Book Review: Divinity by Michelle L. Johnson

Divinity CoverI met Michelle at the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference and, as writers will do, we got to talking about what we write. When she told me about her book, I knew I had to have it. As soon as she let me know that the pre-order for Divinity was available, I slapped down my credit card on the virtual counter top at Barnes and Noble’s Web Site, and through some miracle they shipped it to me almost a month early! I don’t know how that happened. I don’t ask questions of divine intervention. I just smile and nod and continue on with life.

Anyway… This means that I have the pleasure of being one of the first people to read her novel (outside the normal circles of critique groups, agents, editors, ARCs, beta readers, etc.) Since I’m one of the first outside her inner circle to get the book, I get to be one of the first to review it.

I rarely write book reviews, so bear with me if this is a little sparse or shoddy. I’m doing my best not to give away spoilers that aren’t already given away in the back-cover blurb, so that’s why I’ll be intentionally vague about certain parts.

First off the official description as given from the B&N web site:

When Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel.

With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart.

Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had.

What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

My review and thoughts:

Michelle does just enough world building and scene setting to let me get to know Julia before ramping things up with a car crash that Julia dives head first into. She’s saving a child from a burning car despite all mortal danger she’s presented with. I immediately know what kind of person Julia is and that I’d love being friends with her. Her selfless actions (and love for coffee) tied me to her right away. When strange things happen during the rescue of the child, Julia reacts as any person would and this made the “strange things” that much more believable.

After the rescue in the flaming car crash, things escalate pretty quickly from there. There are some authors that slam down the accelerator and never give the reader a chance to come up for air. Those books have their place, but it’s a rare one of those that finds a place on my shelf. Michelle doesn’t roar through the book at a breakneck speed. She masterfully has highs and lows in the book that kept me guessing at what was to come next. I smiled when I got things right. When my guesses were off the mark, I was very pleasantly surprised at the turn of events. Some were shocking. Many were emotional (yes, I cried in Jimmy John’s while reading this book…. several times.) All of them were wonderfully done.

Michelle carried me through Julia’s story and showed me how Julia changed from the first day of events through the last moments of the book. The closing scene of the book, well, no spoilers, so don’t worry. That closing scene left me worried, concerned, and deeply wanting more of Julia’s story. I’ve been assured there is a sequel in the works, which makes me incredibly happy. I hear some people saying, “But I want a complete story, not a ‘continued next week….’ kind of series.” Don’t worry. You get a fully story. There are incredibly character, plot, and theme arcs within these covers that carry through to a satisfying conclusion. That closing epilogue is the cherry on top, though.

Now for one downside that I found with the book. There are scenes from the archangels’ points of view. I did not expect this at all. The first few jarred me out of Julia’s story, but when I realized there were two story lines traveling side-by-side, those scene transitions became much easier. Michelle does this fairly early in the book, so it’s not like you have 200 pages of Julia and then we pop into the heads of the angels. That would be incredibly jarring. In this case, it was a mere mental stumble on my part, but once I got into the rhythm and groove of moving between Julia and the archangels, the read went much smoother. I want to say that it took me about three back-and-forth switches for me to realize the purpose of the breaks and how things were going.

This leads me to my favorite part of the book: the angels. Even though the stakes of the book are incredibly high (for angel and mortal alike), the angels still have a wry sense of humor about them. These brief moments of levity were some of the “breather moments” I mentioned above. In addition to their sense of humor you quickly learn that the angels are not of a like mind, nor are they perfectly allied with one another against “evil” or the dastardly deeds of Lucifer and his minions. Just the concept of angels being individuals rather than a perfectly molded extension of God brings whole new levels of thought to my mind.

Well done, Michelle.

I can’t wait to pre-order the sequel!