Book Review: Celestial by Hannah Mae
My weakness becomes His strength and my guilt an example of His Grace. For He does in me, what I cannot do for myself.
Celestial follows a group of angels given a mission by God to capture a particularly dangerous demon. But the heart of the story is found in their captain, Jediah, and his search for peace. He longs to know what salvation is like and hopes to see a human child, Chloe, saved. It turns out he isn’t the only angel in this group that is haunted by the past in their age long struggle of spiritual warfare against Lucifer and his demons. The story opens with a moving Prologue that should not be skipped and a matching Epilogue, like two perfect bookends.
This is my third book review on my blog, and yes, it’s another five star. The main reason for this is I like to review books I’ve enjoyed, and I seldom finish a book that I’m not enjoying. Also, my primary purpose for including book reviews on my blog is to help Christians find worthwhile books to read. That does not mean every book I review will necessarily be Christian fiction, but it does mean I thought the book was entertaining, thought provoking, and worth my time. Celestial by Hannah Mae certainly falls into these categories.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before I read Celestial. Usually stories about angels do not appeal to me. I think it’s because they often elevate angels almost to a place of worship, or because the angels are giving extra biblical revelation. Of course, I’ve read several of Frank Peretti’s books back in the day that incorporated the behind the scenes spiritual warfare into the story. In his stories, however, the spiritual beings were distant and mysterious. (This is not intended to be a critisim of Peretti’s books. I’ve enjoyed many of his novels. This is just a comparison.)
In Celestial, I think readers will be pleasantly surprised. The angels in this story have real feelings, desires, and challenges that make them relatable rather than mysterious. Though the Bible is designed to reveal to us our Savior and doesn’t go into great detail about angelic beings, what the Bible does tell us about angels should not make us imagine that they are emotionless beings that never face any trials.
1. Angels have emotions.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.—Luke 15:10
This verse not only lets us know that angels experience joy, but that they care about what happens to us. We don’t fully understand all the roles angels play in this world, but we know that they are worshippers of God, so it should not surprise us that they care about the thing God most cares about—the salvation of humanity.
2. Angels have desires.
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.—I Peter 1:10-12
We know that at least one thing that the angels desire is to look into the gospel—good news of salvation offered to all mankind. Evidently, despite having access to heaven and being in God’s presence, they still desire to understand salvation. Jesus came down to earth, not made in the likeness of an angel, but in the likeness of man. His free gift of salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is offered to us who believe. This is an amazing thing, and apparently the angels think so too!
3. Angels face hardships.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.—Daniel 10:13
Now, I don’t pretend to understand everything about this passage, but angels are limited by space and time like we are. They are not all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent like God. They are not divine, but created beings with limitations. They are in the midst of a spiritual warfare with the demons—fallen angels. The “prince of the kingdom of Persia” we understand to be a demon, who prevented and seems to have temporarily captured an angel on his way to deliver a message to Daniel. It took Michael, one of the most powerful angels, to come and free him.
The author of Celestial does an excellent job keeping the angels true to these three points. Of course, the fallen angels emotions and desires are twisted. In addition, she takes some of the biblical descriptions of what we find angels doing—worshiping around the throne of God, delivering messages, fighting battles etc. and creates several “classes” of angels. There is some creative license taken here, and she doesn’t claim these classifications to be fact. After all, I think it’s important to remember this is fiction, and as such you have to “fill-in-the-blanks” in order to have a fleshed out story.
Finally, Celestial is different from any other spiritual warfare book that I have read in that it focuses on the story from the perspective of angels rather than humans. Yet, because of the points I mentioned, it doesn’t fall into the trap of glorifying angels or putting them in any way above God or the Bible. Just the opposite, the story is really not so much about the angels as it is about salvation. Again, angels rejoice to see a human saved, they desire to look into the gospel, and they are fighting a spiritual warfare on God’s—and our—behalf against the devils that want to keep us from the good news of Jesus Christ who came to save us from our sins.
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool… —Isaiah 66:1
The author presents through the characters of the angels many truths that are true, not just of angels, but of Christians. One angel asks, “Then why do we exist? Why create us to serve if we’re not needed?” God doesn’t need the angels. Nor should we imagine that we as Christians can do anything for God. So like the angel, we might ask, “Why do we exist?” The angel answers, “To show us the depths of His love.” What a wonderful truth!
One of my favorite scenes in the book finds an angel attempting to prevent the ceiling of a hotel from crashing down and crushing its occupants. We usually imagine angels protecting us, and here we find an angel attempting to do so, but failing. Suddenly, two Christians in the hotel start praying. The angel’s burden lightens as God Himself upholds the ceiling. I love the imagery of our prayers helping God’s angel, though neither Christian in the hotel had any knowledge of the angel’s presence.
Another favorite quote from Celestial: “My weakness becomes His strength and my guilt an example of His Grace. For He does in me, what I cannot do for myself.” This is the theme of salvation and the Christian life. This is the theme of Celestial.