Angels are universal. Almost every religion/faith/mythology has some form of ‘angel’: a heavenly being that watches over us, delivers messages of purpose, and is supposed to protect us from the inevitable stupidity we inflict upon ourselves. When it comes to our reading material, there are endless requests for books about angels: angels of faith; angels of forbidden love; the battle of good and evil; guardian angels; fallen angels. And don’t even get me started about the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who.
The thing is, if you do a general Google search on books about angels, you are going to find a plethora of books…and most of them are written by white women, with a tendency to fall into the conservative Christian interpretation of angels. And while there are some very good books within this category, there are also some amazing stories outside this white feathery room. Stories that would usually be glanced over because they are not the usual ‘book about angels’.
Here at Book Riot, we work hard to find you books that stretch your mind and expectations. We want to call out the standard bias that still exists in the publishing industry today. We know you love your angels (we do too!) and we know you want to read something a little different. So let’s take a look at the many faces of your cherubim.
The Battle Between Good and Evil
There are two books about angels which instantly come to mind when I think of this sub-category: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare, and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Both have been made into television series and both were excellent books before that. In fact, my 13-year-old son and I recently argued as to which was better. Three days later, we have agreed to disagree, but only because I clearly have failed as a parent in nurturing his sardonic sense of humour. Neither of us has watched the television series as yet because I know David Tennant will bias his judgement in favour of my Good Omens (and rightly so).
HOWEVER, if you are looking for books about angels in the ultimate battle of good vs evil, then check out the following:
The Antithesis: Inception (The Antithesis #1) by Terra Whiteman
It starts off with the same old battle between demons and angels but there is far more to think about here. There is actually a ‘court’ or ‘order’ that keeps this battle in check. And this is the part that fascinated me most of all: the idea there is still some order watching over the angels (and demons) watching over us. One that comes with its own ‘Purgatorial Jury’. Imagine being an angel that has seen the dawn of mankind and the never-ending battle forged by its existence. And then imagine being called to judge those who are part of the battle…but have no memory of your own part. This is the plight of Czynri. This is his story. It’s about all the bits that fall in between the battle of good and evil. It’s not pretty but damn, it’s intriguing.
The Angel Trials (Dark World Series) by Michelle Madow
On the night of her 21st birthday, Raven is attacked by a demon. Saved by the mysterious Noah, she rushes home to discover the same demon has taken her mother. And what do you know – Noah is there, too. Noah is hunting these demons, and if Raven wants to save her mum, she needs to travel with Noah to the mystical island of Avalon. There are a lot of similarities with City of Bones, with a faster pace to the action.
Mercy (Mercy #1) by Rebecca Lim
Mercy wakes on a bus, ‘soul-jacking’ a human for a new mission. Mercy is actually an angel, doomed to take on a new human form and left to find new ways to resolve the battle between heavenly beings. It’s a blend of ‘good vs evil’ and Quantum Leap, with a healthy dash of YA romance. Since I am a complete sucker for Scott Bakula and my obsession for TV shows from my childhood, this book was hugely satisfying – though less sci-fi and more fantasy, for obvious angelic reasons.
Nothing says forbidden love like a pair of wings. Oh, and the whole “holier than thou” attitude that is far too reminiscent of my previous relationships. Nevertheless, the temptation of forbidden love is powerful. The idea of a human capturing the heart of a heavenly creature with a love so powerful it overrides the purity of their higher being…It is an extremely popular sub-category.
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Another urban fantasy where a mortal girl finds a mysterious supernatural boy, who ends up being her (fallen) guardian angel. What follows is a forbidden romance with the ever-present question, “should angels and humans meet?” If you’re thinking there are similarities with Twilight, you are right. However, this delves a bit deeper into the ‘why’ such a relationship is forbidden.
