Rummanah Aasi
  One of the great things about blogging is being introduced to new writers and reading out of my comfort zone. I was approached by Daniel Arenson to read his novel, Flaming Dove. I accepted Daniel's offer because the concept of his book was truly fascinating and unique. He offered me a copy of his book for a honest review for my readers. You can purchase Flaming Dove in ebook and paperback format here.

Description (taken from Daniel's website): The battle of Armageddon was finally fought... and ended with no clear victor. Upon the mountain, the armies of Hell and Heaven beat each other into a bloody, uneasy standstill, leaving the Earth in ruins. Armageddon should have ended with Heaven winning, ushering in an era of peace. That's what the prophecies said. Instead, the two armies--one of angels, one of demons--hunker down in the scorched planet, lick their wounds, and gear up for a prolonged war with no end in sight.
   In this chaos of warring armies and ruined landscapes, Laila doesn't want to take sides. Her mother was an angel, her father a demon; she is outcast from both camps. And yet both armies need her, for with her mixed blood, Laila can become the ultimate spy... or ultimate soldier. As the armies of Heaven and Hell pursue her, Laila's only war is within her heart--a struggle between her demonic and heavenly blood.

Review: Flaming Dove has a unique outlook of Armageddon, angels, and demons. Heaven and Hell have been warring for 27 years and there is no clear victor. Only a few humans are alive, mostly are collateral damages of post-apocalyptic war. God is mentioned, but interestingly enough doesn't have a strong presence to the characters, and is mostly stays in the background. Prayers are made by pleading characters, but there is no proof that they are being answered. Biblical characters such as the Archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and the fallen angel Beelzebub are our main characters and siblings. Despite the strengthens of Heaven and Hell, the epic battle can not end without the help of Laila, the half-demon and half-angel, who must pick a side.
  Laila is by far the most interesting character in Flaming Dove. She is constantly battling herself in order to find her identity and place in the realms. Her blood, mixed with angel and demon blood make it hard for her to survive in Heaven and Hell. Laila finds safety living in the shadows, however she is incredibly lonely and yearns for a community. Due to her mixed blood, we are uncertain whether she is truly good or evil even to the very end of the book. In fact all of the characters are struggling with the same problem.
  As we begin to understand how the war started, we realize that the more time the angel spends on Earth, the more human they become. They possess human emotions such as love, lust, jealousy, doubt, etc. We witness angels, who we know to be divine goodness, lie and manipulate others to get their way. Similarly, we also see Beelzebub show tenderness and kindness to others. We can't help but ask ourselves: are you good just because you are an angel? Are you evil because you are a demon? Are good and bad absolutes?   
  While the questions that Arenson asks his readers are definitely thought provoking, I did have a few problems with the book. I thought the prose, dialogue, and characterizations of the other characters to be a little flat for me. Besides Laila, I didn't really much care for the others characters but I was willing to find out what happened to them. I found the Archangel Michael to be distant and cold. He does, however, have a brilliant moments of introspection. One of my favorite scenes of Flaming Dove is when Michael and Raphael have a discussion on whether or not Michael will ever be allowed back in heaven. I wished the author spent more time on these moments.  Beezelbub, who is Michael's brother in this story, has lots of potential to show a wide range of emotions yet he comes off pretty stiff. I found him to be charming yet had a hard time to be an antihero/romantic lead. Bat El, Laila's half sister, is boring and I skimmed most of the story when she is present.
  When I think of Armageddon, the battle between angels and demons, I imagine it to be very grand yet in the book it seemed to be very small and tiring. Both sides just want it to end and be done with it, mainly because it's been so long. The dialogue for the angels and demons was rather modern and almost a few years old. I always imagined angels, who have lived many millenniums, to be refined in their speech and manners. I was fine with the way Laila spoke, mainly because of her young age, but I hard time imagine angels talking that way and living through years of watching civilization and battling with one another. Heaven is described very much how we imagine it to be, but it does sound very dull and it made sense to me why some angels wanted to escape, however, I thought the author would play more with the concept of free will a bit more.
  Another thing that bothered me about the book was the repetition of description of demon fangs with drool/spit/saliva on anyone other than Laila or Beelzebub as well as Laila's reaction to hellfire and godlight. Instead of just mentioning these things in the beginning and knowing the reader understood, it would dutifully be explained again.I would like to believe that the author would feel confident in his reader and move along in the story.
   Despite these flaws, I did enjoy reading Flaming Dove. The story is told in several point of views and never loses its pace. The book has an even balance of action scenes and tender moments of the character's reflections or flashbacks. While I won't spoil the ending, it made my jaw drop in surprise and left me with lots to ponder. Flaming Dove has a truly unique concept and storyline of good versus evil. It is truly a fascinating fantasy novel that is worth reading. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, strong violence/gore, and a few allusions to sex. Although this book is marketed for adults, I can definitely see teens reading and enjoying this title.

If you like this book try: Firefly Island by Daniel Arenson
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