Looking back at my review of World After, Susan Ee’s second novel in the Penryn and the End of Days young adult series, I find that I went a little too easy on the book and Ee as a writer. I also can’t say I was particularly truthful about my own views on that book – it was difficult to finish, mostly because I found it hard to stay focused on a story with which I had little in common. I’d be lying if I said that I was excited when I received not only the final edition of End of Days but the rough copy as well; Skyscape inexplicably sent me the second volume in the series without my request (I think, though I can’t be sure) and I never got to read the initial volume Angelfall, so I still feel a little left out of the loop when it comes to Penryn lore.
End of Days wasn’t much easier for me to get through, and I struggled to identify with a teenage girl fighting angels and demons with a teddy bear sword named Pooky Bear while she woos a perfect angel known as Raffe (Raphael in Biblical lore). A lot of that has to do with Ee’s intentions; she’s writing for an audience primarily made up of young girls, most of them fascinated with the “will they-won’t they” of teen romance, and the Penryn series caters to that while infusing the story with an strong female anime-esque main character.
That type of thing really sits outside my realm of experience, but reviewing End of Days really isn’t about my own enjoyment of the book. It’s about whether the target audience – young adults in varying stages of maturity – will enjoy and engage with Ee’s writing, and I’ve got to say that she’s really hit on the integral archetype of romantic YA literature.
All of the aspects of that sub-genre are here, including quick flirtations between Penryn and Raffe and just the hint of sexuality without getting into explicit detail. But Ee’s books have always had a focused storyline that doesn’t just rely on the relationship between Penryn and Raffe, and that comes to a head in End of Days. Picking up right where World After left off, the novel explores the final stand of humanity against the angels, led by Uriel, who want to take over the world. Raffe and his Watchers are forced to fight against Uriel to protect their Daughters of Man, and End of Days not only feels climactic, it also is convoluted with the complicated lore of monsters and angels that Ee has created throughout the series.
End of Days has a number of exciting events, the most inventive being the warp through a body of an angel into a hell where the Watchers are kept. Fans of Ee’s work will find that End of Days is as enveloping as the other books in the series, and also varied enough to feel like a warranted continuation of the events.
With that said, Ee’s writing hasn’t changed much from World After, and that’s somewhat unfortunate because her prose is often flat and nondescript. This is a YA novel, so no one’s asking for bombastic literary metaphors, but Ee’s descriptions lack flair; through Penryn’s point of view, she’s often just listing things instead of making an attempt to give setting and sense more depth. While having never been a teenage girl limits my perspective of End of Days‘ YA successes, the dry prose is a problem that limits reader engagement. It’s something Ee can work on, and hopefully her next novel makes steps in the right direction.
End of Days has a good climactic ending for the Penryn series, and it also ends with a satisfactory conclusion for a character many have followed through three books. While Ee’s writing might not interest most adult readers, her books are well-suited for the young adults of her audience, and these stories are inventive enough to warrant recommendation despite some flawed prose. Any book that gets kids reading is a good book, and if Ee can do it with her romantic apocalypse, then I can accept that.