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Lili St Crow – Strange Angels

Urban fantasy fans looking for fresh mythologies, sharp dialogue and plenty of action shouldn’t be disappointed with Lili St Crow’s debut young adult offering, Strange Angels.

Crow, who’s written a swag of adult urban fantasy series as Lilith Saintcrow, rarely misses a beat as she hurtles narrative character Dru Anderson into a world of constant danger in the first two novels of this addictive series.

The story starts off like Supernatural for chicks, with sixteen-year-old Dru moving to yet another new town as she and her father ‘hunt’ the things that go bump in the night. But it all goes bad one icy night when Dru’s Dad hunts without her and returns home a zombie.

Dru must kill her father and then go on the run from whatever killed (and then re-animated) him. There’s no doubt Dru’s tough, and skilled in using a range of weapons, but she’s still a teenage girl who is alone, grieving for her father, and increasingly aware she has no idea what she’s up against.

With fledgling supernatural gifts of her own, Dru isn’t defenceless, but she’s out of her depth. Also out of options, she reluctantly accepts help from Graves, a loner goth boy. When he’s attacked by a werwulf, he turns into a loup garou (part-werwulf), becoming part of her world whether he wants to or not.

Tracking her father’s killer, Dru clashes with Christophe, a mysterious teenager who clearly knows more about what’s going on than she does. He eventually explains Dru is being hunted by a powerful vampire, who in turn is being hunted by an organisation called the Order, an alliance of djamphir (part-vampires), werwulfs, and human hunters.

Christophe, himself a djamphir, knows things about Dru’s family and about Dru’s value to both sides. Despite the fact he saves Dru and Graves from a gruesome death on more than one occasion, both teenagers are hesitant to trust him.

Strange Angels is all about Dru discovering she’s more than just another hunter. It’s also about her growing relationship with Graves and Christophe.

In Betrayals, she’s secreted away to a school operated by the Order, where she learns more about her heritage and grows increasingly suspicious of everyone around her. She also discovers a simmering bigotry between the djamphir and werwulfs, which adds another layer of tension and depth to the cleverly constructed mythology.

While action and suspense drive this series, there’s also steadily building love triangle involving Dru, Graves and Christophe, which seems likely to come into sharper focus in the forthcoming third novel (due in 2010).

Dru might be handy with a knife and a hand gun, but she’s not so good when it comes to matters of the heart, so this is no sweet love story. Instead, it’s about the bonds she’s forging with both through battle, and her need – despite her own strengths – to have someone she can trust and rely on, in her father’s absence.

Strange Angels and Betrayals are fast-paced page-turners. But while the often graphic action is paramount, each violent confrontation either progresses the plot or strengthens the characters’ connections.

This series isn’t for readers easily unsettled by violence and horror (even if Dru’s conversational narrative provides unexpected flashes of humour), and there’s also plenty of profanity. Younger readers keen for more vampire-based love stories should probably check out Claudia Gray’s Evernight series instead.

The two novels have piqued my curiosity to check out Saintcrow’s other urban fantasy series, and I’ll be grabbing the third Strange Angels novel when it arrives on shelves in 2010.

(The Strange Angels series seems to share some mythology elements to Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series – Read actually provides a cover recommendation on Strange Angels, but not having read Read’s work, I’m not sure how similar the books are. Happy to be enlightened.)