I finally got around to reading Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels. It’s a fluid, easy read, with a compelling plot, a story world that makes sense and likeable characters (though there is only a small cast). … anyway, here are the things I noticed (these are notes for me, really, so don’t let me ruin the story or anything):
Seems to me: YA Urban Fantasy protagonists are often teamed up with their peers to fight the world’s evil… their parents and families generally exist, but are explained out of the story, too. Families tend to be secondary in some way to the power struggle the protagonists engage in; the power structure of the family is a side-line event (rather than central to how the troubles play out).
Dru’s Mom and Gran are long-gone and her Dad dies early on in Strange Angels… so Dru has to work out how to go it alone ‘in a scary-as world’. But – Strange Angels also spends quite a bit of time focusing on Dru’s loss of parents… She thinks about her Dad a lot; she wonders how she can cope without him; she ponders everything he’s taught her, etc. She wonders repeatedly how she can cope without adults, since she’s only a teenager. (A classic example: “This just kept getting more and more complex, and I wasn’t sure what was real and what was the Real World anymore. Where were the grown-ups who could handle this?” (p.228))
Is this all to explain who Dru is and how she came to be that way? …to develop a storyline around a teenager who lacks adults to Take Care Of Things? Does Dru’s connection with her Dad make her story different from other UF protagonists’? Or is there a theme in UF with regards to what parents bring to stories of good vs. evil?
Teachers feature in Strange Angels (and in Vampire Academy, and in a couple of others… what about the Mortal Instruments series?). As with families, they tend to be a sideline, but why keep these typical teenager (imbalanced power) relationships at all? What do they add to the story?
If you want to see what I mean about the adult vs. teenager theme, check out pp.146; 149; 169; 245; 252; 277?; and, last but not least, the penultimate page (p.292), when rescue comes in the form of more teenagers (“The pilot didn’t even look at us, and the hands on the controls were bigger and thicker than mine, though they looked young and smooth-skinned. / Jesus, how many teenagers are doing this sort of thing?“)
Of course, this all fits with Adolescent Fiction in general, but there’s something else here… I suppose comparing it with the ‘adult’ stuff might clear things up… dunno
Most people don’t see the world around them as it really is (your average punter is the one living in the fantasy world, because they can’t see the truth of things around them. For most people (but not our protagonists), nothing goes too wrong and the threat of world-destruction is not real):
I think this thought partly occurs to me because at work we’re studying ways of implementing sustainability more fully into our pedagogy and this absolutely is how the discourses around climate change and sustainability play out (i.e., most people just can’t see the dangers).
I wonder if part of the adult vs. teenager thing is connected to the sense that the protagonist knows things about the world that most people refuse to acknowledge and therefore cannot cope with… this generation must face what is wrong with the world (using new variations on old traditions), while the previous generation continues in its old ways… (such a statement certainly fits the characters of Clary in Mortal Instruments and Rose in Vampire Academy).
Certainly, in Strange Angels (as in other UF?) there is a distinct sense of knowing something about the world – and caring about it; and being caught up in the power of it – that your average person does not know… Dru and her Dad have been fighting things from ‘the Real World’ (zombies, chupacabras, whatnot) all her life, but most people don’t know the Real World exists… a section that leapt out in this regard: “‘This place really reeks.’
I shrugged. It was just a regular chain coffee outlet, with hordes of overpriced crap crowding the shelves and rickety tables, the kids behind the counter scrambling to keep up with the nonfat, soy chai, double shot, sugar-free, dry foam, drip please, do you have a sugar substitute? People shuffled up to the counter, got their froofy java, and shuffled out the door, usually jabbering away on cell phones about something useless or meaningless.
None of them knew about the Real World. None of them were so scared their bones felt like water.
‘They don’t have a clue.’ I scooped up my not-so-hot-anymore chocolate and scraped my chair away from the table.” (p.143)
I have to think this through some more.
The antagonists in this novel are not a specific race or group of politically organised folk, but an entire realm of ‘things that go bump in the night’… Accordingly, you don’t get much characterisation of the villains – they are, almost by definition, those monsters under the bed that are mostly scary cos you can’t see them. That said, there is a whole range of them (zombies, werewolves, vampires (‘suckers’), dreamstealers/revelles, etc.) and St. Crow seems to be drawing on all the cultural traditions alive to people of the USA. She just doesn’t develop their characters much here (rather she focuses on how they menace Dru).
As with Richelle Mead’s story world (they’re mates aren’t they?), the djamphir (dhampir, dhampyr, dhampire) are half-breeds (here: human/vampire offspring) who are on the side of good. In this case, the djamphir kill the full-blooded, dangerous wampyr/ nosferatu/ vampires (before the opposite happens). Werwulfen (werewolves) also battle suckers (vampires) in this story world. (Ref. pp.162; 210)
This novel seems to be setting things up for a larger battle scope in consequent novels, though, so hmmm (Dru also seems set to “Be a good girl and go back to school” (p.289), even if it is a school for Hunters, so hmmm some more).
Anyway, just a few thoughts…
Ref: Lili St. Crow (2009) Strange Angels. Razor Bill: Camberwell, Vic.