Nathan’s Review of Angel Falling by AD Landor
Publication Date: 29 July 2022
Series: Book One in the Ambassador Azshael Series
Genre: Noir, Mystery, Fantasy
The war between the Angels of Judgment and the Vampiric Succae – a race of honour-bound demons – was over.
Everyone was safe … for a while.
ANGEL. SOLDIER. ASSASSIN. DIPLOMAT. FOOL?
Azshael is an outcast lost in remorse and shunned for falling in love with the enemy. Unexpectedly tasked with investigating the death of a Succae elite on Angelic soil, it quickly becomes personal when he discovers her murder bears similarities to that of his dead lover.
Seeking answers, he joins forces with the Succae Serrate Lytta, an ancient war spirit bound in flesh, and the potent pair unearth a conspiracy which could destroy the long-standing truce and reignite the war between good and evil.
As a day of reckoning looms, Azshael will need all his wits to survive. But surviving is the one thing he’s always been good at.
He’s not the ‘dead angel walking’ his enemies think he is.
They picked him to fail, but they chose the wrong Angel…
Review of Angel Falling
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
One thing I love about indie/self-published fantasy is that there are no limitations. The most creative ideas are allowed to bloom without regard to the tastes of Big Publishing editors or the “needs” of the “market”. A book about shifty angels in conflict with zombie vampires? That is also a murder mystery noir? I didn’t that I ever needed that in my life but I am now glad I have it!
Angel Falling tells the story of Azshael, a disgraced Angel who is pulled out of relative obscurity to resume his role as the Ambassador to the Succae, a species of zombie vampires that were once the mortal enemies of the Angels but have since been mollified into any uneasy diplomatic truce. Azshael is tasked with investigating the death of a high ranking Succae – a death that occured in Angel territory and one that is reminiscent of the death of Azshael’s Succae lover. He teams up with a Succae, Lytta, and with his magical spear, Nimrod, investigates the case.
There is so much to fall in love with in Angel Falling. Landor absolutely nails the tone of the book. Landor builds a wholly original Angel-based fantasy world while also making everything have that gritty underbelly you would expect from a noir story. Thinking about it now, the noble and powerful world of the Angels and this noir story don’t seem like they would easily gel with one another, but the way Landor brings it all together is so effortless that you don’t even realize how “strange” the mashup is while you are reading it. I was completely absorbed into the mystery and the escalating political tensions between the Angels and Succae, and also between Azshael and his fellow Angelic elites.
The world that Landor has built here is completely magical and transportive. The realm of the Angels is noble, brilliant, and hierarchical. The world of the Succae is dark and shadowy. This contrast works beautifully as a contrast to not only the relative social positions of each species, but also the sociopolitical themes Landor explores in Angel Falling. While the Angels seem bright and on the side of good, we quickly realize that the Angels are petty, selfish, and insecure while the Succae are not the monsters that we are first introduced to them as. I really enjoyed this juxtaposition and also the manner in which Landor showed these differences and stereotypes rather than feeling like he had to awkwardly and directly narrate them.
There is so much more lore, backstory, and in-world mythology to explore with both the Angels and the Succae that I hope Landor provides in future books. Landor has prepped the garden here and I hope that we get a lot of goodies in the future of this series.
While there was a lot of dig my teeth into with Angel Falling, there was one major issue I had with the book: the pacing. It moved too quickly through the story. This will definitely work for some readers who hate exposition and “waiting” for a story to begin. If you signed up for an angel and a zombie vampire teaming up to solve a murder mystery, you’ll get that within the first 30 pages or so. Landor wastes absolutely no time diving into the heart of the book’s plot.
Personally, I would have liked to have been eased into the story a bit more, a little appetizer before the full meal. As I mentioned above, Landor has created this complex and fully-realized world (or, really, two worlds – the one of the Angels and the one of the Succae). I had a bit of a hard time grounding myself in the setting; I would have liked deeper descriptions of these places and people. I would have liked to have gotten to know some of the main players a bit more before we hurtled into the main mystery. There were many places in the narrative where I was confused or felt like I was trying to catch up with the story rather than riding along with the story.
The pacing was really the only element in the book that kept me a bit at arms length, that really prevented me from wholly immersing myself in the Azshael’s story. However, I know that there are readers who hate how long many fantasy books have to get to the point. I think that in many other series the first book in the series would end with the mystery to solve rather than being the thrust of the first book.
And while my discussion here of the pacing was a critique (for my personal tastes), I only critique it because Landor made me want to explore both the worlds of the Angels and the Succae more. He has created such a unique and complex reader’s playground and I felt he was also your parent who says you only get 5 minutes to play. Luckily, the author has mentioned that he has seven books planned in the series, all standalones that contribute to a larger over-arching narrative.
So I recommend that you take the plunge and give Angel Falling a chance. Will it work for everyone? Absolutely not. But even if it doesn’t work for you you’ll get a creative genre-mashup that is about the length of one of the Wheel of Time prologues.
Concluding Thoughts: An angel/zombie/vampire/murder mystery/noir mashup, Angel Falling is one of the most original books I have read in quite some time. Landor brings to life a fully realized world full of magic, politics, and more. The pacing of the book was a bit too fast, leaving certain things underdeveloped and confusing, but readers who love just jumping to the core of the story with little exposition will enjoy this one.