My biggest love for the books was THEOLOGY.
They all deal with issues of belief in a God -- how you know god exists, how you discern the god’s will, etc. -- but they also take up other issues as major themes as well.
The first, Archangel, is Kate’s favorite.
It definitely is a good book. It feels formulaic at times, but it was sort of something i noticed in passing, and simultaneously i thought, "But it's executed so well," and obviously everything's formulaic when you boil it down. I was reminded of Laura Kinsale’s Shadowheart -- the dynamic between the two romantic leads, the political intrigue. No hot BDSM, though. It’s definitely the most intense of all the books, though, in terms of the conflicts they face and also the characters themselves.
Its secondary focus is issues of free will, both in terms of predestination and duty.
The next book, Jovah’s Angel, has as its secondary focus, issues of technology. I wasn’t impressed at the beginning, but the big theology revelation won me over hardcore.
[spoiler: *cough*Asimov’s Foundation*cough* In going through stuff in my room, i found my copy of Psychohistorical Crisis which i’m even more tempted to read now that i’ve read these books.]
The third book, The Alleluia Files, felt like it was going to be a retread of Jovah’s Angel, and it does deal with issues of technology. It was also heavily about fanaticism, though. Had more love stories than the previous ones, which made a certain sense given the themes. It was also, primarily at the beginning, about living on the run and then about learning to trust people, which it occurs to me later maps nicely onto the ideas that run throughout the books about discerning whether there is a god and about faith and decisions and so on.
[spoiler: When Tamar first heard Lucinda sing, i was thinking “slash!” but i really doubted Sharon Shinn was gonna do that, and then of course as the novel progressed, we see them both developing love stories with other people. It wasn’t until Tamar met Conran that i realized she and Lucinda were twins.]
Angelica is the fourth book and while the previous books have jumped ahead centuries through the history of Samaria, this one brings us back to the early days, to give us the novel-length version of a tale whose nutshell we have been given in the other Samaria books. It also gives away secrets we have learned in the trilogy, so read the trilogy first.
It’s about love and community and belonging.
Angel-Seeker is the fifth book, the last Samaria book Shinn has written. It takes place a couple years after Archangel and is the most conventional of any of the books. About relationships and sex and love. It’s also more about the lives and problems of individual mortals as opposed to focusing on the concerns of the angels as the other books do.
While i was reading Jovah’s Angel i found myself really wishing i knew more about the Peoples of the God of Abraham. You can enjoy the books knowing nothing about them, but i recognized just enough to know that the author was doing more than just taking the modern concept of angels and using Biblical names. Though certainly it is far from an exact parallel allegory.