You’d think that, as YA Guy, I could predict which YA books are going to be big hits and which aren’t.
You’d be wrong.
Other than the obvious (books by well-known authors and/or those with enormous marketing budgets behind them), I’m often as puzzled as anyone by the fate of a particular YA book. Some that I think are mediocre or downright bad become bestsellers, while others that I think are fantastic gain only a modest readership. It’s just the nature of the game, I guess; different readers react differently to different books, and even the marketing folks in the publishing world don’t always know what’s going to take off and what isn’t.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: the Revelation Saga by S. L. Duncan, a contemporary fantasy trilogy about teens who discover that they’re reincarnated archangels, returned to the mortal realm just in time to battle the forces of darkness for the fate of the cosmos. I’ve read the first two books—The Revelation of Gabriel Adam (2014), in which the title character discovers his ancestry and joins the fight against the demonic hordes, and The Salvation of Gabriel Adam (2015), in which the teen archangels face an even more serious threat in the form of the demon Lilith—and I thought they were both terrific. But they’re not gaining the wide readership I believe they deserve.
There are lots of books out there about teen angels, most of them in the paranormal romance or urban fantasy subgenres, and maybe the Revelation Saga got lost in the shuffle. But in my view, Duncan’s books are superior to most of their competitors for at least two reasons:
First, Duncan is well versed in a variety of topics—biblical and apocryphal texts, early Church history, contemporary Vatican politics, the geography of the Holy Lands—that enable him to develop a convincing cosmology. There’s nothing preachy or pedantic about the presentation of this material—it’s all done in the service of story, so, for example, there are no long-winded history lessons dropped into the middle of the action—but the background of authenticity makes the Gabriel Adams books seem less like pure fantasy than like a plausible history of the End Times.
Second, Duncan isn’t afraid to delve into material that’s disturbing or, in some cases, truly horrifying. In the second book, for example, Gabe is traumatized by the violence he witnessed (and inflicted) in the first book, and he's also suffering a slow, painful physical decline. In this respect, Duncan's books remind me of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, which similarly refuses to shrink from the hideous realities of war, even if the war itself is fantasized.
If this sounds like your kind of thing, I advise you to run out and grab the first book in the Revelation Saga. (I recently ordered the concluding book, The Evolution of Gabriel Adam.) Together, maybe we can give Duncan's compelling books the recognition they deserve.