Darkly enjoyable take on vampires & angels
In Cynthia Leitich Smith's ETERNAL, guardian angel Zachary loses his charge, Miranda, to a vampire bite and falls from grace in the process. Following his punishment, Zachary finds himself indulging in a life of earthly pleasures until another angel shows up and gives him a chance to redeem himself. His former charge and love interest, Miranda, is now a vampire princess who has committed all types of horrors against humans and vampires alike. When she needs a new assistant for her gruesome life, Zachary jumps at the chance, hoping to save them both.
After my experience with Smith's TANTALIZE, I was skeptical about reading ETERNAL. However, I'm glad that I did. In this book, Smith shows a vast improvement in her writing in form, plotting, and structure. As characters, Zachary is likeable as an angel with sarcastic wit and Miranda is relatable before her change. Smith's use of blog posts, help wanted ads, and cultural references worked well, both to add humor and the perspective of unobserved characters. Unlike other current vampire titles, these vampires are also decidedly bad and cruel; Smith does not shy away from the horror of them and their power. To illustrate this, she employs creative, campy ways to depict their brutality, and in doing so addresses significant themes like class and the abuse of others for one's own desires. The book then closes with an ending that made sense and provided closure, even if it won't satisfy those looking for a happily-ever-after.
On the negative side, the writing in the beginning was not as smooth as one would hope for, and it was hard initially to figure out what had happened to both Zachary and Miranda. Through the middle of the book, pacing drags. Though the narration alternates between Miranda and Zachary, Zachary's voice is much stronger and more interesting. When we do learn important things about Miranda, we're told them (instead of shown) through Zachary's eyes. As a character, Miranda is inconsistent, and there is little change or development among the cast. For those looking for a romance, it is limited in this book. Some elements of the angel mythology were also unclear.
If you came looking for a sequel to TANTALIZE, you will not find it here as there is no overlap in characters or storyline. However, in its place, you will find something much better. With its darker mood, ETERNAL will appeal to fans of dark urban fantasy like Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale series. I'm looking forward to Smith's return to this universe in BLESSED, which will bring together characters from both TANTALIZE and ETERNAL.