Too Old For Angels Part 3: Beyond Good and Evil (Where the Delicious Cheese is)

Here endeth our discussion of angels in YA lit, inspired by Daughter of Smoke and Bone (by Laini Taylor). We welcome your comments. 

Please do read the first two parts: Part 1. Part 2.


I’ll take your Many Waters golden man and raise you a Wind in the Door tangle of eyes and wings:

hey good-looking.

Thank you for taking my angel angst seriously.  When are we going to Prague?

I think your point about the angel plot in Supernatural begins to hint at where angels start to get interesting. I just read a graphic novel short story collection about angels that I dug – the art was simply gorgeous. It was conceived and illustrated by Rebecca Guay and written by a roster of YA authors (including Holly Black). As the reader you get all of these tales about angels, told by other supernatural beings who are deciding whether or not to help a fallen angel that they’ve found in the forest.

(Side note: I can’t watch Supernatural because I can’t not think of Jared Padalecki as Rory’s first, kinda-dumb boyfriend from the Gilmore Girls, and I have a Pavlovian disliking for him. NO ONE IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR RORY.)

Also: OMG, look at this

Anyway. There’s one tale that’s a re-telling of Adam and Eve, and the angel character says something to the effect that only humans judge between good and evil, and angels don’t have that choice – they’re beyond it. That’s what I want – more characters that are beyond having a black and white morality.  That clash is interesting to me, and it makes me feel like the being is otherworldly.

I’m much more interested in a figure who causes trouble because they can, because they’re bored or because they don’t see humans as people to be saved. I don’t think Akiva falls into that category – I think he’s much more of a human figure and his main influence is his past and the world and war he comes from.  That makes him interesting to me, but it also leads into the love story, and I want my angels to be more severe (see the William Blake-type of luminous severity here at the Tate’s website).

Origin stories don’t bother me because they can give me some insight into the culture that tells them – what parameters they give to good and evil. But I can see where they start to all look the same at some point.

And yes, to your statement that “the idea of a romantic hero who is stunningly attractive, possesses a body honed by the fight to vanquish evil, and who has even a whiff of spiritual righteousness is enough to make anyone over the age of 25 feel resentful, inadequate, and suspicious.” Except for all the Twilight Moms.  Oh, and we’re totally justified in our crushes on V. & M. because they have character in their faces, right?

Please tell me when Viggo and Michael get to your apartment. I’ll be right over.

Angel as Puck figure?

R. responds:

That tangle of eyes is superattractive. I’m blushing because it keeps staring at me wherever I go . . .

We are going to Prague . . . *now* (snaps fingers)!

I think what you say about wanting characters who are beyond the moral compass of right and wrong is super interesting and I want that too.The thing that I find really interesting about angels being in-the-know, godwise, is that their sense of right and wrong is based on a bigger picture—it’s, like, one of the only religious concepts I find interesting. Not the “plan” business, but the notion that when supernatural creatures like angels (or aliens, or immortals like vampires) mix with humans it’s really a clash of scale more than ethics. For a human, the loss of a town (like in that Supernatural episode) is huge, whereas to angels who can see billions of people simultaneously, or have watched trillions of people expire throughout the ages, it’s fairly meaningless. I just want some really great YA stories and characters that manage to dramatize that without making it about religion or that most loathèd of bollixers, fate.

Can you think of any? Mostly when I think of those kinds of characters they’re robots (they calculate what is “good” based on data), aliens (they weren’t taught about our quaint mortal morality), or, well, sociopaths—and, while you know I love a good sociopath, that’s not so much beyond morality as devoid of it. So, I’m trying to think of good examples.

I’ll give you a buzz as soon as Viggo and Michael get here, whatever their moral compasses may be. Let’s hope they bring delicious cheese!

T. responds to R’s response:

It’s funny you should ask me about what characters embody the idea of being beyond a moral compass without being robots or sociopaths, because I’m working on a review of a series that does that for meThe Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. The Old Ones fight for Light and Dark, but it isn’t good and evil the way it’s normally portrayed. Stay tuned for that review soon!

I agree that it’s hard to find those kinds of characters.  Maybe our readers have more suggestions? Tell us in the comments!



  1. Also re: Jared Padalecki, does it bother you that on Supernatural, his character is NOT the one named Dean? He was Dean on Gilmore Girls – can we get some continuity up in here?

    • Seriously, folks. Have you seen the episode where they go to a film set in Hollywood and a tour guide narrates that they’re passing the set of Gilmore Girls. It doesn’t take much more than a cheap inter-textual reference to get this fist pumping.

  2. A. Beast

     /  March 7, 2012

    Have either of you seen “Legion”? Oh man, it is a totally cartoony supernatural action movie- instead of a horde of zombies, our collection of survivors holed up in a desert road side diner must battle AN ARMY OF ANGELS. It is so stupid! and full of embarassing cliches! but also so good/bad, we should watch it sometime, Rebecca. Anyway, why this terrible movie is relevent- angels as terrifiying MONSTERS. Also, if i recal correctly, Archangel Michael is a bad ass gravelly voiced babe.

    • Good eye, Beast! Did I see Legion? The correct question is: Rebecca, why did you make ALL your friends see Legion? It IS totally stupid and Archangel Michael IS Paul Bettany, gravelly voiced, babely, and monstrous, so you are thrice right. Of course, I would LOVE to watch it again with you!

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