Angels’ Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh
If you’re looking for books about angels with hot and steamy paranormal romance, then this is your book. In this alternate universe: angels are kingpins, vampires are hunted, and Elena’s new boss is the Archangel Raphael. However, while the premise is about Elena’s new mark (a wayward archangel), the real momentum of this book is in its paranormal romance and lots of beautiful people. It’s not a happy-rosy-romance either. It’s paranormal and sometimes gory. Let’s face it: Not all angels are pure light.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Slow to take off because it throws you into a fully created world of angels and magic and je ne sais quoi. The main character is an orphaned girl adopted by demon magicians and often sent on missions to collect teeth (a very rough summation but that is the quirk of the book). The ‘angels’ for this book are “Seraphim” – watchers who are looking for these same demons. When the orphan girl is instantly attracted to the angel watching over her, things get dicey. The main thing going for this book is the beautiful way of describing the mystique around angels and demons.
Books About Christian Angels
The predominance of books about angels stems from their Christian foundation. The guiding messengers of God, with big white feathery wings to wrap you in His love and shelter you on your destined path. Whether you are religious or not, this is the image that has permeated throughout western culture and has become the ‘face’ of the genre.
Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle
Taking a break from the usual Meg-and-Charles adventures, Many Waters focuses on the twins, Sandy and Dennys. This is the fourth book in the L’Engle’s Time Quintet, and includes the same strong Christian themes characteristic of L’Engle. Sandy and Dennys accidentally teleport to a sandy desert. They are soon separated, cast on independent journeys of growth and discovery, yet all connected to the story of Noah’s Ark, shortly before the flood. While still maintaining the well-known spirit of L’Engle’s writing, this is definitely the most religious of her books.
Angel’s Walking (Angel’s Walking #1) by Karen Kingsbury
This is a great book for the genre of Christian fiction, building on the Christian belief of angels and faith and prayer and redemption. Former national baseball star Tyler realises all he has missed out on while chasing the career of a lifetime. He eventually finds himself as the maintenance guy in a retirement home, making friends with Virginia, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Through their friendship and the intervention of angels with faith on their side, Tyler has the opportunity to turn his life around again. Kingsbury definitely works some magic, balancing her loyalty to the genre of Christian-based angels with the softness of a sweet romance novel.
Archangel (Samaria #1) by Sharon Shinn
A beautiful blend of science fiction and fantasy, set in a utopian world built by angels and higher beings of faith. Shinn does not shy away from the parallels of her ‘Samaria’ and the religious centres of the Middle East; Gaza, Bethel, and Jordanna. However, she has taken a far more optimistic view of her alternative; one filled with harmony and peace and tolerance for all. The story is set on far-off planet which practices a very Christian-style faith; where angels live with and marry humans. There is great depth in Shinn’s characters, where an idealistic world has fed the privileged maybe not to the point of arrogance but definitely to the point of naivety.
Books About Guardian Angels
Almost everyone wants to believe in guardian angels; the idea of someone or something watching over us. Sometimes the idea of guardian angels can lead to many misadventures considering ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’. It is simply a question of whether the guardian is truly up for the job.
Crashing Down to Earth by Terry Reid
I have really tried to find Crashing Down to Earth variance in the storylines within this genre, and this one is definitely a bit different. It starts with the usual ‘guardian-angel-and-their-charge’ but here is a slightly different approach: for starters, those who the guardians protect are actually a part of them. A bit like the story of Eve taken from Adam’s rib, guardian angels now have a slightly more vested interest in those they are to protect. Human Hayley and her Angel Alex share an obvious connection with a very earthy relationship. Set in Glasgow (Scotland…is there really any other?), Hayley learns to live with a flatmate who is far more down-to-earth than an angel should ever be. When the standard ‘good vs evil’ battle arrives, it is their unique relationship that brings the story together. Gripping action scenes with some of the best banter I have read in this genre.
The Cosmic Logos (Celestial Triad #3) by Traci Harding
Okay – this is actually Book 6 in a double trilogy. And it WILL help if you have read the previous five books, purely from the world and character building. However, this book makes the list because its story directly relates to angels and the blending of Christian faith with the original Sumerian mythology. The main characters, Tory and Maelgwn, must undergo a spiritual journey through their history on Earth before they can evolve and join the Cosmic Logos. Essentially, they become ‘guardian angels’ to other characters in the book. It is a neat way of tying up the loose ends of previous books, filling in the background and providing a deeper understanding of the reasons behind previous character arcs. Its strength comes from the presence of angels and evolved spiritual beings; the battle between good and evil is not really as clear-cut as you think. Instead, angels are now the vehicles of learning and understanding, not just the objective messengers of the Christian Bible. A thought-provoking read that will have you watching over your shoulder.
