Why Mystery Trumps Fantasy in the Angel Eyes Series - CSFF Tour
- Written by Emma Engel
When someone uses the word “mystery” what comes to your mind? Is it a black white courtroom with a catchy theme or perhaps a NYPD murder board from a newer shiny show? Do you have visions of priests and Frenchmen and elderly ladies gracing the cover of a paperback novel? Now ask yourself what all these things have in common…and, no, murder isn’t the right word. It’s puzzle. The point of the entire mystery genre is that there is case to be solved, a puzzle to put together, and a satisfying conclusion where all is reveled. But if you go back to the Greek, mysterion, and the Latin, mysterium, you’ll find two unexpected things. First, it is a religious word used to describe religious things. Secondly, the word “secret” is used in its definition, not “solution.”
What does this have to do with a novel about a teenage girl who sees angels?
Well, let me back up a little. I’ve been reading speculative fiction for a while now. Right now, I’m reading what could accurately be described as a copious amount of books that revolved around humans interacting with the supernatural. Throughout these many and varied books there is a common theme. That which was once “mysterious” becomes mundane. (Pun intended if you’ve read Ms. Clare’s books.) Something that was once the stuff of legends becomes extra clutter around the house. Someone who was once hailed as a god becomes the boy next door. And somewhere along the way we solve the mystery, we expose the secret, and we move on with a feeling of satisfaction.
I honestly wasn’t fully aware how much this was bothering me until I read Angel Eyes. And I couldn’t have put any kind of words to it until I read Broken Wings. What Shannon Dittemore has done in these novels is amazing and revitalizing. She’s brought Heaven to Earth and left it filled with mystery of the old fashioned variety. As I closed the book at the end I realized that I’ve been longing for this. I read fantasy because my heart yearns for something otherworldly, something that defies explanation and expectation, something I can’t qualify or touch. Something real that I can’t rationalize. I have found these desires filled by my faith and by the mystery of God. I have begun to accept that there are many things the Bible reveals that I don’t understand – can’t understand because they are so far beyond the mechanics of the human mind. Things that are mysterious.
The current trend to bring all these things to human level. Whether you look at Bobby Dollar or Bella Swan, they are all focused on solving the mystery. In the Angel Eyes books, the mystery is never solved; it is exalted. There is never a moment when you believe that the angels are superpowered humans. There’s never a minute when you think the demons are the misunderstood minority. Satan doesn’t wander around in a white suit cracking jokes. And God and Jesus sure aren’t showing up the rearview mirror giving you a thumbs up. Rather, we simply see what Brielle and Jake are seeing.
We see care and love beyond our understanding; we see hatred and fear beyond our comprehension. The very premise of the books revolves around an angel gifting his halo to a little boy in need of comfort. Let’s just examine that for a moment. That halo is a mark of favor from God. This isn’t like handing someone a clean handkerchief. This is like gifting someone your ability to breath or every other heartbeat. It’s an integral part of who you are. I know people who almost define the word selfless, and I’m not certain they are capable of this kind of compassion. I’m not sure any human is. While the swords and metal wings are a great part of the story, its heart lies in a Love that is demonstrated but never understood. The teenagers stand on the mountain as the veil of Heaven is torn and the Host descends to Earth, and they wonder, and they worship, and never once do they say “it all makes sense now!”
When people ask me why I read, I tell them it is because it makes me grow as a person. And that’s true. My standard for the greatness or the success of a book is whether I walk away a better person. With the Angel Eyes books, I walked away filled with worship and that is a feat few fiction books ever achieve. That’s why I recommend them. Not because they were fun (which they were) or sort of like a substantially better take on the general idea of the Twilight books (which they are) but because they refuse to try and solve the puzzle. They stand at the veil with their hands in their pockets, marveling at the secret and reveling in the mystery.