AUTHOR: C.C. Bridges
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 62k)
GENRE: Gay futuristic erotic romance
Catching two demon burglars is routine for Gabriel 1089, who’s one cog in an army of cybernetically modified humans protecting the sky city of Heaven. Until two turns into a twenty-demon ambush. When he wakes up, he’s missing his network-enabled halo—and one of his metal wings.
The down-level junk dealer tending Gabe’s wounds has hands that spark nerve endings he never knew he possessed. But for an angel cut off from Heaven, an attic in Old Trent feels more like a trap than a sanctuary.
Demons on his doorstep are nothing new for Jeff Werth. Ever since they saved his daughter’s legs, they’ve been calling in their marker. In exchange for his services—nursing Gabe back to health so they can use him as a pawn in their war with Heaven—they’ll consider the debt paid in full. Except having a powerless angel at his mercy feeds a rising desire that has him rethinking the deal.Then the de-haloed Gabe begins having dreams that become visions…then memories. Until he’s not sure whose side he’s on. Heaven, or the simple family man who healed his broken wings…and made his heart whole.
Note: This review was originally published at Three Dollar Bill Reviews.
The story starts out with a bang, with angel Gabriel 1089 answering a call of a warehouse being attacked by demons. A routine attack turns into an ambush, and he’s captured and taken downside, dropped in the lap of ex-hacker Jeff. Jeff owes a large debt to the demon who watches over the territory he lives in. He has no choice but to do as they say, removing the halo that connects Gabriel to the rest of the angels and keeping him in pseudo-custody until the demons tell him otherwise. Gabriel wakes up with one wing and cut off from everything he knew. He has no choice but to rely on Jeff and his daughter Kayla for survival, and slowly begins to integrate with Old Trent and its inhabitants. Not everything is as it seems, however, and soon enough, Jeff and Gabe learn more than is safe for them.
The author introduces the reader to a fascinating cyberpunk world, with a war happening between demons that roam the planet and the corporations that have taken over the skies. Heaven Corp. is at the top of the echelon with its army of angels to fight the demons, but those who are downside have to rely on what can get smuggled out to them and what they can scavenge in order to survive. Gabriel is a soldier with a single cause – to fight demons. When his halo gets stripped away from him, he’s literally cut off from everything he knows. All angels are plugged into Metatron and each other, and in turn to the God AI. He has to struggle to create a new identity while fighting to understand what exactly happened to him.
Crucial to this fight is ex-hacker Jeff. Jeff owes the demons a lot. When his daughter lost her legs at age five, they were responsible for getting her modded out with artificial limbs. She is the only family he has left, and he’s willing to do anything to protect her, even take in an ex-angel and lie to him about his involvement. He’s a tech genius, and the guilt he feels at hurting the angel manifests in trying to help the guy as much as he possibly can.
Though there’s a lot of potential with all of this, it never really came to life for me. My primary difficulty rested on the dense world-building. This dystopian future is drastically different, and thus, requires clear explanations or descriptions to be clear. It wasn’t. It started almost from the start as I struggled to come to grips with the hierarchy of everything. Using such iconographic terminology like angels and heaven means I’m coming into this with preset notions. If the story’s reality is different, then I need that clearly defined early on. It wasn’t, and because of that, I struggled connecting to any of the characters. I was too busy trying to get the world straight.
Part of that stems from the slow pacing. Though the opening chapter is swift and gripping, it quickly falls into a lull, shifting from the promise of thrills and drama to a slower, character-driven piece. It plods along as Gabriel and Jeff dance around each other, and Gabriel begins to learn what life is like in Old Trent. It would seem like the perfect opportunity for a better picture of the world to be painted, but it comes in drips and drabs, unsatisfying and unclear. The climax of the story picks up the pace again, mirroring the breathlessness of the opening chapter, but it’s too little, too late. It seemed to take forever to get to that point.
Because of my constant struggle to understand the world in which they lived, I never felt like I got a good grasp of the characters, both primary and secondary. Gabe is pretty much an empty shell to be filled, and while Jeff shows potential in his history, it’s glossed over throughout most of the story and only truly comes into play in the last quarter – again, too late to really do much good. The same holds true of the secondary characters. I could never keep Hank and Ian (friends of Jeff) straight, and until the last third (sensing a trend here?), the same held true for Ronnie and Mattie (more friends). Only Kayla, Jeff’s daughter, felt real and unique. With such a slew of personalities dotting the pages, that isn’t a great percentage.
One thing I did enjoy about this was how normal the relationship between Gabe and Jeff felt. Though a big deal is made of the BDSM relationship Hank and Ian have, there never felt like there was any sort of stigma on Gabe and Jeff’s budding romance. Their coming together felt both natural and inevitable, with little fanfare from anybody around them to make it seem so deviant. It was refreshing, even if I didn’t really invest in the romance by the end of the book.
This book marks the first of a series. While I did have some of my answers about the world resolved by the time I reached the end, I doubt I will continue onto the second book. I’m not sure this author is for me as the bulk of my reading time was spent trying to see the world she wanted me to. I lost out on the romance as a result. In such a dense world, that imbalance is enough to deter me from further explorations into an author’s work.
6/10 – Slow pacing and dense, incomplete world building really made this a slog
5/10 – A blank slate at the beginning, but I still didn’t feel like I knew him at the end
6/10 – More interesting than Gabe, but still not as fully fleshed as I thought he could have been
5/10 – In spite of an intriguing premise and glimmers of story, I was too bogged by questions and slow pacing to enjoy it much
7/10 – Some truly fascinating ideas going on, and while some of it gets adequately answered by story’s end, not enough of it does