A RUSH OF WINGS, an anthology edited by Amanda S. Green about angels and demons from Naked Reader Press (www.nakedreader.com), is a nice collection with a variety of stories about angels, demons, or at least those who could be confused for angels and demons by the uninitiated. The stories are interesting, there wasn’t a bad story in the lot, and it contained one outstanding story that I still can’t stop thinking about several days after reading it in Kate Paulk’s “His Father’s Son.”
The collection starts out with prolific storyteller Sarah A. Hoyt’s “Daughter of Man.” A young man from Brazil, Luis, a college student, has come home for a rendezvous with his girlfriend, Anunciação, someone his family doesn’t like because she doesn’t have any money (her family is decidedly working class, while his seems to be upper-middle at best). However, when Luis gets home, he finds that Anunciação has run off with someone no one else could see; someone she insists is an angel. I liked this story despite its unsettling ending mostly because of the descriptions of Luis’s home and how he was trying to continue his star-crossed relationship despite the disapproval of his parents. There’s a lot of truth to all of this; Ms. Hoyt got the frustrated longing of this young man just right, and the main question here may not be what you think it is.
The second story in the anthology is Taylor M. Lunsford’s “Agape.” Here we have two people, an angel, and a demon, who must work together for the benefit of society. However, the demon, Esme, was a good woman in life who always did her best, while the angel, Kamin, was a bad-boy soccer player who smoked, drank, ran around, and died while making love to a floozy after a chandelier came down on his head. The two protagonists start off the story annoyed with each other, annoyed they have to work together, and don’t really understand why they’ve been placed together.
However, out of the strongest disapproval can sometimes come an unexpected love, and that’s what happens here — I’m giving nothing away by saying this, as this story is all about “Agape,” or the Greek form of love which they viewed as the highest — it is seen as self-sacrificing, unconditional, thoughtful, and perhaps even divine, which is why it works so well in Lunsford’s story. Watching Kamin and Esme interact and learning more about them is interesting and sometimes poignant; that they must fight problems in this world, together, is a very nice and unusual way to set up this story. I enjoyed this story very much and I hope to see more from Lunsford in the future.
Then we get to the next story, the jewel of the entire collection, Kate Paulk’s magnificent “His Father’s Son.” This is a story about Jerith (called “Jerry”), a fallen angel-turned-demon, his son Dante by a human woman, and the angel Seriah, who wears Jerith’s dead wife Caitlin’s face. Dante has more power available, being half-demon, than most humans, and has lived three hundred years; he is also quite insane, as his human mind can’t contain all of this. Because of Dante’s insanity, he’s been destroying demons and angels in order to raise power for himself because he doesn’t understand very much about who his father is, nor what his father has done. Dante wants answers and doesn’t care how he gets them; this sets up a complex tale of love, forgiveness, betrayal, and most oddly and unexpectedly, hope.
The best part of “His Father’s Son” isn’t the interplay between Seriah and Jerry, though that’s extremely good. It’s the true grasp of emotions, which even angels and demons must feel, when it’s either stop a madman (regardless of who he is) or perhaps bring down Heaven — and Hell. “His Father’s Son” is an excellent story, one I’ll re-read again and again, and one I hope was submitted to the “best of 2010” anthologies as it deserves to be there.
Next is Chris McMahon’s “Murtagh’s Fury.” This is a story about one of the last Celtic protectors, who’s been losing power for years and years — he was bonded to the Murtagh family, yet somehow became adrift from them. The reason this protector is called “Fury” is because he doesn’t really have a name; he has power, and he has purpose, but he’s not what he once was and he knows it. Now, with his badly-weakened power, he has to somehow defeat a Fomorian (evil incarnate). What happens to “Fury” is interesting, yes, but it’s the ending — which I refuse to spoil — that adds poignancy here. This is a good story about how people — or entities — must do whatever they can to fight off evil, even if they don’t think they’re up to the job, and I really liked the Celtic mythology.
