Found via: BBYA 2010 nominations
My friend Rachel once predicted in a conversation that once vampires ran their course as the supernatural creatures of note, they would be followed by werewolves and finally angels. Personally, I haven't seen any surge in werewolves, but over the past year or so, the TV show Supernatural has been overrun by angels, there's a movie coming out later this month, and Devil's Kiss is at least the second YA book to prominently feature angels.
Billi is a modern member of the ancient order of the Knights Templar. While popular mythology says the order was wiped out after the Crusades, in truth they have survived, turning their focus from protecting Christianity to protecting humankind from a variety of supernatural terrors, including werewolves, vampires, and rogue angels. Today the Knights are composed of 9 members, including young Billi, who was recruited by her father.
As the Templars make more and more demands on Billi's time, interfering with her schoolwork and her sleep, she finds herself wanting to rebel. She never asked for this life, after all - it was thrust upon her by her cold and ruthless father. So when a chance encounter introduces her to Mike, a mysterious boy who seems to understand Billi better than anyone else, she's tempted to reorganize her priorities. Of course she wants to save the children, but does that mean she's not allowed to have any sort of social life?
Shortly after being officially initiated into the order, a strange variety of illnesses begin affecting the children of London. Parents are terrified, bringing ill children into the hospitals, but the doctors can't find a cause for the various symptoms, and before long the children die. Billi and her friend Kay, an Oracle with psychic powers who works with the Knights, discover that the deaths are connected by supernatural means. These deaths aren't random, but rather are the Tenth Plague: the death of the firstborn, as was done in Egypt in the time of Moses. The return of the Tenth Plague can mean only one thing: the Angel of Death has returned to Earth, and only the Knights Templar, including Billi, have any chance of stopping him.
With all due respect to Rachel, I don't know if angels are ever going to be able to get the foothold into popular culture that vampires have. The angel narrative seems rather one note: angels are far from cute and cuddly; they're actually kind of dicks. I don't know how long that's going to be able to hold its appeal. I for one have mostly stopped watching Supernatural and their angels vs. demons storyline, partly because I prefer the monster hunting story lines and partly because the angels are all jerks and that's not the most interesting attempt at character development.
I also don't know how I feel about Billi being the token female member of the Knights Templar. On the one hand, woo hoo girl power, teenage girl proving she can kick ass just as the men do. On the other hand, we know from real life that a woman stepping into a role traditionally held by men faces all sorts of backlash. I'm sure Billi would be protected from some because her father is the leader of the Templars and apparently the only thing the Devil fears, but the only backlash Billi seems to face is due mostly to her age, followed by her apparent lack of commitment to the Templars, and then finally her sex.
I did, however, enjoy Billi as a character and found her multi-faceted. What I thought was particularly interesting is she's a bi-racial character in a story that isn't about racial identity - it's mentioned several times that her mother is Pakistani and in fact Billi is short for her Muslim name, Bilqis. Just as I want there to be more gay characters in stories that aren't about being gay, characters of color should be present in a variety of stories that aren't just about their racial or cultural identity.
I also enjoyed how much the London setting was woven into the story - Chadda is obviously a London resident, as the British setting and slang is a fully realized part of the story. Too often stories that are set in places other than the US feel like the setting is simply slapped on top of the story - definitely not the case here!