Books About Fallen Angels
As much as we crave the perfect guardian angel to watch over us, fallen angels are equally popular due to the very nature of their imperfection. It allows us to see (and maybe accept) not all flaws are fatal. And in fact, some flaws are important in our personal growth. Overcoming those flaws, or finding their way back to their angelic abode, always makes for a compelling story.
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Clara learns she is part angel, with superpowers and a super-purpose. She thinks this purpose is connected to the handsome Christian, and yet her human side is drawn to Tucker. Throw in a fallen angel who is bent on creating some chaos and you have the perfect set-up for a coming-of-age story for the new angel in town.
Daughter of Nightmares (Renegade Guardians #1) by Kyra Quinn
Two weeks ago, Lil didn’t believe in angels. Since then, those creatures have stormed her home and murdered her father. Demons continue to hunt for her and her life has been turned upside-down. All because she is the daughter of the Queen of Darkness, and apparently a super-powerful being everyone wants to see dead. A refreshing break from the love triangle and “save or be saved” scenarios.
Lucifer: Book One (Lucifer New Edition #1) written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Scott Hampton, Chris Weston, and James Hodgkins
Considered the ‘spin-off’ from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (and with his blessing via foreword), Lucifer is the ultimate fallen angel. In this story, not only is he cast out of Heaven, Lucifer has even turned his back on Hell and taken up ownership of an elite piano bar in Los Angeles. While the Netflix show has been a hit, the original comic book series is less camp and yet more devilishly appealing.
Dark Huntress (Sisterhood of Assassins: Iliana’s Story #1) by Nia Night
Part of the appeal of angels is the volatile balance between good and evil; the temptation to corrupt an angel or to convert a demon? Iliana is a half Demon with an easy-going life: She’s an assassin, hired to kill humans and others. She likes her job. And then she questions something. Damn that critical thought! Damn that cursed apple of knowledge! It’s not a new storyline but it is a fresh approach to the characters and the evolving nature of our freedom to think. Fair warning, though: It ends on a cliff-hanger with a promise of a sequel.
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee
For a change of pace, let’s imagine angels aren’t the good guys. Not just fallen angels; ALL angels. In fact, let’s imagine there is a war between angels and humans (and no, we are not winning). Angelfall is not your standard “angels are good”, nor is it truly a ‘redemption’ theme. It’s a post-apocalypse YA with a similar vibe to Hunger Games. There is a redemption arc with one of the characters, but the driving force is with Penryn and her quest to save her sister. Different enough from most angel-centric books out there.
Not the Usual Books About Angels…
Yes, there is a category of books about angels that aren’t really the books that fit into any other category. They still have all the elements of being a good book about angels but you have to step outside your comfort zone for them. This more about the symbolism of angels, or the cultural interpretation of angels. And in the spirit of the genre, it is worth the leap of faith to read these books.
Green Angel (Green Angel #1) by Alice Hoffman
During our darkest moments of grief, many people wish for an angel to wrap its wing around us and protect us from the pain. This book is about grief and devastation, and the possibility of finding a way out of it. Green (our protagonist) survives a catastrophic event, while her parents and sister do not. Surviving becomes a prickly word to describe her situation as everything around her changes; the garden, other survivors; her own mental state. It has a real fairytale-like feel to both the story and the characters but more of a Grimm fairytale than Disney. It’s a beautiful read but I’m not kidding on the grief. Make sure you are in the right headspace to enjoy this one.
The Stone Angel (Manawaka Sequence) by Margaret Laurence
The reminiscing of 90-year-old Hagar shares a story of a lifetime, filled with pride, stubbornness, and a fixed view of the people around us. This book gives the impression of being as hard and cold as a stone angel but it is a fascinating insight into the ‘old-age’ we carve for ourselves out of the lives we have lived. It is not an easy read; Hagar’s life has not been easy either. However, it is an amazing read and one that will either have you thinking there is no excuse for being a bitch OR that life is one big consequence as we roll from action to action.