Next is Robert Cruze, Jr.’s story “Predator: Prey: Protector” about a thirteen year old boy, Josh, who has fallen prey to an Internet predator. However, a friend of his family, Andrea (called “Andy”), has caught wind of the problem while she was over babysitting Josh’s two younger siblings, and the chase therefore is on. “Predator: Prey: Protector” has some nice nods to David Weber, to Baen Books, a bit of a throw to Baen’s Bar fandom, and a great deal of lore about various sorts of predators and protectors.
That Andy has some hidden abilities helps a great deal, because we know from the start that Josh will not be permanently harmed — which makes “Predator: Prey: Protector” more about this question instead: can a predator become a protector? And if so, why don’t more of them become protectors?
The best part of this story is its humanity; Andy may be more than human, but she hasn’t forgotten who she is — her pluses, or her minuses — and she uses them to benefit humanity. This is a very balanced and nuanced way to look at someone who might be considered an angel by some, and that Andy’s made more than her share of mistakes shows that just about anyone can be redeemed if he or she tries hard enough. This is an extremely positive message, one that made sense in the context of the story, and it’s one I appreciated a great deal.
Next was Chris Kelsey’s “Angel and the Demon.” Angel is a human shape-shifter, becoming a lioness at need, while the demon here isn’t exactly what I thought at first — there’s an overtly evil antagonist causing trouble, and then there’s the problem of someone who can be subverted against his own wishes. That Angel seems to be in a rather unusual relationship with another couple along with an older man who is simply a friend adds complexity, yet I wasn’t sure why it needed to be there because the story was about Angel herself — a shape-shifter — finding that sometimes no matter what her powers are, she won’t be able to solve every problem in the way she wants.
“Angel and the Demon” gave me an unsettled feeling for a different reason than Ms. Hoyt’s “Daughter of Man” — simply put, while the story is here and it’s OK, there seems to have been more there that was somehow left on the table. I don’t really know what’s missing from this story — I just know it is — and while I could handle the unusual three-way friendship/love triangle going on between Angel and her friends, I just didn’t see the need for it because aside from her friends also being shape-shifters, I didn’t really get why they’d be around each other at all because they didn’t seem to have a lot in common.
That said, “Angel and the Demon” isn’t a bad story and does have some depth to it; I just think it could’ve been a lot better. That I can’t really explain the “demon” part without blowing any appreciation of the story apart for someone else reading it down the line doesn’t help me explain what didn’t feel right to me.
Next there’s Robert A. Hoyt’s story “Afterlife 2.0.” This was a fun story about technology, human ghostbusters, the Devil, lawyers, an angel, and what the afterlife is supposed to be all about. I can’t really give too much away because the concept, and the humor behind the concept, is pretty much the whole story, but it’s a nice story with some unexpected twists. I enjoyed it.
Finally, there’s Dave Freer’s short-short “My Grandmother’s Shame.” Mairi’s grandmother had a brief relationship with someone Other long ago, and believes he will return for her. But complicating matters, Mairi’s grandmother is now on her deathbed; will her lover return? And what, exactly, is he?
“My Grandmother’s Shame” is a nice story that, like Ms. Hoyt’s “Daughter of Man,” raises more questions than it answers; because of that, despite its brevity it was the right story to close out A RUSH OF WINGS.
As I said above, this is a good collection — it contains a few stories that will surprise (“Daughter of Man,” “Predator: Prey: Protector,” “Murtagh’s Fury” and “My Grandmother’s Shame”), one outstanding story (“His Father’s Son”), and several stories that are OK or better. Overall, I enjoyed the collection a great deal, and would recommend it to anyone who likes angels, demons, or good fantasy writing overall.
— reviewed by Barb
** While the cover for A RUSH OF WINGS was unavailable at the NRP Web site, it is artist Herbert Draper’s (1863-1920) painting “The Lament for Icarus.” The Draper painting was an excellent cover choice.