I like to read along while I listen. You can buy your copy here.

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