Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation.Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels… As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity…
Violet Eden is about to turn 17, but she doesn’t want a fuss made over her birthday because it’s also the anniversary of her mother’s death during childbirth. She doesn’t know that this birthday is different and not just because she hopes to find out if her best friend, Lincoln, shares the attraction she feels for him.
Even though Linc wants Violet as much as she wants him, he isn’t free to be with her and is forced to keep from Violet the secret that she is destined to be a guardian angel like him, knowing it could destroy their friendship.
Since guardian angels (or Grigori) start coming into their powers on their 17th birthday, Violet finds out Linc’s secret before he is ready to tell her and, feeling a heavy sense of betrayal, cuts off contact with Linc. She can choose whether or not to “embrace” her gifts and wants no part of a life of continual sacrifice or Linc.
During Violet’s estrangement from Linc, she meets the intense, fascinating Phoenix, with whom she shares an instant connection, despite his being an exiled angel, the Grigori’s natural enemy. Although she knows very little about Phoenix, he teaches her about the hidden world of angels.
But time is running out for Violet. Unless she embraces, she will not come into her full powers which would protect her from the angels who prey on the Grigori, embraced or not.
What sets Embrace apart from other books I’ve read in the current YA trend of fallen angels is the more mature handling of good and evil. Instead of a polarised view of two absolutes, Embrace explores the duality of light and dark and the necessity of both in order to have either. There is no light without dark and vice versa. Also, even if an angel may be inherently dark that does not mean that he or she is incapable of doing good and equally, an angel of light may commit evil.
Great importance is placed on the concept of free will and Shirvington explores it as an illusion. Sometimes you can choose how, when, where, anything but if something will happen. And sometimes choice means sacrifice rather than gain.
Another difference is that she does a more thorough wrap-up than in other YA fallen angels series I’ve started this year. Instead of employing the gimmick of using one book to set up the next, Shirvington allows sympathetic characters and an interesting premise to be reason enough to keep reading, something I’m thankful for since the second book will be released in a few months.
Violet convincingly represents the duality of strength and vulnerability and has the potential to be a strong lead as she learns more about herself, her powers and her world. Even though she has essentially raised herself and dealt with an abusive encounter, she still needs someone to care for her. I found her to be a highly sympathetic character, even when I saw her making mistakes.
As a teenager, I’d have found 26-year-old Lincoln’s attraction towards 17-year-old Violet incredibly romantic, but as an adult, their age difference is a little bit creepy. Shirvington redeemed their relationship by having Lincoln always putting Violet’s best interests first, even above his own. Linc is the type of protective and caring but totally hot guy next door that makes friends-to-lovers one of my favourite romantic tropes. I wish I’d known someone like him when I was Violet’s age.
He is well-contrasted in Phoenix, who is the veiled danger to Linc’s former safety and comes across as both extremely powerful and extremely vulnerable. He is a very charismatic character, yet Shirvington never allows him to completely supplant Linc. As much as I liked Phoenix, I was sad that his inclusion in Violet’s life meant Linc’s exclusion because her connection to Linc was one of the highlights of the story for me.
Often progress in a YA plot is enabled by a lack of parental supervision, but Violet’s father really takes the cake. Since he lost his wife in childbirth, he’s thrown himself into his career and is at times negligent as a father. Her other best friend Steph not very subtly sneaks alcohol into her and Violet’s drinks at the nightclub Violet’s father has taken them to, but he remained oblivious not only to the obvious drink spiking, but his daughter’s increasing drunkenness. He even left them behind with Linc. He doesn’t like Violet spending time with Phoenix instead of Linc but does nothing about it. His laissez faire parenting style was convenient to the story, but realistically, he should have taken a more active role in his daughter’s life.
As Shirvington is an Australian writer, I wondered if her story would be set here or overseas, but found a uniquely distinct lack of setting. Most of the story takes place in a city large enough for blocks of flats to have doormen, but there were no recognisable landmarks. This enables the reader to convincingly set the story in the city of their choice just about anywhere in the world and the book becomes more accessible to a wider audience.
Embrace is an impressive urban fantasy debut which succeeds in being intelligent and mature while remaining fresh and accessible. If you’re looking for something new with a down-to-earth writing style and no gimmicks, you’ll enjoy Embrace. I’m looking forward to reading Enticed after its March release.