I’m going to start this book review with a disclaimer. Here it is: novels are for entertainment and thought-provocation. Bibles are for theology. Why the disclaimer? Because books like Angelguard are good reads and can provoke a few deep thoughts, but the answer to the theology questions raised need to come from the text of Scripture itself. I do not expect a novel to have a theology perfectly in line with mine, especially on sub-matters like angels and demons. So, don’t go all regulative principle on novels or elevate them above Holy Writ. Take it for what it is: reading material.
On to the book: Angelguard by Ian Acheson (name links to author’s webpage) is a foray into the Christian fiction subgenre of supernatural fiction. That means that the author is portraying not only human actions but suggesting spiritual forces at work behind those actions and portraying those as well. It is a subgenre that I have not read much in lately, but do remember reading some of the groundbreaking modern novels in it, ones which most reviews compare Angelguard to. I am inclined to do the same, but cannot honestly tell you if it’s because Acheson is similar to those authors or if that’s just the only frame of reference I have.
The plot line is fairly straightforward in Angelguard. There are bad guys who are up to bad things, and we see that behind these bad guys are the spiritual forces of evil. There are good guys who will be thwarting the evil plan, and to aid in their efforts are the spiritual forces of God.
Part of what makes Angelguard work is seeing the interplay between the two differing groups. As far as I can tell in my reading, the spiritual forces are not actually visible in the physical realm, though there are interactions. Further, it is clear that the demonic side is striving to push the humans under their influence to follow a plan, while the angelic side is protecting the the humans under their “guard” so that the humans can fulfill what God has for them.
I liked that. While it would appear that in Angelguard’s universe the spiritual can provide some influence on the actual behaviors of humanity, the people are still clearly responsible for their own actions. No one is on a puppet-string here. Do things occur beyond explanation? Certainly—but no one is dragged, kicking and screaming, into compliance with evil or obedience to good. Instead, the character of the characters is allowed to show through.
Angelguard’s plot is not particularly groundbreaking, but I think suspense plots at this point are more often about doing it better than concocting something completely unexpected. In truth, the last “completely unexpected” I read came more as a “well, that was out of left field, just beyond the foul pole” than a good plot. Acheson presents the classic world-in-danger, time-critical disaster plot with the added looks at the spiritual realm. It works well together. Naturally, parts of it stretch the imagination, but I want my fiction to have a happy ending. Life has enough times the bad guys win…let the good guys have the books.
Alongside the plotline, Angelguard does well in developing the characters. The opening chaos generates emotional needs for many of the characters, and seeing how and if those needs are fulfilled in relationships throughout the book moves the character development along. Again, is it as messy as real life? Not quite, but neither has Acheson presented us with cut-and-paste characters without problems. The most evil are clearly bad, but the good are not so good the reader never doubts them.
On the spiritual side, Angelguard presents angels and demons that have personalities. They also have long-running vendettas. What I found an interesting deviation from typical angel books is the apparent ability of angels and demons to kill each other. That’s frequently not a factor, because for the most part the Bible is not clear that any angelic beings are mortal. However, it works well with this book, and it is not clear from Scripture that this is impossible, so why not work it for the plot?
In all, Angelguard was surprisingly easy to get drawn in by. I did not have to force myself to finish it, and do consider it a worthwhile book for my time. Although I must admit to not liking the staring eyes on the cover art, but nothing’s perfect, is it?
Please Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for the review. I actually did like it—they do not require positive reviews. Just honest ones.