Sharon Shinn,
(Ace, 2003)

Sharon Shinn returns to Samaria, her world of co-existing angels and mortals, in Angelica.

When Jovah first carried the original settlers of Samaria to the planet, he also created angels who live alongside the mortals and help to keep the peace. An Archangel governs the rest of the angels for 20 years, and Jovah appoints each Archangel, revealing the choice through trained oracles.

Jovah also chooses a mate for each Archangel, and in the case of Gaaron, the Archangel-to-be, his wife, or Angelica, is Susannah, a woman of the nomadic Edori people. Susannah is reluctant to leave her people and her life, but her despair over her faithless lover Dathan forces her decision. In the angel's Eyrie, she experiences more luxury in a week than she has known in a lifetime -- although she has difficulty adjusting to the comfortable lifestyle.

Slowly, she develops a relationship with Gaaron, one of trust and friendship. She also becomes friends with Gaaron's mortal sister, Miriam, an unhappy girl who seeks attention through mischief and making trouble. When things get out of hand, however, Gaaron takes stronger measures with Miriam in what turns out to be a life-changing decision.

At the same time, there is serious trouble in the land. Unknown raiders, strangers to Samaria, are destroying settlements, camps and towns. The angels are desperate to stop them, but everyone is baffled. Could it be that the solution lies in the grasp of two mortal women -- Susannah and Miriam?

Angelica follows Shinn's previous trilogy about the angels and mortals of Samaria, but it stands alone well. Shinn provides enough back story to clue in those unfamiliar with the trilogy without weighing down the narrative. If anything, reading Angelica will inspire new readers to seek out the Samaria trilogy; I know I have added them to my "to read" stack. This is a compelling and engrossing story, with well-maintained suspense and characters about whom the reader cares. Susannah is especially remarkable, as Shinn depicts her as a very good person but one who is also human. Even the angels have their faults, which is kind of a relief to know.

The novel fascinates on a range of levels. Not only does Shinn tell a terrific story, but also the whole concept of how various societies evolve and develop over 200 years is intriguing and thought-provoking. This is science fiction with an anthropological and theological flair and certainly an inspired and inspiring novel that is not only heavenly but thoroughly grounded in its credibility.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 3 January 2004

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