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Strange Angels, Book One by Lili St. Crow

 

Strange Angels
Lili St. Crow
Razorbill
Date: May 14, 2009
304 pages
ISBN-10: 1595142517
ISBN-13:  9781595142511
ASIN: B003JTHSOK
Lexile :HL810L

Book Overview:

Strange Angels is the story of Dru Anderson, a sophomore in high school who has been moving from place to place with her father ever since her mother and grandmother died.  Together, they work in the Real World, the world most people don’t want to know about because it’s inhabited by all the “things that go bump in the night”.  Her father’s life mission is to take out one particular “sucker” (vampire), and their search for him and the other creepy things they hunt determines where they live next.  Dru’s father has tried to teach her all the things he knows about the Real World and about fighting and weapons.  Dru has some unexplained abilities to sense danger, to read auras, and so on that come in handy in their line of work.  Dru’s world falls apart when she loses her father in a completely unexpected way, and the rest of the book and the series is the account of how she copes.

Lili St. Crow is the YA fiction pen name of Lilith Saintcrow.   The Strange Angels books are her first YA titles; there are five books in the series.  Ms. Saintcrow has published over 25 novels, and a few short stories; she mainly writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels for adults.  She has also published under the pseudoynm of Anna Beguine.

Positive Content:

Ms. Saintcrow is a sorceress with figurative language; truly, few authors have such a knack for quirky descriptions that communicate taste, touch, smell, and visual details so well.  The author often digresses into vignettes of Dru’s previous life to give us clues that help us understand some of the decisions the character makes. These flashbacks are handled in such a way that they enhance the reading experience rather than distract the reader from the plot.  The plot moves along at a fast clip; when the book is finished, it’s a surprise to realize the events take place in just a few days’ time.

Content to Consider: (Spoilers)

Violence: FREQUENT, SOMETIMES GRAPHIC

  • Dru’s father is loading clips with ammunition while she gets ready to leave for school.  He denies her offer to go with him.  Guns (of all kinds), ammunition, knives, and other weapons are all a normal part of Dru’s life with her ex-Marine/hunter dad.
  • Dru’s father comes home after he’s been zombified.  She kills her father by shooting him several times in self-defense.  The violence is pretty graphic.
  • Dru keeps the gun with her because she’s not thinking straight.  After a while, though, she realizes that she shouldn’t be packing it around wherever she goes.
  • Dru drowns a large, burning dog (one of those creatures from the Real World, aka a tracker) and shoots a werewulf. The dog dies, but the werewulf survives.
  • Graves is bitten by the werewulf and his injury is fairly severe.
  • Dru holds a gun trained on Graves, scaring him out of his wits, while she questions him.  She intends to shoot him if he turns into a werewulf.
  • Cristophe, a djamphir  (half-Vampire) member of the Order, shoots at a werewulf with a shotgun to protect Dru.
  • Dru wings Cristophe with the Glock from her father’s truck; she thinks she needs to defend herself.
  • Dru hexes Mrs. Bletchley, a teacher; the woman starts to choke, and Dru’s classmates are terrified.  The teacher is carted away in an ambulance, but we find out that she suffers no long-term physical damage.
  • Dru and Graves fight hand-to-hand with Cristophe until he makes them understand that he’s on their side.
  • Cristophe informs Dru that her mother was murdered by Sergej, the king among vampires.
  • A dreamstealer gets a hold on Dru while she is asleep and tries to steal her breath; Graves and Cristophe fight it off.  Dru goes into shock, but she recovers.
  • Even though they fight off the dreamstealer, they learn that it has killed the neighbors, layed its eggs in their bodies, and its babies hatch just in time to attack Dru and Graves as they make a break for it.
  • Cristophe and Dru tussle briefly over the keys to the truck, and he lets her win.
  • Cristophe is attacked by a pack of werewulfen; nobody is hurt in the encounter.
  • Dru meets Sergej, and she puts a bullet into his forehead; however, he just shrugs off the injury.
  • Dru throws a hex at Sergej.
  • Cristophe and the pack of werewulfen attack and overwhelm Sergej, but he escapes to fight another day.

Crude, Vulgar, or Profane Language: PERVASIVE

This book contains so many crude words, vulgar expressions, and so much profanity that it appears about every other page.  The book is told in the first person from Dru’s point of view.  Dru is a sophomore in high school who has been in the company of her ex-Marine father for a few years.  Perhaps this is the reason that she thinks and talks like a sailor.  The following list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Mrs. Bletchley, a teacher, is a “bitch” according to Graves.
  • Dru misuses the name of God and Jesus repeatedly.
  • Dru uses Hell frequently.
  • d— and f— are used enough times that I didn’t bother to keep count, especially since I don’t have Book One on my Kindle.
  • Many crude references to body parts and bodily excretions.

