The Wonders of Dark Angel
Iíve noticed that when I surf through L.J. Smith sites or read reviews at Amazon.com, that Dark Angel is many times knocked. Almost always itís someoneís ďleast favoriteĒ of all the L.J. Smith books and while I value personal opinion, I felt a certain need to express here the reasons that Dark Angel is an essential part of the L.J. Smith collection.
First of all, the reason that most donít seem to like Dark Angel is simple. Itís different. Not only is the plot different but the characters seem different than other L.J. Smith characters. But, why shouldnít it be? As a novelist myself I realize that sometimes itís nice to try something a little different, to go in a bit of a different direction which is what Dark Angel does. Think about it. The main characters arenít night people, not in the sense that weíve come to think of them. Although Gillian learns that she is a lost witch, she only uses her powers a couple times throughout the book and most readers will continue to think of her as human. And that would be okay. There are other humans that we see in Night World books, but then her soulmate is David, another human. And although we see possibilities for the future, during the book Gillian is not really a part of the Night World. The story really takes place in our world. After all of these differences you get into the big difference, the difference in subject. Though most of the Night World books play on traditional legendary creatures (vampires, werewolves, witches, e.t.c) Dark Angel brings up the subjects of Heaven, the afterlife, and angels. These subjects may turn some readers off. Maybe theyíre not interested in them. Maybe they donít believe in them. Maybe they just prefer the legendary creatures of other Night World books. So, Dark Angel is different and to some this is its drawback. To others, like me, itís virtue.
Gillian Lennox isnít confident or strong. Sheís got no really special talents. Sheís shy in the beginning of the book and used to being invisible. Basically, Gillian Lennox is your average teenage girl (or at least the way many average teenage girls see themselves.) This is the first virtue of Dark Angel. Unlike other Night World heroines who tend to be strong, confident, and assertive as well, the ones that the reader looks up to and aspires to be like, people donít aspire to be like Gillian Lennox, at least not when they first meet her. And yet, they understand her. Most people have felt invisible and lonely at times. Most people have wished for more excitement in our lives. Most people have had dreams of becoming popular. And then Angel comes into her life.
Angel. Virtue number two of Dark Angel, plot. Here weíve got this self conscious teenage girl who most people can relate to and now sheís got an ďangelĒ, a guide to help her out, to tell her what to say when her mind goes blank, to give her the information she needs to know, and to just be there, to pick her up when sheís down, to tell her sheís beautiful and make her feel loved. Angel is most peopleís fantasy. I certainly know he would be mine. Itís a plot that speaks to the very soul of a personís deepest fantasies and dreams.
Life isnít perfect, even with an angel. This is something that is seen from the start. Although Angel can soothe over most situations, clear up most difficulties, the path is not entirely clear of obstacles. Popularity is not all great and Gillian still has a lot of struggles going on in her family. Itís these facts that make the reader continue, to follow Gillian through the story because they this character has Angel. Her life should be perfect, but itís not.
Angel, it turns out, is not really an angel. If having someone like Angel is a fantasy, then having Angel turn out not to be what he claims is a nightmare. Realizing the closeness that he and Gillian share and then to have that shattered, any reader might be shaken to the core.
Then, another turning point. Angel is not evil. Itís simple to look at anyone thatís done anything wrong and to say ďoh, theyíre evil.Ē L.J. Smith doesnít do this. She doesnít take the easy way out. In fact, this a way in which Dark Angel does fit with other Night World characters. Many of the favorite Night World Characters, and indeed L.J. Smith characters in general, such as Ash from Daughters of Darkness, start out as being not so nice guys, but through a series of events change their attitude. Angel too turns out to be not evil but simply misguided in his loneliness.
In some ways Dark Angel hits me as the most realistic book in the series. Its characters are simple and noticeably imperfect. Its plot is simple and speaks to common desires and fears. Itís maybe the most relatable book. And truthfully, even though Iím not religious, the Heaven/angels/afterlife subjects never bothered me though I suppose they might some.
Dark Angel also allows the reader to see the Night World through different eyes, to realize the terrors that exist inside of it. Certainly these are mentioned in other books, but this book makes it very obvious that there is a conflict going on between the Night World and the human world, despite the lack of interaction between the two in the plot of the book itself.
Dark Angel has a lot of good stuff going for it and maybe after reading this people wonít be so quick to dismiss it as an unimportant or unimpressive part of the Night World series.
Reflections on LJ Smith