Archive > Reviews of The Blood of Angels

Johanna Sinisalo (right) with editor Antonia Owen at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair

Johanna Sinisalo (right) with editor Antonia Owen at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair

Over the last few years Peter Owen has published three novels by acclaimed Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo and – whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the fantasy genre – all of them are excellent reads.

The most recent of these books is The Blood of Angels – an international hit which has been enthusiastically received both here in the UK and in America. In this beautifully written and evocative book, the mass disappearance of bees through colony collapse disorder threatens ecological disaster. Amateur beekeeper Orvo, devastated by the recent death of his eco-warrior son, finds two of his hives deserted and begins to fear that the epidemic has reached Scandinavia. Then, in the attic of the old barn, he makes a mystical and frightening discovery: a pathway to a parallel world. Is this mere hallucination stimulated by sorrow and loss, or something very real and connected with the bees’ disappearance?

This superb and compelling novel is translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers and was edited by our very own Antonia Owen. Public and critical reaction has been extremely positive. Over at OF Blog, Larry Nolen writes, “Through its well-constructed mixture of a grieving man’s search through a parallel world for clues as to what happened to both his son and to the bees, as well as detailed yet never wearisome scientifically-based blog entries . . . Sinisalo invokes a creeping sense of disorder, one in which the collapse of the orderly bee colonies presages much more than a collapse of human societies.” Nolen goes on to recommend The Blood of Angels as his top choice of 2014’s translated fiction, calling it “One of the best narratives of ecological collapse that I’ve read in quite some time. Chilling in its plausibility . . . a very scary look at a very possible near-future reality.”

Whilst fantasy and science fiction plays a part in Sinisalo’s work, she grounds her writing in plausible relationships and anchors it in a reality we can all understand. In a fascinating interview over at Wonderbook, Johanna Sinisalo says: “I think that I never write anything fully inexplicable; it’s just a different version of the universe, a world with (hopefully) impeccable inner logic, but it just isn’t exactly our world.”

Nina Allan of Strange Horizons writes that The Blood of Angels is “a raw, gritty, angry book that is actually about something . . . The novel’s rigorous grounding in fact lends considerable power to its forays into the speculative, and Sinisalo’s empathic grasp of her subject matter is nowhere more apparent than when she is writing about the world from a bee’s eye view . . . I passionately admire this book. I admire its conviction and the articulacy that serves it . . .” calls the book “A magical plunge into the myth of death and immortality,” adding that The Blood of Angels is “a tale of human blindness in the face of devastation.”

The blog Skiffy and Fanty (which describes itself as “Running away from the thought police on wings of gossamer and lace . . .”!) writes that “this novel’s simple, flowing prose hide[s] the rich, complex depth of its construction and significance . . . Sinisalo’s novel captures an apocalyptic, large-scale focus on humanity that is typical of speculative fiction, yet keeps a keenly literary focus on the psychological trials of an individual and family. . . . Beautifully well-written on important issues, it is a novel to check out and a quick read that will linger like honey on the tongue.”

More snippets from print reviews:

“Sinisalo’s novel engages in a fierce discussion of ecological choices while also imagining an unusually picturesque, Orpheus-tinged search for love beyond death.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Stunning prose takes the reader down a twisting path between gritty ecoterrorism and another world, with winged messengers leading the way.” – Library Journal

“The story is told with a quiet, literary precision and is a welcome addition to the sometimes raucous and violent nature of dystopian literature.” – Booklist

“As Orvo’s life story emerges . . . the reader will be moved to contemplate the unforeseen ways that each generation influences the next.” – Publishers Weekly.

“Artfully combines existential crisis with environmental crisis.” – Le Monde.

“Reinforces one’s belief in the power of fiction to debate matters of global significance.” – Turun Sanomat.

If you need any further convincing or would just like to get a flavour of the prose, you might like to try the excerpt published on

Also highly recommended are Johanna’s previous novels, Not Before Sundown and Birdbrain.



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