Dark Angel – Andrews and Wilson

Dark Angel by Brian Andrews, Jeffrey Wilson
Series: The Shepherds #2
Published by Tyndale on April 5, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Thriller
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Former Navy SEAL Jedidiah Johnson returns to Nashville ready to begin his training with the elite warriors known as the Shepherds. He thinks he knows what to expect when he arrives on the sprawling, state-of-the-art facility but quickly realizes he'll have to find his place as the rookie leader of a new team. Then he starts having visions of an imminent attack overseas, and with the clock ticking, Jed and his team are dispatched to neutralize the threat. All the while, Jed hears whispers of another threat . . . a name that raises unexplained fear and anger throughout the Shepherds organization.
Once a military man, Nicholas Woland betrayed the Shepherds and all they stood for when he joined their enemies. After years in prison, Woland is eager to get back in action spreading chaos and death. And he has been freed for a purpose: a sinister plot that will result in hundreds of casualties and incite worldwide religious warfare for years to come.
As Woland and the Shepherds race toward a collision, Jed must rely on his gifts, his training, and his untested team to make critical decisions on a global stage--never realizing that a secret servant of the enemy is growing closer and closer to him.

Jedidiah Johnson is returning to action, training with the elite warriors known as the Shepherds. He thinks he knows what he’s getting himself into, but finds himself placed among the raw recruits. As he struggles to earn his place in leadership, he starts having visions of an imminent attack and soon finds himself in a battle that’s far more than physical. Following up the events of Dark Intercept, Dark Angel takes readers further into the mind of Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, combining military motifs with supernatural warfare to create a masculine, adrenaline-soaked series every bit as plausible as an 80s action movie.

I felt a bit thrown into the middle of the story when Dark Angel began. This is book two in the series, but I wasn’t aware of it initially and Andrews and Wilson don’t exactly do a great job to orient the reader in the setting. There’s an initial breakout scene that’s is over the top and amazing. It really the sets the tone for the book. But then we get to our hero and he’s—just maybe a little too perfect. I’ve read some over the top thriller series before—David Baldacci’s Oliver Stone; James Patterson’s Alex Cross—but those characters had some level of depth or charisma. I just never got that with Jed’s characterization. He never felt natural.

The story itself is overly long, drags in places, and yet still manages to leave out valuable information while taking too long to exposit what it does tell you. There’s flashes of brilliance and at times the novel really gets into a groove, but then a chapter or scene change occurs and all the momentum is lost. Looking at other reviews of Andrews and Wilson novels, I’m clearly in the minority and I’m okay with that. I wanted to try out this book because it’s filling a niche in the market I thought needed filled. Obviously, not my niche.

Another thing I want to talk about is that Andrews and Wilson use Dark Angel to give a shoutout to a real-life organization. In a super-cringey scene, our protagonist has a beer opened for him with a bottle-opener made from a .50-caliber shell. Remember the old timey TV shows where the actors in the show themselves would do the advertising? That’s what this looks like. The character opening the bottle gives you the URL and everything. (For anywhere between $22 and $66, you can get your own Andrews and Wilson bottle opener…also there’s a whole line of Let’s Go, Brandon merch.) I’m writing a review of this book, not the company, but—it’s a super awkward promotion that comes across heavy-handed and alienating.

Dark Angel is trying to fill that “men’s fiction” gap in the Christian fiction bookshelves. And I suppose if you’re looking for a Christian military thriller, this is one of the best out there. Speaking objectively, if Andrews and Wilson did a better job with their exposition, pacing, and explaining the supernatural elements, Dark Angel would be a good book. Speaking subjectively, the glorification of warfare combined with politically conservative overtones make this one a non-starter for me.