Kudos, Mr. Arenson. You got my attention. I'm supposed to be on sabbatical.
Daniel Arenson's story takes place during the Armageddon as the armies of Heaven and Hell battle for supreme dominance over the Earth. There are few humans left, and those that survive eek an existence out of what they can find of the human world and what they can create from the devastation.
Heaven and Hell are at a standstill after twenty-seven years and battle for what foothold they can grab in Jerusalem, the holy city. The battle seems to hinge upon a young woman named Laila, purported to be of half-angel, half-demon blood due to Lucifer's rape of Archangel Gabriel's wife. She cannot live in Heaven—Godlight burns her demon blood; she cannot live in Hell—Hellfire boils her angel blood. Earth is her only haven and humans are the most accepting of her, which says very little. Only Laila's older half-sister, Bat El, loves her unconditionally and has earned Laila's loyalty, love, and trust.
Arenson takes the reader through storylines that embrace Laila, Bat El, Beelzebub, and the Archangel Michael in unexpected and compelling ways. What makes Arenson's story interesting is his departure from the expected. Angels are normally depicted as God's boy scouts who never doubt his rule, world, or law. Arenson depicts Angels who become humanized as they fight the war and stay on Earth. They drink, swear, gamble, and sleep with as many women as much as human male soldiers do; Arenson's humanization of angels is thought provoking and risky, which, to me, is the mark of a good author. They believe in their war, they love God, but many of them follow the mantra of "the end justifies the means." Humans lie, cheat, steal, and commit atrocities in the name of God and what is right; why can't angels?
In the same vein of humanizing, arch demons are given emotions such as love and being able to be emotionally hurt, along with the ability to be tender and apologetic. Again, this is risky and thought provoking because it is so easy to blanket hate demons; it is infinitely harder to get a reader to actually sympathize with the enemy. Arenson masterfully makes this believable.
The one and only thing that really, truly annoyed me was the constant—and I mean constant—over-dramatization of Laila being "of the night" or of her drive and need for a home. The reader needs some reminders of a main character's motivations, but it doesn't have to happen every time we return to her storyline. Many times, I could lay my finger over Laila's internal monologue and see exactly where Arenson should have stopped to maximize the impact of Laila's thoughts before her actions. That being said, this book is a great read that I highly recommend to anyone who loves a different kind of fantasy fiction.
The book is available through the author's website.