Phantom: Birth of an Arc portrays the endless battle between good and evil in an incredible space adventure.
From the very first scene of the book, the fantasy aspect of this novel is clear, as Angels and Seraphim debate the fate of two half-mortal children borne of an Angel’s lust for a human. One of the children, Raven, was raised as an Arc, while Traiven was sent to grow up in rural Louisiana. However, it doesn’t take long for these two worlds to collide. Traiven’s small-town life is turned upside down when Shawn, a soldier in Heaven’s army, informs him that he’s the last hope to fill the shoes (or wings) of his long-lost Arc brother.
There is a significant amount of exposition to explain the huge universe of divine beings and interstellar politics, but Gabriel Common and Christy Lea Wilkerson do a great job of seamlessly introducing these ideas through gradual narration and dialogue with Traiven. As the last Nephilim, Traiven is the only chance that the legions of Heaven have to destroy the Dark Lord, which gives the book a more traditional sci-fi and fantasy tone. Once Traiven overcomes his initial disbelief at being more powerful than he ever imagined, the authors push full-speed into a twisting and tangled plot that plays out across a richly detailed universe.
Every page is packed with action and the plot moves very quickly; the detailed battle scenes and complex Heavenly motives keep readers’ blood pumping through every page, and kicks readers’ imagination into overdrive. Furthermore, the dual nature of the book, balancing human frailty and angelic immortality, is a creative new take on the classic “unlikely hero taking on the forces of evil.”
Despite the book being geared towards a younger audience, there are more mature themes of family, loyalty, loss, responsibility, and destiny, which the author subtly weaves through the action-packed narrative. This broadens the book’s appeal to an audience other than YA readers, who may only be superficially hungry for battle scenes and standard fantasy plots.
While the story is creative and engaging, the frequent grammatical errors, awkward syntax, and abrupt unnatural dialogue can be irritating at times, and should definitely be corrected by an experienced editor. The fast pace of the novel helps to gloss over some of those mistakes, but they are a frequent source of distraction in the flow of reading. Some of the scenes also feel rushed, as though the authors are eager to move forward in the action, and the quick jumps between various planets, characters, and plot lines can make it difficult to keep up with the details.
That being said, for younger readers soaking up a fantastic new world with wide-eyed excitement, the book is consistently thrilling. The expansive adventure that Traiven embarks upon is written with the same imaginative whimsy as one would find in the work of Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov, blending extraordinary events and creatures with relatable human emotion.
In other words, no matter how strange of otherworldly the plot becomes, readers can see some of themselves in the reluctant hero. Immersing oneself in the rich world of the Arcs is an enjoyable plunge, and Traiven’s evolution from your average teenager into an intergalactic hero in Heaven’s Army is impressive to behold.