Review of “Halflings” by Heather Burch

This is a trend that is both amusing and interesting to me: angels come to earth and go to high school as part of their “mission” and invariably fall for a hot human. What’s going on the zeitgeist?

Traditionally, young adult literature is said to offer a window through which teens can examine their lives and the rarified world they inhabit. Modern-day issues are discussed in contemporary language, employing fantasy or a central “problem” (usually either young love or “coming of age”) to convey the story. If there is a moral, or message, the goal is for it to be subtle, and not browbeaten into the reader.

Angels struggling to keep focused on their heavenly mission while being tempted by humanity is the perfect way, it seems to me, to accomplish both browbeating and subtlety all at the same time. Halflings does a particularly nice job of that, because this is a story about angels who are not totally divine or irreparably fallen; rather, they are in-between.

“Halflings” or “lost boys” (although there are a few females) are half fallen angel and half human. They cannot be admitted to heaven, but they can stay out of hell by fighting on the side of good. When not on a mission from God, they hang out in “the midplane,” which is an intermediary supernatural realm. Small groups of Halflings are assigned to a caretaker, who receives communications from Heaven about their missions. Will is the caretaker of the three “lost boys” who are the novel’s main protagonists: Raven, Mace, and Vine. Their mission is to protect Nicole (“Nikki”) Youngblood, a beautiful and exceptional 17-year-old girl, and so the guys enroll in her high school. For some reason that none of them can yet figure out, Nikki is the focus of an attack from the Underworld.

As the boys battle to save Nikki from external demons, they also struggle with their own internal ones: Mace and Raven both fall for Nikki, and falling for a human is considered to be a sin. Moreover, they must also combat their own heritage, having come from fallen angels and having seeds of rebellion and darkness planted in their souls. They can choose to give in to the dark side, or they can opt to conduct themselves with nobility and honor.

And what about Nikki? She too, is caught in the middle: she is attracted to both the “angelic” Mace and the “bad boy” Raven.

But she knows that if she is not strong and if she gives in to either boy by having a relationship with him, she will damn him for all eternity. Furthermore, she has to figure out if she wants to participate actively in the difficult mission of the angels or take an easier road. (As Will says of humans. harking back to Doubting Thomas: “They’re at a huge disadvantage, not being born with eyes to see the spiritual battle. Yet they still must choose a side. And it’s their faith alone that equips them to make that choice.”) And finally, there’s the little matter of being chased by demons and hellhounds and having her life in danger, when she doesn’t even know why….

Evaluation: This is a nicely done series that combines spiritual concerns with “hotness” and with danger, ensuring a broad appeal. Given the premise, I thought it would be silly, but it’s really not at all, and has a poignancy pervading it over the sad fate of the “lost boys.” It also has a more religious message than most books of this ilk. (I have to say, though, that I really don’t like the girl on the cover, who reminds me too much of Bella from “The Twilight Series.”)

Rating: 3/5

Published by Zondervan, 2012

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13 Responses to Review of “Halflings” by Heather Burch

  1. Care says:

    darnit, you’ve told me too much and now I want to know what happens. And why you didn’t mention Vine. Something tells me not to trust him.

  2. Silly is exactly what I would have expected! So good to know. There are some lessons that need pounding in there for our teenaged girls. If these book accomplish the task, then it is a good thing. (I am not thrilled with that cover either.)

  3. I haven’t heard of this one before. It sounds like a good read. I haven’t read many angel books.

  4. zibilee says:

    From the synopsis you posted, I had thought this would be a cheesy little read, but it sounds like it was kind of interesting. I still get a little annoyed that every YA read out there has a love triangle in it, but I might take a look at this one. My daughter would love it for sure. She loves anything about angels, or dragons, or wolves. The cover reminds me of the books that used to be targeted to teens when I was growing up in the 80’s. Not what I would choose, that’s for sure! Great review today, Jill!

  5. Barbara says:

    There’s such a shortage of angels in high schools that they’ve begun importing them from a halfway house between heaven and hell? I’m more glad than ever that I haven’t gotten caught up in the YA books.

  6. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    I’m not a huge fan of angel books I must admit. But this one sounds like it might be fun.

  7. Trish says:

    Was it on my most recent audiobook that I heard something explained about why good girls like bad boys? Thinking it was (Sex Lives of Cannibals). Has to do with survival of the fittest–girls want to mate with the big strong burly guys to produce big strong burly guys. Ok, so the book was talking about island dogs, but maybe there’s something to it?

    Anyway. Haven’t heard of this one.

  8. Toni says:

    I am at a point in my reading, or my lack of reading that this book has appeal to me. I like the idea of it. Your review is awesome.

  9. Jenny says:

    Hahahah, I suspect that the looking like Bella Swan is by design and not by accident. I know what the zeitgeist is, and it’s all Stephenie Meyer’s fault. (Jill, I swear I do not spend every moment of the day bitching about Stephenie Meyer; I just seem to do it a lot on your blog for some reason.)

  10. WordPress/Gravatar hates me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I posted an earlier comment..did it take?

  11. This looks neat. I was also reminded of Kristen Stewart who grates on my nerves. My husband laughed at me because he has no idea who she is an we were both looking at the new Snow White movie which we agreed looked good until I figured out that it was her. Blech! That said I’m glad this turned out to be better than you had hoped.

  12. Jenners says:

    You’re right … that does look an awful lot like Bella! I’m sure that isn’t an accident!! I’m sure they are hoping that Twihards won’t look to close and buy it!

  13. Margot says:

    Angels with hormones seems like a fun idea. I can think of all sorts or possibilities for that.

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