After Eden has a special place in my heart. It was the first self-published book I ever bought (Actually, no, according to my Amazon order history, it was the second. Never mind). Since then, I’ve downloaded quite a few more reads (whether I will ever get around to reading them all is the question). But out of all them, I remember After Eden most fondly. On paper it sounds ridiculous: A high school girl without a spirit falls in love with a demon. I am here to report that it doesn’t get any less ridiculous once you read it, but perhaps that’s the story’s strength. It knows exactly what it is, and it is unashamed.
Let’s start with the story line. Devi, a girl who has endured debilitating pain ever since an angel took her brother, decides to stop by a bookstore. Just as she is about to put back a truly horrendous romance novel, a headache attacks, and she blacks out. She wakes up on an old couch in the back of the bookstore getting kneaded by temperamental cat named Princess, who belongs to a young man who goes by Oz, the one who brought her inside. To Devi’s utter shock, he can cure her pain with a touch, something not any amount of epilepsy medication has been able to accomplish. What follows is a visit to a 24 hour restaurant, where they discuss surrealist art, eat pancakes, and play the guess-which-supernatural-creature-I-am game. Oz insists on walking her home, which Devi accepts because, hey, he’s nice for a guy who thinks he’s not human. After Oz leaves, though, a creature named Forneus appears in her home with a deal to offer…
Still here? Good, because it’s only going to get whackier.
The world-building is excellent, both supernatural and mundane. Katherine Pine has several interesting ideas, such as her rendition of the Watchers (for those who don’t know, the Sons of God who had children with human women and were cast out of paradise). In this universe, the Watchers’ sin of lust was falling in love with all of creation, putting it above God. For this transgression, they are condemned to wander the earth, observing it, but never participating in it. Oz falls in this category, but not much gets him down. Devils (Hello, Forneus) are the complete opposite. They were dissatisfied with creation and desired to form their own world. Devils may also walk the earth, but unlike demons (another name for Watchers), they cannot die, no matter what injuries they sustain. Also, angels’ androgyny is fully explored. This means that Oz has no problem turning into a teenage girl, enrolling in high school, and turning Devi’s life into 80’s teen flick. Well, I told you it would get whacky.
More than that, the characterization is wonderful. Unlike in a lot of paranormal romances, these characters think things through and react in recognizably human (and demonic, and angelic) ways. Devi is not impressed by looks alone, and despite his beauty, she acknowledges that, yes, Oz’s demonic side is pretty damn disturbing. Although slightly weary of immortality, Oz prefers to spend his time watching bad movies and pampering his cat instead of angsting prettily. Actually, this whole book is a love song to pop culture, leading to lines like,
If I’d known that I wasn’t alone, and had never been alone, I wouldn’t have spent so much time dancing to 80’s synth pop. I wondered if the angel liked this kind of music. Probably not, I decided, and cranked it up with a smile. Served him right for being a snoop.
The downside? This book could have used an editor. Several typos are littered throughout the text, but in spite of that, it reads well. I was reading through After Eden to check something for this review, but I ended up finishing it and book 2 in two sittings. It definitely has high reread value, especially for minor characters like Forneus, who became my favorite this time around.
Bottom line: If you want a hilarious romp without much angst that still maintains depth, this is the book for you. If don’t like boys who turn into girls, this is probably not the book for you.