World After by Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #2
Published by Skyscape on November 19th, 2013
Shelve It: Goodreads
In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.
When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.
Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.
Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?
I went in to World After with a lot of trepidation; it had so much to live up to, thanks to the hauntingly beautiful genius that was Angelfall. While World After hits the mark in many ways, it also suffers slightly from the dreaded middle book syndrome, as come the end, not much has changed for Penryn. Fortunately, Ee manages to continue to balance the gritty and gory with the light-hearted and humorous that I loved in Angelfall, and, for the most part, I found I couldn’t put World After down.
One of the reasons I’m rating World After so highly is because it wasn’t until after I had finished reading it and was describing the plot to my husband that I realized it was a mostly repeat of Angelfall. Penryn is reunited with Paige and her mother for mere moments before Paige has run away, and it’s up to Penryn to save her. So for the bulk of World After, we follow Penryn through various dangerous encounters in her attempt to locate her missing sister…again. Unfortunately, Raffe is missing for most of these dangerous encounters, leaving a black hole where his playful banter and sexual tension would normally have kept me fully engaged. Ee is a complete master, however, and saves World After by expertly weaving humour throughout this dark and creepy tale, making the dialogue World After’s main attraction, despite the increase in action scenes from Angelfall.
Penryn is still a badass, becoming even cooler by learning how to use Raffe’s sword. Her dedication to her family is inspiring, especially considering the fear and disgust she feels for her now monstrous younger sister. I found the internal conflict Penryn faced with Paige to be fascinating – on the outside, Paige is a walking nightmare. Razor sharp teeth, stitched up skin and robotic-like movements, it’s no longer accurate to describe her as something human. But then she’d cower, or whimper, or do something to remind Penryn that she is still just a child, and Penryn’s guilt became something tangible. I also found myself eagerly anticipating the explanation for Paige’s mutilation, which added a certain level of suspense as Penryn began stumbling on to the answers.
But one of my favourite elements of World After was the characterization of Penryn’s mother. Her mental health is questionable at best, but it was interesting to see the methods to her seeming madness. As the picture of an intelligent women developed, I found myself surprised that I ever doubted her loyalty and devotion to her children. While she is definitely haunted by her own personal demons, often leaving her confused and paranoid, she didn’t allow them to prevent her from helping her daughters in the only ways she could.
Even though World After suffered from middle book syndrome, in that there really was very little in terms of plot development, I still really enjoyed it. I wish Raffe had had more of a presence, and that the little plot development there was had been less repetitive, but I appreciated Penryn’s mother’s character development and Ee’s masterful handling of action scenes and her particular blend of sardonic humour.