Review – Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater

After hearing so much about this SFPBO winner, I, Laura, had to read it myself to see if it lived up to all the hype. My opinion? It does! This book was so charming and once I started listening, I didn’t want to stop. If you are looking for a fun, heartwarming book, I’d highly recommend Small Miracles!

Gadriel, not to be confused with Gabriel (although they often are), is a fallen angel who tempts humans with simple desires: clocking out of work early; making snide comments; and eating the last piece of chocolate. But Gadriel also has a debt to pay. In order to do repay it, they make a bet with the Angel of Good Fortune, Barachiel. The bet? Tempt a human whose sin metric is one of the lowest seen. The human in question, Holly Harker, proves to be quite a challenge for Gadriel. Holly is immune to kittens, doesn’t retort to rudeness, and even dislikes chocolate! This leads Gadriel to step it up and use some more creative attempts to seduce Holly.

An extremely creative and well told story, Small Miracles draws you in from the beginning with its biggest strength: its characters. Gadriel, the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations, is a funny, smart, and relatable character. I loved that throughout their journey, we can understand the stumbles and frustrations that Gadriel experiences, and simultaneously root for and against them (because let’s be real, nobody wants to see Holly corrupted). Things never seem to go as planned for our anti-hero, Gadriel, but thankfully their resilience and a little divine intervention hilariously get them out of (and sometimes into) some “tight spots” throughout the book. 

Holly Harker, the human with the unheard of sin:virtue metric, is an extremely lovable character. A single woman caring for her adolescent niece after a family tragedy, Holly is hard working, kind, and always puts others before herself, even unruly kittens. I found myself immediately empathizing with Holly and wishing that she would indulge in even the smallest pleasures, as it seemed that she just needed to be rewarded for all of the goodness in her. 

Holly’s niece, Ella, is another highlight of the book. A teenager who is struggling to overcome the death of her parents, Ella is also facing typical challenges of teen girls: difficult teachers, bullies, and making good friends. Ella’s situation is something Gadriel would like to use as a “tool” to bring her aunt to sin, but this plays out a little differently. Holly remains an extremely supportive figure in Ella’s life, Ella gains some friends, and learns to be a little more trusting and a little less cynical. 

The plot of Small Miracles is easy to follow, and incorporates fantasy elements into the modern world seamlessly. I loved the explanations of the angels’ gender fluidity, and how expertly it was written into the story (mentioned by characters, but never villainized). Gadriel’s ability to persuade mortals through a voice in their heads was another clever way the author displayed the character’s influence and also helped to move the plot forward at times. The divine power of the angels was explained to be not applicable to all situations as it could lead to confusion. I found this hilarious and also an excellent way to show readers that even the divine need things to “make sense” at times and can’t just “invisible their way out” of a sticky situation. 

The book is very reminiscent of Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett, but I found Atwater’s Small Miracles to be a little lighter-hearted and sweeter overall. Fans of the former will not be disappointed, though. Small Miracles is full of funny quips, miscommunications, and hijinks that definitely keep the reader interested and laughing along. 

PS: The audiobook edition is wonderful! Rafe Beckley is an excellent narrator. However, the book has a lot of footnotes which take a while to get used to in the audio format.

Paperback: 284 pages
Kindle Edition: 250 pages

Audiobook: 7 Hrs 28 Mins; Narrated by Rafe Beckley

Pick up your copy here

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