Thursday, May 10, 2012

Death Seraph by Ashley Bruce

Title: Death Seraph
Author: Ashley Bruce
Length: 4329 Kindle units
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Plot

Minky knew her life was going to change after her parents were murdered, but she had no idea how much. She’s okay with moving to Oklahoma with her Aunt Maggie, even though her life there is a far cry from the one she had in Philadelphia with her social climbing parents. And she can accept that her aunt wants her to start at a new school right away and maybe see a therapist. But she really wasn’t expecting to suddenly start seeing people who aren’t there. People who are, in fact, dead. Including a very attractive boy named Nicolaus who may have an explanation for these events that is beyond anything Minky could have imagined.

The Good

The relationships in Death Seraph were interesting and complex. Minky often disagreed with her parents when they were alive, but she misses them now that they are gone gone, to the point where her mother’s imagined critiques influence her behavior. Minky gets along well with her aunt, and some of their teasing is pretty funny, but there is some tension when Maggie has to transition from the fun aunt into the responsible guardian. Minky’s new friends at her Oklahoma school appear to be neither the super-popular nor the social outcasts but rather a confident group of teens who enjoy each other’s company. Well, except for the dead girl, but most of them don’t know she’s there.

I also like any book where Death is a character, though in this case they are really more reapers than Death him- or herself. But the mythology is sufficiently unique, with its paired reapers. I thought that the second death seraph couple that we met in the book was particularly interesting, and I would have liked to see more of what was going on with them.

The Bad

I am starting to have a concern. Death Seraph is the second book I have reviewed in the past few months in which suicide was presented as a reasonable course of action for some people. In the other book, a girl who had been sexually abused by her father for years killed both herself and her father. In this case Minky decides to kill herself in order to save her aunt. (This plan actually makes no sense whatsoever, but that is its whole own special issue.) This acceptance of suicide worries me enough that I feel the need to have a brief intervention and say that suicide is never the best solution to your problems. Research shows that almost all people who kill themselves have psychiatric disorders that can be treated effectively with medications and therapy. So if you are feeling that you want to kill yourself, seek help, and if you know someone who may want to kill themselves, recommend that they seek help. You may be worried about what people will think about you if you go see a mental health professional, but believe me when I say they would rather have the opportunity to get over their prejudice than see you kill yourself.

Okay, I’m done now. But seriously, suicide - not good.

The biggest problem I had with the construction of the book was with the organization of the mythology. I didn’t get a consistent sense of how being a death seraph worked. Why did Minky only see Nicolaus for the first time after her parents died? Can she be a death seraph and alive at the same time or is she supposed to die in the near future? Have there always been the same number of death seraphs, and is she, like, replacing one? Or do they add them as the population gets higher? I do not know any of these things, and it doesn’t feel like I just don’t know them yet so much as that the author hasn’t really thought them through.

The Romance

Nicolaus tells Minky that they have been matched together by the powers that be, but he has also been paired with others in the past only to have those relationships fail. Will Minky turn out to be his real soul mate or just another dud? It’s hard to tell, since he is usually rude to her and does not want to give her much information about why her life has suddenly taken a turn for the weird. And Landon, the most popular boy in school, has shown an interest in Minky, so even if the supernatural world kicks her out, she may still have a chance for true love. Unless one of the boys is evil. Which, you know, may or may not be the case…

Will I read more?

Death Seraph had some interesting characters and ideas, but I would have to describe the execution as sloppy. Enough so that I probably won’t be picking up the next installment in the 

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