Book Review: Penryn and the End of Days #2 – World After

Title: World After
Author: Susan Ee
Year of Publication: 2013
Series: Penryn and the End of Days
#: 2
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 4.27
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 4

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World After

*Spoilers for Books One and Two*

Angelfall left off with Penryn paralyzed and presumed dead. Raffe brings her motionless body back to her family, and World After starts off on a great note with Penryn freaking the hell out of everyone on their way back to the Resistance Camp by appearing to suddenly come back to life. Spoiler: There was a lot of screaming.

[Penryn is too exhausting to type, and I’ve misspelt it every time so far. I think I’ll just call her Ryn.]

World After sees Raffe trying to get his stolen wings back (long story) and murderously stalking the fallen angel who stole them from him, and it sees Ryn off on a journey to try and find her sister, Paige (again). I mean, well, they did find her the first time, but the angels had kind of turned her into a monster, and now everyone treats her like a freak, so she ran away. The Resistance begin to realize the true extent of angelic powers and creatures of hell make an appearance.

Their respective paths end with them crashing yet another angel party – this one ends horrifically – and Ryn uses Raffe’s old sword (whom she christened ‘Pooky Bear’ in a hilariously accidental sort of way) to kill an angel. This earns her the title ‘Slayer of Angels’ and an automatic death penalty. We also hear all about the upcoming angel election being put forward by Uriel – the only archangel politician ever. The election is for the post of Messenger of God, and there’s a casual vacancy because the archangel politician had the old one killed. Poor Gabriel. He always gets the short end of the stick, doesn’t he? 😦 #SupernaturalReference #SeeWhatIDidThere

Just when it looks like things aren’t going too well for our angel slayer and her boy, her bad-ass mutant cannibalistic sister and her paranoid schizophrenic mom come to the rescue, along with about a thousand Locusts. As it turns out, whatever gave Paige the ability to rip into humans with her bare teeth also gave her power over Locusts. Damn, girl.

Neither the action nor the gore lets up in this sequel, which is a good thing. Ryn is forced to face the difficult facts of life (and no, they don’t involve figuring out whether or not to fall in love with an angel). She realizes what an utter tool she’d been about her sister, what with not even being able to meet her eyes and all that. It’s a beautiful moment in the book when the sisters finally come face to face again:

“It’s all right, baby girl,” I whisper into her hair as I hug her. “I’m here. I came for you.”
Her face crumples and her eyes shine. “You came for me.”
I stroke her hair. It’s as silky as ever.

The humour in the books continue to shine, as evinced in a conversation Ryn and Raffe have regarding Raffe’s sword, a semi sentient object that bonded with Ryn in an effort to stay close to Raffe and, I guess because it sort of liked Ryn as well?

“Have you named her yet?” he asks. “She likes powerful names so maybe you could appease her by giving her a good one.”
I bite my lip as I remember telling Dee-Dum what I named my sword. “Um, I could rename her anything she likes.” I give him a cheesy smile.
He looks like he’s bracing himself for the worst. “She gets named once by each carrier. If you’ve named her, she’s stuck with it for as long as she’s with you.”
He glares at me as if he already hates it. “What is it?”
I consider lying but what’s the point? I clear my throat. “Pooky Bear.”
He’s silent for so long I’m beginning to think he didn’t hear me when he finally says, “Pooky. Bear.”
“It was just a little joke. I didn’t know.”
“I’ve mentioned that names have power, right? Do you realize that when she fights battles, she’s going to have to announce herself to the opposing sword? She’ll be forced to say something ridiculous like, ‘I am Pooky Bear, from an ancient line of archangel swords.’ Or, ‘Bow down to me, Pooky Bear, who has only two other equals in all the worlds.’ ” He shakes his head. “How is she going to get any respect?”

First world sword problems, am I right?

The series deals with that particular ugliness of human nature that turns up precisely when everything is at its worst – fanaticism, superstition, intolerance, a narrowing of the world view. And misogyny – gender equality was, it turns out, only for the World Before. Now that they’re back to caveman like times, they’re back to caveman like habits. It’s honestly quite disgusting, and we’re never allowed to forget that the spectre of sexual violence hangs over everything.

It also looks at paranoid schizophrenia through Ryn and Paige’s mother. It’s clear that ever since their father abandoned the family, Ryn has had the responsibility of taking care of her family. It’s equally clear that theirs has been an abusive childhood – verbal abuse, hitting and even the ominous sounding ‘slashing’ (do you want to know? I’m thinking no.) It’s also amply implied that the reason for Paige’s inability to walk is in some way their mother’s fault – although no one knows what happened because Paige and her mother were alone at the time.

Not having a lot of experience with paranoid schizophrenia means I’m not really well placed to judge the amount of research on the subject that went into the book. However, it does sound harshly plausible and realistic. A number of heartbreaking moments in World After dealt with Ryn’s relationship with her mother – such as when the two of them are locked into a police car after the rest of the members of the Resistance turn on them. Her mother begins to panic, and Ryn starts thinking about how there needs to be more space in between them. She begins to bang on the windows and yell at passers-by, asking them to please lock her in different car.

At another point, when her mother displays some semblance of sanity, their travelling companion – a former nurse – warns Ryn not to get her hopes up too high… that “just because someone’s out to get you doesn’t mean you’re not paranoid”. Ryn thinks to herself that she hadn’t been getting her hopes up – not really – but that it was still unfair to have the possibility taken from her. Then she gets out of the car and vents her feelings by kicking the headlights in.

World After ends on a peaceful, calm-before-the-storm kind of note and makes you wonder how readers managed to wait a whole year just to finish the story. The plot is interesting and manages to carry the series on its back despite the increasing number of holes and weak points in the story. It’s not as great as Angelfall, and the quality decline is a trend that carries on to the final book in the trilogy.

Reviewed Next: Penryn and the End of Days # 3 – End of Days


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