The Gandharva by Bhavana Murali and Nikesh Murali
Ever had a book raved about by your friends but you canNOT find it anywhere? This is that book…or at least for me. When I was talking to my friends about this article and asking for suggestions away from the usual crowd, three separate friends suggested The Gandharva. The essence of the story is similar to other “good vs evil” battles, however, this is based on the Hindu concept of angels or heavenly beings. The Gandharva are fallen angels (good guys) after battling their ancient enemy, the Asuras. They now roam the Earth, banished from their celestial home and left to live out their lives amongst humans. When one of the Gandharvas falls in love with a human, a question of destiny and war rises again. Full disclosure: I know nothing about the Gandharva in general and have not read this book, but I really want to. If anyone finds it online or in-store, please tag me on Instagram! @teamcahill
The Angel’s Game (Book 2 in El cementerio de los libros olvidados) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated by Lucia Graves
The first book in this series, The Shadow of the Wind, is mind-blowingly beautiful. Set in Barcelona 1945, 11-year-old Daniel is introduced to the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a safe place for books forgotten by everyone else in the world. This second book brings us new characters with their own connections to the Cemetery and the sense of angels watching over the books. This is not like other angel-themed fiction; this is more subtle in the nature of the characterisation of angels in our lives. And it is beautiful. I can’t say that enough. I know I have listed the second book here but you really need to read all four: The Shadow of the Wind; The Angel’s Game; The Prisoner of Heaven; and The Labyrinth of the Spirits. There are also novellas and short stories that fit in the series, but these are the main four.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Katherine Tiernan O’Connor
To believe in angels is to also open yourself to the possibility of demons; at the very least, to believe in the Devil. Written during Stalin’s regime, the book was considered first and foremost as a satirical statement on the Soviet and Christian philosophy. Fellow Book Rioter Liberty also holds this book near and dear, giving possibly the best and most succinct summation ever. While the story is primarily about Lucifer coming to town, his mind games and his entourage (including ‘talking cat’) steal the show. Full kudos to ultimate psyche by Margarita, giving her the most empowering closure in the entire book.
Ripple: A Dolphin Love Story by Tui Allen
This book is a treasure, coming straight from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. It is fully immersive, a dive-into-the-ocean storytelling extravaganza that fills my heart with joy. And it is not the usual angel-lore inspired. The narrator of the story, Father Clement, is probably the closest you will have to the inherent wisdom of high-order angels; with a gentle comic touch to buoy the story against the weight of its loveliness. It is a story about dolphins. Actually, no. It isn’t a story about dolphins. It is a story about our history as told by the dolphins, or particularly one dolphin: Ripple. Through the eyes of Ripple and the storytelling of Father Clement, Allen offers us an insight into the life and behaviour of another intelligent species on this planet.
The Last of the Angels (Modern Arabic Literature) by Fadhil al-Azzawi, translated by William M. Hutchins
Set in northern Iraq, The Last of the Angels is a fresh reminder of how universal this concept is. I find the best books about angels are those where the angels fit in around stories of everyday life. Even in 1950s Iraq, filled with post-war hope where people are desperately grasping for any last refuges in their lives. Long-lost brothers returning from war or young children who talk with angels. Each element is encouraged by angels, with a satirical comedy attempting to cut through the grimness of their village. Fadhil al-Azzawi is a known poet and you gain that sense from his writing, however, if you are able to read the original Arabic version, please do.
You may note I have not included any books with claims to talk with angels directly. As I said in the beginning, the concept of angels is universal. The search and presence of a guiding force or being are found across many cultures and thus cannot be categorised into one set image or interpretation. Instead, it should be a personal reflection on your own faith. Be it Christian, Sumerian, popular Young Adult Fiction, or any other worldly belief, your search for angels should be your journey. Many of these books are both entertaining and thought-provoking. May they also be a starting point for you to explore more books about angels in all their glorious forms.