Lou Morgan’s 2012 debut Blood and Feathers proved to be one of the best novels I’d read that year, and also a fine guide in my exploration of the urban fantasy genre which started that very year with Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest from Angry Robot Books. Blood and Feathers was a great read but it missed the mark a little, yet it was good enough that I looked forward to reading the sequel Rebellion, which was released in early 2012. However, I couldn’t get the time to read it then, which is why I made the effort to finally get through it last month. And it proved to be every bit as good as its predecessor.
Rebellion continues the story of Alice as she tries to find her place in a world where the Fallen have left Hell in a mass exodus and are causing all sorts of trouble in her world. This is also the world where the Archangel Michael will stop at nothing to destroy Lucifer once and for all, even if it means sacrificing his own people, or that of the other Archangels. Rebellion is much more cerebral and fascinating than its predecessor, and that’s what I loved most about it, in the end. That was exactly what I was looking for in the novel and Lou Morgan delivered on that front quite handsomely.
When I read Blood and Feathers back in 2012, what stood out for me was the chemistry between the lead characters Alice, Mallory, Vin and Gwyn, plus the fact that there was a moral gray area that the Angels and the Fallen could be placed in. Together, it made for a most interesting mix. Lou Morgan continued along the same path this time as well, though she raised the stakes considerably, and in quite a spectacular manner as well. At the end of Blood and Feathers the Angels had made a concerted attack on Hell to root out Lucifer and all of his Fallen, an effort that was only partially successful. This time, even as Lucifer seeks to regain a corporeal body, the Angels have to contend with treachery and betrayal so that they can win through again, hopefully.
Alice is a character who grows by leaps and bounds both within the new novel and in context to the old one. She is no longer a girl unaware of her heritage or her powers or even reluctant to use them. She is now a fighter and with the initial absence of Mallory since the ending of Blood and Feathers, she has found several like-minded sons and daughters of Heaven to make a stand against the continued encroachment of the Fallen. She has become an active player in this classic war between good and evil, and Lou Morgan’s characterisation of her is the best it has been, and also the most consistent. For that I what I like to see in a novel, a character who continues to grow in a natural manner and remains true to his/her first portrayal.
With all the action that can be found in this novel right from the start, Alice gets lots of opportunities to employ her particular set of powers, her gifts that allow her to be who she is, a half-breed who is part of one of the Angelic choirs, Michael’s if I’m not mistaken. Any scene that has Alice burning Fallen is a scene worth drinking a shot over. Alice is now a pretty strong woman in her own right and watching her wade into a fight and start throwing her weight around is something that I enjoyed every single instance of. Of course, she never does any of it alone because she has at her side two of her best friends, Mallory and Vin. In Blood and Feathers, their relationship with each other was another big positive of the novel, and that remains the case in Rebellion as well. By and large, most of the humour in the novel comes from the sarcastic back and forth between these two, but Alice often steps up to the stage too, and together, these three can be trusted on to be a riot of laughter, even when the situation is grim, exceedingly grim even.
Having Mallory and Vin back was something that I expected, wanted, and approved of as well. In addition to generally lighting up the mood of any given scene, they are both also quite kickass characters in their own right and since they are Angels themselves, they also offer quite a unique perspective on the overall story, something that both benefits and harms how Alice looks at things, because their world view is quite different to hers and that allows them to look at events and characters much differently. Part of this is how all three of them look at Archangel Michael himself, for Mallory and Vin have a healthy respect for him given how ruthless and badasser Michael is, but Alice sees little more than an Angel who is just slightly higher up the foodchain.
In the course of this novel we are also exposed to a certain revelation about Mallory that is quite shocking, and it plays into why many of the Fallen hate him so real bad. And no, it isn’t what you’d expect, and thus is even more shocking. But once that happened, that’s when I realised that I never really gave Mallory enough credit for being who he is and the general misery he cloaked himself in when I saw him last in Blood and Feathers. He doesn’t make an appearance until later on in the novel, allowing Alice and some of the other ancillary characters to shine through, but soon as it did, it was as if the novel was electrified into life and the pace picked up considerably.
However, much as the characters are important to Rebellion, what is more important is what the novel is about at its core: Michael’s crusade to destroy Lucifer and the Fallen once and for all. That is the end-goal here and Lou Morgan gets to that goal in a very twisty fashion. She gives the reader enough to latch on to, and then dances that end-goal like a carrot, forever out of reach but oh so tantalising. And it makes you wonder, can one Archangel really destroy another one, even if the Fallen Archangel has become as powerful as Lucifer as? I must admit, it was all deliciously awesome, and I really couldn’t get enough of it. Lou Morgan certainly knows how to keep the reader interested all the way in.
In many ways, Rebellion is a better novel than Blood and Feathers and in that, the author avoids the sophomore slump that is often common to trilogies and the like. Now, if only we can get the third novel soon, then I’ll be a happy camper!
More Lou Morgan: Blood and Feathers.