068 – Don’t Call Me Angel by Alicia Wright Brewster

After crawling her way out of Hell, Six is ready to cast aside her angel wings and all the responsibilities that come with them. But Earth is not as peaceful as she imagined it. Demons, dark angels, and other hell-beasties escaped before her, and they’re not as content as she is to live a quiet life on Earth.A fellow angel who escaped Hell with her commits a series of soul-murders, destroying human souls so they can’t go to the afterlife. Although Six has conflicting feelings about humans, she goes after the other angel to keep their escape a secret from the one she fears most.
I’m always up for a novella. They’re short, to the point, and hey, if they’re awful, well, you don’t have to worry about them being awful for long, right? This one seemed like it had a lot of promise – fallen angel escaping from Hell, conflicted, POC heroine, soul-murders – what about that doesn’t sound awesome? I was pleasantly surprised to find that…well, yeah, I actually enjoyed this story quite a bit.

“Enjoy”. Ha, what a foreign concept. But I did! I’m pleased to have won this from LibraryThing, it was a quick read, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future installments/works from the author.

That being said, as much as I ~enjoyed~ it (ha! so weird!), Don’t Call Me Angel is by no means a flawless book. In fact, it has more than a few plot holes and eyebrow-raisers…

First things first, the summary is a tad misleading. While factually accurate, it makes the story sound more plot-based and crime thriller-y than it really is. DCMA doesn’t really have a “plot”, exactly. No particular storyline is really built up or polished, it just follows Six through her first few days in the human world, as she adjusts to Earth and deals with some loose ends left over from her escape from hell.

There’s not a lot of world exposition or relationship development. No long-winded histories of the world or characters; we’re given just enough information to justify the action that’s occurring, but I’m okay with that. I tend to enjoy books that just sort of drop you in more than ones that wallow in exposition. I understood what I needed to, I believed most of it, and I expect the revelations regarding what occurred during Six’s time in Hell, and the reason she was cast in to Hell in the first place, to develop over the course of the series, so I wasn’t put out by the lack of explanation.

That being said, that we aren’t given a whole lot of info outside what’s needed to justify the action does make some of the events just a tad convenient, and lacking in tension. Like, apparently it’s totally possible to literally claw your way out of Hell, through dirt and rock, so long as someone else has gone through before you. You’d think Hell would have, IDK, some sort of safeguard against that. Likewise, apparently you can accrue a debt big enough to justify letting two escapees through the gates of Purgatory, in to the human world. Who knew?

But then, there is an entire underground in Atlanta consisting of escaped monsters, angels, and demons, so I suppose it’s fair enough that getting out isn’t really that difficult.

Similarly, while I like what description of Hell we got, the lack of information we have as to what Six actually experienced there does lessen the impact of the transition to earth for the reader. Sure, Six seems happy to have escaped, but aside from a few references to being free of the smell of blood and burning flesh, she might as well have just escaped from, well, anywhere. There’s not a lot of sense of horror to contrast Six’s sense of freedom with, and you’d think someone who’d spent centuries in Hell would find more appealing things than being able to stretch out her wings all the way. Like, I dunno, not being subjected to daily torture or something. Alden mentions she was sheltered somewhat, but there have to be more horrible things about daily life in Hell than perpetual dark and the smell.

I bought most everything else – as an enemy, I thought Alden worked nicely as a developing foil for Six. Thought his carving wings into his vics would be more of a thing, as far as attracting attention from the authorities, though. I mean, why else bother including that detail?

Some of these, I think, would be bigger issues if this were a fully-fleged novel, but in a 90-page novella, I can ignore them. That being said, there were a few things that I really couldn’t.

So, Six escapes, gets ported to Atlanta, walks the streets naked and winged and nobody calls the cops. Okay, fine. She sleeps in an alleyway, naked, on top of a pile of bloody, cut-off wings and feathers, and nobody notices, says anything, or calls the cops. Okay, maybe. But then she’s finally approached by a human, falls down into said pile of blood and severed wings, and because she can’t get out of it and back on her feet, and the human…laughs? LOL WUT.

Yeah, no, how do you find someone sitting in a bed of their own mutilated body parts something to tee-hee over? I can just slightly put aside the fact that the woman who finds her literally believes in angels and thus doesn’t doubt what she is, but I’m sorry, even psychics and/or supernatural believers would be horrified at the sight of someone drenched in blood from having cut their own wings off, and oh yeah, sitting in a pile of their mutilated body parts. No really, look at this:

…and tell me that is just the funniest thing you have ever seen. Seriously, the fact that this human, Cara, believes Six is an angel should make her horror at this scene even stronger, and yet she and Six laugh over her inability to climb out of the pile of body parts she’s cut off.

To be fair, Cara’s explanation of why she believes Six is an angel is pretty weak, too. She thinks she’s seen an angel before, but she isn’t sure, but had always hoped to see one again, and also she’s religious, so I guess that translates to meeting an angel without batting an eyelash. Um, not really, though. The whole Cara-meets-Six scene was just so off by miles, for me, that I found it difficult to buy any aspect of it. People just don’t react like that, man.