Sexual Content:

In Book One of Strange Angels, there is almost nothing that can be called sexual content.  However, there are a few details that parents may want to know.

  • When Graves is injured, Dru strips him out of his snow-wet clothes, sticks him in her bed in his underwear, and sleeps in the bed with him to share warmth.
  • The next morning, she ties him to the bed with ropes until she can determine whether or not he is going to turn into a ravenous werewulf.
  • Graves and Dru share her bedroom for several nights, but he sleeps on a cot.
  • As in so many vampire novels, the mostly-immortal nature of the vampires tends to make uncomfortable pairings that cross normal age barriers; Cristophe (who looks seventeen) is much, much older than Dru, but he takes an interest in her that turns out to be more-than-a-mentor / not-so-avuncular in the future books.  If we keep in mind that she, too, is destined to live a mostly-immortal life, his interest doesn’t seem quite as weird.

Drug/Alcohol: OCCASIONAL

  • While Dru waits for her father to come home, and waits, and waits, she spikes a Coke with her father’s Jim Beam Bourbon.  Her thoughts tell us this is not the first time.
  • Several times during the narrative, we are informed that her father is drinking Jim Beam, his booze of choice.  “Anytime” is a good time of day for him to be drinking, so apparently, he’s an alcoholic.
  • Graves, Dru’s new acquaintance and soon to be best friend from high school, is a chain smoker.  Dru does not approve of his smoking habit.

Negative Content:

  • Mrs. Bletchley (what a name!), Dru’s American History teacher, is a bully in teacher’s clothing.  Dru, for the most part, shows a distinct lack of respect for teachers and authority figures of all kinds; however, in Mrs. Bletchley’s case, she seems justified.
  • Dru skips out of school with Graves.  He is serious about school; she is not. Dru is disdainful of schools in general, not always a bad thing, but still…she’s not your role model type of main character.
  • The only adult Dru completely trusts is her grandmother, who died when she was twelve.  She shows a consistent fear of abandonment, not uncommon in those who lose a parent early in life, and Dru loses her mother, her grandmother, and her father by the time she is sixteen.
  • Graves is living on his own since he ran away from an abusive home situation.  He has managed to live under the radar, going to school, keeping his nose clean, and making his own way.  He, too, is cautious about trusting adults.

Spiritual Content:

  • God and Jesus are not mentioned in this book except as profanity.
  • The mostly-immortal vampires, their offspring, the werewulfen, and the other creatures that inhabit the Real World (according to the book) are angelic or demonic equivalents in this tale of good vs. evil.
  • Dru’s grandmother was a hedge witch, and she taught Dru about hexes, warding, herbs, etc.
  • Dru exhibits a budding psychic awareness, probably as a result of the heritage from her mother.

My Personal Opinions:

Ms. Saintcrow has built a career writing adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance titles.  I have read the first two books in her Dante Valentine series: Working for the Devil (take the title literally) and Dead Man Rising.  Both books are centered in the occult.  I try to make a practice of sampling the titles for adults available from authors who have “crossed over” into YA fiction since I think that young adults will probably read the titles of authors they know as they get older.

In my opinion, the language and the violence in Strange Angels is on about the same level as her adult books; the real difference is in the amount of sensuality included in the stories.  Future books in Strange Angels ramp up the heat level a bit, but as of the fourth book, the sexual content has been fairly low-key.

I was disappointed by the language in the book; it definitely detracted from the story-telling.  I believe that Ms. Saintcrow could appeal to a wider audience and convey every bit as much meaning  (Come on, didn’t I say right up front that she’s a sorceress with figurative language?) without using words many parents discourage their kids from using.

EXTRA:  Dru Anderson, high school sophomore, hunter, svetocha.

http://storify.com/go2thebook/strange-angels-by-lili-st-crow”>

Dru Anderson, high school sophomore, hunter, svetocha.

http://storify.com/go2thebook/strange-angels-by-lili-st-crow

Dru Anderson, high school sophomore, hunter, svetocha.

http://storify.com/go2thebook/strange-angels-by-lili-st-crow” target=”_blank”>View “Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow” on Storify</a>

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

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