Can I say it again? Every time I read one of Sharon Shinn's Samaria novels, I'm surprised, pleased, and impressed that she chooses to show the progress of a world through the love stories of its inhabitants. ANGEL-SEEKER was another marvelous mix of science fiction and romance, even better than last year's ANGELICA. But whereas ANGELICA was a prequel to the original Samaria trilogy, ANGEL-SEEKER continues after the events of ARCHANGEL (Rachel and Gabriel make appearances.)
ANGEL-SEEKER chronicles the lives of two women. One is an angel-seeker--a groupie in pursuit of love and status via a liaison and hopefully impregnation by an angel--and the other is a well-off young woman living in the repressive Jansai society. The two women are living a two-degrees-of-separation life, with angel Obadiah as the connection.
Elizabeth's is the story of personal emotional growth. She abandons the drudgery of farm life for the allure of the city of Cedar Hills and the angels contructing a new hold there. She's very much a groupie, blind to anything but chasing after angels, but eventually finds self-worth, purpose, and love after learning some hard lessons in the city. Elizabeth's journey was touching, but it wasn't the reason Ioved this book.
Rebekah's story was both grander and more dramatic, serving as the catalysis for incremental reform in Samarian society. She finds a charming young angel injured in the desert, and although she is forbidden in her society from having anything to do with men not of her family, she ministers to Obadiah. The two are fascinated by each other and embark on a forbidden, dangerous affair. The tension in this tragedy-tinged romance was what really propelled ANGEL-SEEKER into being an unputdownable read.
I loved revisiting Samaria and finding out more about different segments of its society, this time the Jansai and the angel-seekers, and I hope Shinn continues writing about the people of this world. It's rare enough as to be precious to find deeply satisfying love stories, ones which are futhermore used to illuminate a fascinating world. (The glamour of the winged angels and the magic of the "Kiss" has yet to get old.)--Preeti (22 Mar 04)
ANGEL-SEEKER is Sharon Shinn's best book since ARCHANGEL. Set a year after the events of ARCHANGEL, it tells two interweaving stories. The first concerns Elizabeth, an orphaned and impoverished woman forced to work for her room and board at her cousin's farm and have her life made miserable by her cousin's wife. So she runs away to the new city the angels are building and decides to join the "angel seekers"--mortal women who try to seduce an angel in order to have an angel child, thereby insuring their future.
The second plot line follows angel Obadiah, who is shot through his wing while flying over the desert, and falls. Near death, he is discovered and secretly nursed to health by a Jansai woman, Rebekah. Afterwards, thoughts of her haunt him.
The Jansai hate angels because their lucrative trade in slaves has been banned by the Archangel Gabriel. Obadiah is sent by Gabriel to engage in political manouevering with the Jansai and meets Rebekah again. She is as attracted to him as he to her, but they must meet in secret because the patriarchal Jansai society cloisters and subjugates its women.
Rebekah is a moving and well-written character, her story filled with gripping conflict. I was thoroughly involved in her relationship with Obadiah and the seemingly insoluble cultural differences threatening to doom their love.
Elizabeth's story is not quite as involving, but I liked the fact that this somewhat selfish and self-absorbed character is moved to grow and change. She's faced with a number of pathways and eventually succeeds in choosing a life and partner she wants.
I liked ANGEL-SEEKER very much. You don't need to read ARCHANGEL first in order to enjoy the story--it's self-contained--but you might be a bit confused about the world of Samaria and the angels' place in it if you haven't. Besides, ARCHANGEL does a good job of setting the stage in Shinn's world and is a great story!--Suzanne (6 Apr 04)
ANGEL-SEEKER was probably my favorite Shinn since ARCHANGEL, too, although I liked SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN very much. Elizabeth and Rebekah were neither too passive nor too reckless, unlike the respective heroines of ANGELICA.--Preeti (7 Apr 04)