That being said, once they did meet and get to Cara’s house, I was pleased by the way Six and Cara’s relationship seemed to be headed. There wasn’t any inherent raising of Six over Cara, no “exceptional woman” syndrome. Cara’s kindness, compassion, and trust weren’t written as a weaknesses, and she clearly has her own complicated history that will probably become a factor in upcoming books. All in all, I’m looking forward to the development of this relationship as the books progress. It was just so great seeing another woman supporting and caring for Six, especially when it seemed like that role would be filled by Alden.

But really, it’s Six as a character that made this an enjoyable read for me. I really liked her. She was strong, powerful, direct, sexual without being shamed for it, badass, and assertive, but still undeniably flawed.

Six isn’t exactly on the side of the angels, ironically enough. Coming from Hell, she has difficulty empathizing with humans, despite, well, her ability to empathize with them, literally. She sees humans as spoiled children who’ve been given everything, and their general discontentment frustrates and confuses her. Thus, she’s a very reluctant hero. It’s only begrudgingly that she even attempts to save people, and she essentially gives her angel BFF and fellow-escapee, Alden, a few freebie kills before she comes to the conclusion he needs to be stopped.

It’s not the sort of dynamic you usually see in UF, at least, not for a female character, and I really enjoyed it. That kind of up-front, confident, shameless, morally ambiguous attitude is one I find compelling and good god, different. I swear, I feel like I spend most of my time in this genre reading about the same three characters over and over again, so finding a character like Six, who could almost – almost! – be an anti-hero, in a story like Don’t Call Me Angel is just…nice. I would like to see more bad-ass heroines like that, maybe one who is, y’know, actually an anti-hero.

To that end, I kind of wish Six hadn’t eventually shifted from mixed self-interest to pure altruism by the time she finally took Alden on, but eh, I guess that’s convention for you.

That being said, I’m very firmly on the fence about the one revelation we do get, re: Six’s background, at the end of the book, and it comes close to breaking the character for me. In fact, it might, depending on what Brewster does with it.

On the one hand, I like the idea that this series could be about Six trying to break away from an unhealthy – putting it mildly – relationship, and establish her own life. I think that could be a very powerful story.

On the other hand, it could very, very easily go bad. I hated that the source of her vulnerability was a dude, that she took the name “Six” kind of irks me (sixth wife, you see, and Six is what her husband calls her), and her husband’s sexual manipulation near the end was, well, icky given what we know of their history, and could potentially be worse, considering what we don’t. I really, really hope the series doesn’t go the route of making her likely abusive, possibly rapist husband a “dark love interest”. Yeah, no, DO NOT WANT. But where that’s going remains to be seen, so for now, I’m reserving judgement and trying – TRYING – to be cautiously optimistic.

I do have one other bone, though. I know Six is supposed to have this sort of biblical, judgmental attitude towards humans borne of her angelic nature and her time in Hell, and I get that. It’s why the few instances of slut-shaming aren’t a huge issue for me. I don’t feel like we’re supposed to agree with Six’s judgement – in fact, I think it’s kind of the point that we don’t. Despite that, this passage still pushes my buttons:

The last pair of eyes belonged to a young woman, probably in her late teens, whose gaze pleaded with me as Scrawny pressed a large Bowie knife to her cheek. It was her fear that had drawn me here. She whimpered as the knife’s pressure increased enough to draw blood. His body pressed up against her, and his knee pushed between her legs, keeping them spread. Scar stood a few feet back from them, tracking me as I moved deeper into the alley.

My jaw clenched and unclenched as I took in the scene. These men and this girl, they’d made this situation for themselves. They’d been given everything, while I’d been cast out. I’d left my troubles behind in Hell, and it wasn’t my business if they wanted to squander what they’d been given. Anything that happened here was nothing compared to what I had endured.
Six doesn’t let the girl get raped – she beats the shit out of the two guys and lets the girl go, but ohhhhh man, nope, that statement, that toes a victim-blaming line I’m really not okay with. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here that Six is in the wrong and that’s not what’s meant to come across here, but I really hope we don’t run in to anything similar in the future.

At any rate, as much as I enjoyed Don’t Call Me Angel, I can’t really rate it too high. It was short, and low on plot, and there were a few issues, but I feel like it’s a promising start to a potentially interesting series, and has definitely introduced me to an author I’m going to keep an eye on.

three stars


6 Responses

  1. Barbara W.

    July 8, 2012 5:02 pm, Reply

    Crap, I hate it when you like stuff, especially when I’ve had a bleh week! 🙂 This sounds intriguing – of course I can’t remember the title because it’s been years and years, but a long time ago I read a Mandy Roth book about a female assassin who was definitely an anti-hero. She spent the whole book trying to kill her love interest because he was a high value target on her boss’ hit list (and she went along killing other people too). It was so good.

    Great review, I think I’ll try this one. Lord knows it can’t be worse than some of what I’m reading and it’s less than $1. lol

    • Kayla + Cyna

      July 8, 2012 7:56 pm, Reply

      Mwahahaha x3 Hm, that sounds promising! I’ll have to check that out, I’m really drawn to the idea of a female anti-hero(ine) – I’d love to read more of them. The only one I can think of off hand myself is Sita from the Last Vampire. There should be more 😀

      Yay, I hope you enjoy it! Short, sweet, and cheap!

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