Monday, May 3, 2010

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Viola Estrella

Angel Vindicated
Cerridwen Press, Dec. 2009

Book Blurb:
Abby Angel doesn’t always enjoy being a law enforcement Angel for Angels, Inc., but she excels at it. Deporting unruly demons back to Hell is her specialty. Her personal life, on the other hand, could use a little work. The virtuous and pristine genes seem to be missing in this particular Angel, getting Abby in more trouble than she likes to admit. To date, her biggest vice has been Siméon Keller, a half demon/half human, who effortlessly managed to seduce Abby five years ago. She’s avoided him ever since but can’t seem to knock the bad reputation the blunder has branded on her.

Now, the threat of a demon rebellion has Angels, Inc. overwhelmed, and Abby must trust Siméon to help her find the fiends threatening to destroy Earth’s only salvation. Staying out of Siméon’s bed is the least of her worries as she fights for the lives of Angels and the human race as we know it.

The Ups:
These aren’t your average angels. They cuss like sailors, have no qualms about premarital sex, and the head angel (MOG, or Messenger of God) smokes pot. I definitely saw a DOGMA influence here. (I loved that movie BTW).

Humor and a heroine with sarcastic wit -- always a plus for me. Although her partner Judd had most of the good lines. Hope he gets a story.

The male (ex)angels are regulated to desk jobs because they have too much testosterone to work the streets – and most of them resent it. I kinda got a kick out of the reverse discrimination twist.

The story starts off with 2 possible love interests for our angel with a tarnished halo. Judd, Abby’s partner and best friend, and Siméon, the half-breed demon who gave Abby the rep of ‘Demon Layer’ five years ago. The author did a great job of keeping me guessing who Abby would end up with throughout most of the book, because with urban fantasy, you never know.

The Downs:
Sometimes Abby talked more like a 17 year old cheerleader than a 28 year old woman. At first I wondered if this started out as a YA and then the author sexed it up for grown-ups but forgot to edit some of the dialogue.

The author included one of those “as you know” scenes where one character explained something to another character, which they obviously already knew, but the reader needed to learn the info somehow. A skilled writer can do this without being so obvious.

There was an editorial blip where Abby takes off her clothes after she’s supposedly already taken a shower. Don’t know about you, but I usually do it the other way around.

The bad guys were 2-dimensional, cardboard characters. Very clichéd.

Apparently the angels could be killed pretty easily. I had a hard time with that, since I’ve always considered angels to be immortal beings.

Siméon, her main love interest, professes his love for her after only 3 days together. Way too soon for me.

And my main pet peeve: Abby is a demon control agent and it’s her job to police the demons on earth. If a demon is caught ‘corrupting a human to commit sin’ then she gives him a strike in the form of a thumbprint on his chest. Three strikes and the demon goes back to hell to serve time there until he’s paroled back to earth to take a stab at being good again. This is how Abby meant Siméon the first time. She gave him his first strike/thumbprint for sleeping with someone else’s bride on her wedding day. Big no-no. OK, I got that. What I didn’t get was Abby having to give him his 2nd strike for not notifying the angels of his change of address. Huh? Evidently this offense ranks right up there with greed, lust and gluttony. Siméon has been behaving himself since his last slip up and this was the worst the author could come up with? Pa-lease. I think it was an uninventive way for the author to give Siméon his 2nd strike so that when Abby is forced to give him his 3rd in the black moment, she knows he’s going to be dragged back to hell by her hand (or thumb, actually). It would have been better if Siméon committed his 2nd transgression on purpose so he could see Abby again because he hasn’t stopped thinking about her after their one night stand 5 years ago. Then I might buy the “I love you” coming as soon as it did.

The In-Betweens:
After reading the book, I checked out some of the on-line reviews others have done for it. Many had issues with the fact that a female angel’s main goal in life seemed to be to marry and have babies. That’s how an angel becomes human, complete with the growing old and dying part, and how new angels are made. I can see where some might read it this way. Me, I took it as the angels long for what we all do – to fall in love – and they know when they meet the right person, it will be worth the sacrifice. You’ll have to read the book for yourself to see how you feel about it.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
Ok, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a trend here. All 3 books I’ve evaluated so far were urban fantasies. I swear I didn’t do that on purpose. SUCCUBI just happened to be the first book I picked out of the hat and the other two were RITA finalists and I wanted to get to those right away. So does that mean to break in to today’s paranormal market, I need to write a first person urban fantasy? I hope not. I like writing my third-person historical paranormals, thank you very much. But I think that’s what sold this book, since nothing else stood out as ground breaking in my opinion. The urban fantasy genre is as hot now as the vampire genre was a year or two ago. Write a really good one and chances are it will sell.

Do I think this book is RITA-worthy? Not really. It was a quick, easy read but nowhere near the caliber of Myle’s SUCCUBI debut book (And why the heck isn’t hers a RITA finalist for Best First Book or Best Paranormal, I ask you? She’d get my vote if I was allowed one this year.) Still, I have to congratulate Estrella on being a RITA finalist. It’s a goal I’m sure all of us aspire to.

So, since the last 3 books have been urban fantasies, for the next debut book I’ll let you choose the paranormal element: Will it be an immortal warrior? A futuristic fantasy? A gothic? Or a shape shifter? You have until Sunday to cast your vote.


  1. Hi Lori,
    Google Alerts sent me here. First of all, thanks for buying and reading Angel Vindicated. Second, I just want to make it clear that Angel Vindicated was my debut novel—the eBook came out in May, the print book came out in December. My Wild Rose Press book, Bewitching You, was released in October. It’s not a big deal, but I don’t want to be accused of technically not being worthy of my RITA final, of all things.

    So you’re an author searching for the “It” factor? I still don’t know what that is. We, as authors, just write the best dang book possible and then hope for the best. Some people will love our writing and others, obviously, won’t like it as much. We can’t please everybody but hopefully (with a lot of luck) we can please the right people at the right time. So my advice, for what it's worth, is to keep writing what you love and forget about the trends. That’s what I do, anyway. Hopefully it’ll keep working for me.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    (who is now going to officially turn off her Google Alerts and get back to work.)

  2. Thanks for stopping by Viola. I really did enjoy your book, even if I came across as overly critical in some areas. Hope I didn't offend, but I tend to be brutally honest in my evaluations.

    I appreciate you clearing up the which came first issue (not that I was questioning if you bent the rules -- I've taken that paragraph out of the blog to avoid giving anyone the wrong impression.)

    And you're right about trends. By the time an author jumps on the bandwagon, the trend is already on it's way out. I'm certainly not following the urban fantasy trend that's hot right now. Instead I'm hoping that medieval time travels will make a comeback soon and when they do, I'll be ready. *G*

  3. I am enjoying your series, Lori. I vote for futuristic or something sf oriented next!

  4. Urban Fantasy, huh? You have me thinking. Thanks.


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