Twins Breanna and Kael Skyborn live in a hierarchical, corrupt civilization, comprised of six holy islands, aloft above the Endless Ocean.
Inhabited by a remnant of humankind, five islands are governed by an Archon, who answers to the sixth island, named Center, from which the Speaker for the Angels, his knights, and sinister theotechs rule. Since only theotechs can repair and dispense the technologies that keep the islands floating, they dictate a system of justice. Each island is protected by its own army of seraphim, warriors who don mechanical wings, use elemental weapons of fire, ice, and rock, and wage aerial battles to maintain social order. Orphaned in battle, the twins are chosen by Center to train as seraphs for their homeland but soon discover that the Speaker for the Angels is power-hungry, intent upon disabling local seraphim and becoming a dictator. As the twins learn to fly, they also learn to question authority, especially fire-throwing Bree; meanwhile, a reformed theotech sows dissent. Epic fantasist Dalglish (Dance of Chaos, 2015, etc.) begins his fast-paced Seraphim trilogy with a predictable plot that recycles a number of old standards: feisty, talented twins; a boarding school where loyalties are made and lost; religion and magic undercut by conflicted ethics. During the repetitive, video game–like battles the action is lively, but to quote Dalglish, although there appears to be a lot going on, “the actual meat is frustratingly thin.” While Dalglish’s prose is lean, it lacks style and is littered with slang such as “no can do” or “no worries,” which not only ill-suits a society of knights and thanes, but also invites an unflattering comparison to the Samaria series.
Assertive Bree and uncertain Kael are likable teenagers, but their trials and triumphs are so predictable that it’s hard to care about them, the carnage they inflict, or the civilization they protect.