Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. Everything changes when you’ve looked at the world through…

ANGEL EYES.

Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive.

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Angel Eyes surprised me – in a good way. Having seen the title, the cover image, and the publisher, I knew to expect a religious thread throughout the story. Indeed, many serious subjects were addressed: joy and grief, life and death, good and evil, faith and doubt, angels and demons. While some themes were more heavy-handed than others, they were very apropos given the subject.

Struggling with extreme grief and guilt in the aftermath of the brutal murder of her best friend, Brielle returns home from the bright lights of New York City to a podunk little town, where she can’t seem to shake the chill from her bones – or her soul. I can’t imagine losing a close friend to such a horrible end, and feeling that was responsible for it all on top of that! I could feel the depth and darkness of Brielle’s grief consume me, as she wandered through her hometown and old high school as a ghost of her former self. I kept waiting for someone, anyone, to step in and help this poor girl. Then, Jake entered the picture.

At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what role Jake would play in Brielle’s life. He was a bit stalkerish in the beginning, and I admit, I sighed a little when he became the “new hot guy” at school that only had eyes for Brielle. However, as I got to know Jake better, I found him to be charming, genuine, and even a little swoon-worthy. He and Brielle developed a natural rapport and their relationship blossomed slowly and sweetly. No Insta-love!(c) here! I liked how Jake’s steady presence and patience urged Brielle to come out of her shell a bit more, as she basked in the sunshine of his warmth – both literally and figuratively. However, Jake couldn’t protect Brielle from everything, or everyone.

The thread of mystery that ran throughout the story was certainly intriguing, and I found myself cringing every time Brielle and Jake came in contact with Damien, the main protagonist. This guy is seriously creepy! When Brielle’s (spiritual) eyes are opened to the Celestial realm via a mysterious gold band, gifted to her by Jake, she witnesses the beauty of the heavens and the corruption and darkness that threatens to overtake all that is good in her world. She quickly learns that not everyone and everything is who or what they seem.

Toward the end of the book, a battle of epic proportions between the hosts of good and evil had me on the edge of my seat. While an earthly battle was being waged, a celestial battle was also ongoing, and every time I thought the battle was finally over, another blow was made. I held my breath quite a few times. Even though things seem to settle down in the end, within the last pages, there were quite a few cliff-hangers that made my imagination run wild. Shannon Dittemore certainly knows how to make her readers turn the pages!

Ultimately, what I loved most about Angel Eyes was the way the subject of fear was addressed. Fear paralyzes and seeks to destroy. Fear leads to despair and despair leads to destruction – of our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our souls. Fear has no place in our lives. The absence of fear is faith – whether it is in a higher power, in ourselves, or in others. This is a message from which we can all learn, whether or not we are religious or spiritually-minded.

Angel Eyes offers a unique, entertaining spin on the typical angel lore, and further impresses with multi-dimensional characters and an intriguing plot line. The story is told from the POV of three characters: Brielle, Jake, and Damien. While some POVs were more entertaining than others, they all served to make me more familiar with the motives of each charater. There were quite a few questions that came to mind while reading Angel Eyes that were left unanswered, and now I am anxious to read the second installment in the series, Broken Wings, which is set to debut in February 2013. Kudos to Shannon Dittemore, whose debut novel surpassed my expectations and raised the bar for other similar stories!

*A copy of this book was provided by Thomas Nelson via YA Bound in exchange for an honest review.