This review does not contain spoilers.
In the year 2520, the Millennial Wars have reduced the Earth to a devastated battleground.
In the year 3000, the evil Humen are determined to destroy the power of Heaven, while the Residuals, a primate race of people, live fearfully in the ruins of civilisation.
In the midst of this hatred and fear is born a unique friendship that could change the course of history.
The Residual Ferren befriends Miriael, a warrior angel stranded on Earth. Together they must survive hostile forces that defy the imagination, and uncover the horrific truth behind the Humen.
Ferren and the Angel is the first Australian novel I have encountered that is truly dystopian. It did take me a while to figure the setting out, though, since I’m very unfamiliar with the key locations in New South Wales. Still, I enjoyed picturing the ruins of skyscrapers and knowing the fate of people from my own country for a change.
The plot has elements of Susan Ee’s Angelfall about it, but the aspects of both science and religion have been amplified. Ferren and the Angel also takes place 1000 years in the future and introduces us to a kind of backwards evolution. The remaining human beings have been separated into small tribes and are living very primitive lives.
I enjoyed this twist on the state of affairs, although it does sometimes interfere with the narration. Whenever the narrative is in Ferren’s viewpoint, his lack of knowledge is hard to reconcile with the description of scientific ideas far beyond his understanding. As a result, author Richard Harland makes a habit of drifting in and out of Ferren’s voice, supplementing his cluelessness with terms that Ferren would never fathom on his own. Even with these terms to help guide the reader, I often found myself completely at sea, unable to clearly picture things for chapters at a time.
Strangely, I found the large amount of exposition to be one of the most compelling parts of the novel. Harland has created a rich history for his novel—so rich, in fact, that I almost wish the novel had been set while all these things were happening. In any case, Harland’s world-building is intricate, believable, and incredibly interesting.
The plot of Ferren and the Angel is an interesting twist on the usual dystopian formula. However, Harland may have undercut himself with the inclusion of a narrator who is hopelessly out of his depth. I’m interested in seeing how events unfold—if only because the Australian setting intrigues me—but I’m in no rush to go and out buy the sequels. Perhaps the second book, Ferren and the White Doctor, will be a more engaging read now that a large chunk of exposition and world-building is out of the way.