Title: End of Days
Author: Susan Ee
Year of Publication: 2015
Series: Penryn and the End of Days
Goodreads Rating (Avg.): 4.15
Goodreads Rating (Mine): 3
They say all good things come to an end. I just spend two reviews praising this series and I’m afraid that that too, is about to come to an end.
The impression I get of End of Days is rather confused. For a series that started out so strongly, such confusion is antithetical. And yet here it is. So what went wrong?
We started out with a foundation of strong and reliable ingredients – the extremely kick ass female protagonist, a very good looking angel with a Saviour Complex of some sort, a family that is interesting and unique in its own right, great supporting characters, monsters, mutants, questions that engage with the basis for our humanity and the grey area that is relative goodness.
And then all of that seems to suddenly have rapidly descended into a chaotic mess of vague scenes, and the only impression you’re left with is that of one very abused pair of wings being chopped off and reattached – over and over and over again.
In the big things, End of Days is as strong as the rest of the series, but it’s the little things that let it down. The nonsense with the wings, for instance. An incomplete picture of Uriel’s real plans and schemes. #JusticeforBeliel.
This being a supernatural fantasy novel, I can’t really say I’m bothered by the imagery of the Pit, the Pit Lords, the hellions or what have you. I’m glad there are no time travel paradoxes – that’s a hard thing to pull off, so kudos, Susan Ee. But is it really going to be as simple as Michael coming in to take over as Messenger, when they just spent two novels tearing each other apart because there’s just no way Michael’s turning up? Are the Watchers really going to be allowed to stay on Earth and mess around with the Daughters of Man after just having been condemned to an eternity in the Pit for that very offence?
Then there are the feminist critiques. I like that Ee engaged with the sexist terminology early on in the series – “The Daughters of Man are forbidden to us!” snaps Raffe. “What about the Daughters of Women?” asks Penryn teasingly. I get that one runs the risk of interfering with organic storytelling if one were to try and subvert that term in the interests of feminism, but that’s only reference anywhere in the series that challenges a term that is used in an increasingly derogatory and condescending fashion. The patriarchal tones applied to it seem to multiply by ten every time it’s used, until I had to resist the urge to punch an Angel through my laptop every time he said “Daughter of Man” and sounded like he was saying “WHORE!”
Even when Ryn broadcasts a declaration of war out to the angels, she identifies herself as Angel Slayer and Daughter of Man. That broke my heart a little.
By End of Days, Ryn has single handedly causes enough havoc to cause the angels to re-evaluate and consider her a major threat. And yet, every time her non-relationship with Raffe is brought up, she is stripped of all agency whatsoever – sexual and otherwise. It’s taken for granted that whatever is to happen between the two of them is whatever Raffe decides will happen between them. And this, it seems, is where the Inexperience Requirement kicks in, because she basically shrugs and assumes the same kind of thing.
On the other hand, the relationship of slut shaming with sexual violence and clothes is dealt with well. Raffe demands to know why Ryn thinks it’s okay to wear short shorts and a loose T shirt when there are ‘lawless men’ hanging around, at which point she points out that she’s likely to face sexual violence regardless, and her clothes are completely irrelevant to that fact.
One reviewer talked about how the ending was too neat – which I guess you could say it was. She complained that Ryn and Raffe got it too easy – the Relationship Angst Quota has not been filled. This is, in essence, true. But you’re not going to catch me complaining about it. I’ve read far too many novels wherein the Relationship Angst levels are off the charts – and it gets mind numbingly boring after a while. They’re the same emotions – hope, loss, heartbreak, and great joy when things finally work out. We’ve been there, we’ve done that. A straightforward ending to a love story is precisely my cup of tea right now. After all, why shouldn’t we get easy relationships from time to time?
Paige and Mrs. Young are real heroes in this book, but they rarely ever take centre stage. They flit in and out of the sides of the story, ensuring the success of the revolution and the war, but Ryn has barely any time to spare for them.
I had a moment where my Hunger Games PTSD was triggered by the sight of a body falling out of the sky after Paige and the leader of the Locusts engaged in an aerial battle for Alpha status. But like with the relationship, we get only happy endings in this book, and that’s fine by me. In fact, it’s awesome.
Despite its weaknesses, End of Days manages to hold the story together long enough for us to enjoy the happy ending, and for that I’m infinitely grateful.