Book 2 in the Wars of the Realms series, Rise of the Fallen is largely set in the heavenly realms.The author's background in tactical communications comes through as the story is basically a heavenly war room discussion and execution of "The Plan" of Elohim with military-like strategy (as Elohim reveals parts of the plan but not all).
Validus is the main angel character in Rise of the Fallen. After centuries of serving as a commanding officer of North American angels, he has been reassigned to assist a guardian angel watching over the human, Drew Carter. Guardians are usually assigned to children and warriors are not usually demoted to assist guardian angels so the order makes Validus wonder if he has done something wrong.
The story line alternates between ancient history and present history relating to the experiences Validus goes through. The ancient story line traces the thread of what the angels call The Plan--the overall plan for redemption of Elohim's. Rise of the Fallen purports that angels do not know the future and are therefore watching history unfold just as humans; they are being assigned here and there without a clear understanding of why. Validus was present at the time of Noah and at other pivotal points in history involving God's Plan. During the present day story line, Validus is trying to figure out why Drew Carter--who isn't even a believer--warrants a guardian angel as well as a warrior watching out for him.
Some books in a series can stand alone; this is not one of those. Readers will definitely need to read Cloak of the Light first or they will be totally and utterly confused throughout. The first book focuses on Drew Carter and his human struggles while offering brief glimpses into the battles that take place in the spiritual realm.
I was very disappointed to reach the end of Rise of the Fallen only to reach the same cliffhanger ending as the first book. To have a book spend 244 pages of 270 shedding light on angel warfare and its strategy with no further development of the human character made me feel a little cheated. Obviously the series will have to continue but when a reader has to wait several months for the next installment, you would hope that you actually learn more of the overall story and not just a rehashing of the previous story from someone else's point of view.
While the author's ideas of how angels first turned away from God and how they related in warfare to one another and demons was creative and unique, I was a bit uncomfortable with so much speculation. According to the author, items in bold text were, "reference statements that are directly correlated to biblical truths (p. iv)." The author includes a reader's guide at the end and does explain the references used but I'm not sure the average reader will take the time to read through that. It just seems that so much time and energy was put into creating an angelic world and hardly any time spent on revealing the actual character of Elohim (God) Himself.
Black made reference in the Reader's Guide to angels being sinless and treated that as accepted fact. I cannot find any substantiation in Scripture that angels are incapable of sin [after all Lucifer and many other angels did rebel against God]. What I found odd was that if the author assumes angels are sinless, then I find the depiction of them throughout the story to be confusing. Within the story, many are characterized by angry outbursts, struggles with jealousy and questioning the will of Elohim--not what I consider sinless behavior.
There were a few anachronistic details that detracted a bit from the story--some of the dialogue seemed to be rather "modern" for angelic beings 6000 years old (but maybe angels change with the times just like humans do). And there was mention of a farmhouse as a headquarters in 2236 BC. The term farmhouse conjures up a more modern dwelling than would have existed at that time. So even if dwellings were called that, I doubt they would resemble a clapboard, 2 story house we think of as a farmhouse. The cover shows an angel with sword in hand and dressed in what looks like a modern day suit jacket--not what I would consider combat attire.
I have read other series by Chuck Black that I really enjoyed and felt were spiritually profound and thought-provoking. Because of that, my expectations may have just been too high. The first book set a pretty fast-paced spiritual thriller but the second just languished with too much military details and hardly any advancement of the original story line. I hope that subsequent books in the series will flesh out more of the human conflict and provide more background and development of Drew and the supporting characters.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Rise of the Fallen from Blogging for Books for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.