Immortal City is the latest book to capitalize on the supernatural teen book series craze. This one is blessedly free of vampires and werewolves and chooses instead to focus on Angels. With the exception of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, Angels are decidedly lacking representation in the pop culture pulse, giving author Scott Speer plenty of freedom to create his own unique world.
In that respect, he succeeds. Angels have always been intervening in the human world, but in the last 100 years they have become a part of the public consciousness. Instead of a pop culture obsessed with actors and reality TV stars, they are obsessed with Angels. And none of them are hotter than Jackson “Jacks” Godspeed who is about to be the youngest Angel to earn his Guardian title (Guardian Angels are hired by the wealthy to save them in case of accidents).
Despite living in an Angel-obsessed world, Maddy Montgomery is completely oblivious to them. She lives with her uncle Kevin and works at his diner while finishing out her final year of high school. Her best—and only—friend Gwen tries to socialize her, but Maddy is stubbornly resistant. So, when Jacks ends up at the diner and sparks fly between him and Maddy, she has no idea what she’s about to get into.
Speer’s world is fully realized, and he has plenty of alternate history concerning the legacy of Angels to draw upon in his storytelling. A lot of the fundamentals are compulsively repeated throughout the book, but since he’s setting up a series of books it’s fairly forgivable. Not forgivable, however, is his uninspired love story. Maddy is insufferable—or as Jacks says, “impossible”—in her moral rectitude and low self-esteem. She never feels good enough to be with Jacks, despite how much he is clearly falling for her. Even by the end of the book, I doubt her ability to grow into a strong female character (but maybe with Jacks’ persistent encouragement she might).
Their relationship quickly devolves into that intense, overwrought life-or-death romance that is seen in so many other series (i.e. Twilight’s Bella & Edward, TMI’s Clary & Jace, etc.). It immediately becomes uninteresting and uninspired, making the middle portion of the book completely unbearable. However, it is in the beginning and end of this book where Speer’s skills shine.
As a movie and music video director (his most recent film was Step Up Revolution), Speer has a very cinematic style of storytelling. This novel would make a far better movie—or TV series on The CW. There are unique and exciting twists, turns, setups, and payoffs in the front third and final third of this book that—almost!—make up for the horrific middle third. One spectacular sequence involves Maddy and Gwen driving a Ferrari in a car chase. Gwen is definitely a great and underutilized character.
It’s clear he has talent, but he needs to hone that originality. He has a lot to say about Los Angeles (aka Angel City—the Immortal City), and a clearer focus on his criticisms of the city (along with celebrity culture in general) and his exploration of Angel culture would help this series stand out. The last few twists of the book show he at least has a vision for this series; hopefully he grows as a writer and makes the series great.
Watch a nifty trailer for the book at its website: http://immortalcityseries.com/