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Book Review: Heaven's Forgotten

Heaven’s Forgotten. Branden Johnson. European Geeks Publishing, October 12, 2015, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 380 pages.

Reviewed by Hallie Koontz.

Angels don’t necessarily belong in Heaven in Heaven’s Forgotten, Branden Johnson’s down-to-earth urban fantasy in which angels, well, come down to earth.

The first of these angels that the author introduces us to is Michael, just one of several “Fallen” who have made Earth their home, by choice or not. What begins as a tale of revenge becomes something much more dangerous when Michael discovers that the woman he is hunting down has a four-year-old daughter, his four-year-old daughter, who is a half-Angel, a Nephilim.        

As a Nephilim, young Penelope is a target for those who wish to abuse her powers for their own good. The action is fun and engaging—running from danger, seeking help, and hiding out—but never overwhelming. Johnson finds ways to calm things down in the interim, and although there are times the book can stall, it is certainly never boring. On the whole, the balance between action and exposition, between plot and character, is excellent, and there are new developments and discoveries around the corner of every page.

Johnson doesn’t sacrifice depth or nuance for entertainment value, delivering an ensemble cast of characters each of whom has an active role. One of Johnson’s tricks to keep up the novel’s quick, lively pace is to switch points of view between chapters, and every character harbors a unique perspective, experience, and motive. Everyone needs something different: Moira wants to save her daughter, and Michael seeks both revenge and atonement. The desire to be loved mingles with that to be feared, and pasts are fled and then faced. The characters, all undergoing their own separate struggles, are just trying to do their best in a situation that seems quite hopeless. It is impossible to be bored with so many varied and dimensional characters whose layers of backstory and motivation are constantly being peeled away. In fact, some of their histories deserve more time and exploration than the book gives them. Michael and Moira’s relationship, in particular, is a fascinating dynamic that would benefit even more from a fuller backstory.

The mythology, an important aspect of any fantasy novel, works similarly. What Johnson creates, adds, and redefines about the ‘rules’ of angels to create a new mythology is interesting and makes for a good fantasy read. However, much of this information is intentionally murky. While this makes sense in the context of the story, considering that much of the information comes from unclear memories and is sometimes intentionally withheld by other characters, from a reading standpoint the lack of detail can become frustrating. The mythology simply deserves more detail, more time, and more consideration, sometimes even from the characters themselves, who do not ask nearly enough questions. Regardless, the world Johnson has created—its conflicts and its characters—are captivating.

When all the separate elements Johnson has so adeptly crafted are merged together, the result is an engaging dark fantasy that makes for a pleasant read, boasting action, alluring characters, and captivating language. Heaven’s Forgotten is a very strong debut from a writer I am sure we’ll be hearing more of in the future.


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