Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Archangel cover Archangel (1996)
First book of the Samaria series

Ace paperback
cover art by John Jude Palencar
390 pages (left)

From the inside first page of the paperback:
      And so it came to pass. . .
      Through science, faith and force of will, the Harmonics carved out for themselves a society that they conceived of as perfect.  Diverse peoples held together by respect for each other and the prospect of swift punishment if they disobeyed their laws.  Fertile land that embraced a variety of climates and seasons.  Angels to guard the mortals and mystics to guard the forbidden knowledge.  Jehovah to watch over them all.  .  .

      Generations later, the armed starship Jehovah still looms over the planet of Samaria, programmed to unleash its arsenal if peace is not sustained.  But an age of corruption has come to the land, threatening that peace and placing the Samarians in grave danger.  Their only hope lies in the crowning of a new Archangel.  The oracles have chosen for this honor the angel named Gabriel, and further decreed that he must first wed a mortal woman named Rachel.
      It is his destiny and hers.  And Gabriel is certain that she will greet the news of her betrothal with enthusiasm, and a devotion to duty equal to his own.
      Rachel, however, has other ideas...

Read for group discussion on February 9, 2005

Amy's summary  Sharon Shinn - Archangel
(Warning! Some spoilers)

Archangel is a science fiction romance book.  It reads somewhat like fantasy, because it has a low-tech, biblically flavored feel.

In Samaria, there are humans and angels.  The angels are men and women with huge wings, who can fly with ease.  They have beautiful voices and they sing to Jovah, their God, to ask for such things as blessings and rain on behalf of the humans.  There are few angels as compared to humans.  There are three oracles, one for each land in Samaria, who can communicate with Jovah via computer-like panels.

The angel Gabriel is a good, but arrogant man.  Jovah has designated him to be the next Archangel after Raphael.  In six months time, there will be an all-important Gloria, to sing praises to Jovah.  Gabriel's angelica, his human partner or wife, is supposed to lead the Gloria, but Gabriel doesn't have an angelica yet.  Gabriel has waited until nearly the last minute to find out from the oracle Josiah the name of the woman Jovah chose for him.

Rachel, a twenty-five year old from a small farming village in Jordana, is named as Gabriel's angelica.  When Gabriel seeks Rachel, he finds a deserted village that was destroyed some eighteen years ago.  There's no sign of Rachel, but it's known that Rachel is still alive because she was dedicated to Jovah as a child and a "Kiss of God" was embedded in her arm.  It's told that the "Kiss" shoots sparks of light when true lovers meet.

Gabriel searches for Rachel.  He learns that a tribe of the wandering Edori people probably took her from her village.  But that tribe, the Manderras, is now dead or scattered.  Jansai raiders, who are slavers, attacked them five years ago.

Rachel is a slave in the household of Lord Jethro, a wealthy merchant in the city of Semorrah.  When in Semorrah attending a merchant's wedding, Gabriel's "Kiss" flares up, and he discovers Rachel.  Even though Rachel is glad to be freed, she doesn't like it one bit that she must go to the Eyrie and become Gabriel's angelica, never mind that being angelica is an envied position of power and Gabriel is drop-dead gorgeous.  Rachel demands her free will back.

Reluctantly, Rachel becomes angelica, but Rachel and Gabriel are not a couple.  They argue the few times they are together.  Each says the wrong things to the other, and both are stubborn.  Rachel refuses to sing, and she spends time with other men, the angel Obadiah and the Edori craftsman Matthew.  She departs before the Gloria for the Edori Gathering, and stays with her friend Naomi's family.  Rachel considers herself one of the nomadic Edori, even though she doesn't look Edori.

Meanwhile, the angel Raphael wants to remain Archangel, and not cede the position to Gabriel.  During Raphael's reign, greedy merchants have grown more powerful and the poor have become increasingly oppressed.  Preventing Rachel from singing in the Gloria is not beneath him.  Raphael is so bold that he even proclaims that there is no god.

Gabriel must return harmony and belief to Samaria.  He must sing his prayers to Jovah, restore the people's confidence in the angels, and let Jovah display his power.  In the Gloria, Rachel must be at Gabriel's side and lead the crowd gathered on the Plain of Sharon in song.  And finally, Rachel and Gabriel need to link up; this is a romance after all.

summary written by

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 5.5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 8 Barb -
Aaron - Cynthia 6
Jackie 8 Ron 4
Christine 7 Deb -
Mike - Stephanie 7
Gary 9 Natalie 9

Sharon Shinn (1957-    ) is a US writer of fantasy and science fiction.

1996 Crawford Award (for best first fantasy novel) for The Shape-Changer's Wife

Samaria series books
-- Archangel (1996)
-- Jovah's Angel (1997)
-- The Alleluia Files (1998)
-- Angelica (2003)
-- Angel-Seeker (2004)

Safe-Keepers series, young adult fantasy
-- The Safe-Keeper's Secret (2004)
-- The Truth-Teller's Tale (2005)
-- The Dream-Maker's Magic (2006)

The Twelve Houses series, fantasy
-- Mystic and Rider (2005)
-- The Thirteenth House (2006)
-- Dark Moon Defender (2006)
-- Reader and Raelynx (2007)
-- Fortune and Fate (2008)

Other fantasy books
-- The Shape-Changer's Wife (1995)
-- Summers at Castle Auburn (2001)
-- General Winston's Daughter (2007), young adult

Science fiction books
-- Wrapt in Crystal (1999), SF mystery
-- Heart of Gold (2000), SF romance
-- Jenna Starborn (2002), Jane Eyre retold as a science fiction tale

Sharon Shinn's website
The Unofficial Sharon Shinn Site - On the Plain of Sharon
Sharon Shinn - Wikipedia
Seized by the Tale - Review of Archangel
Challenging Destiny: Review of Sharon Shinn's Archangel

Return to Home Page - Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

This page was last updated February 17, 2009