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It's very rare that I will pick up and buy a book based solely on the cover. The reason for this is because I am awful at it. My brother for example seems to have the magic touch. He'll grab it based on cover and typically it turns out to be a fantastic read...Locke Lamora and Retribution Falls being fantastic examples here which I have previously reviewed. On the other hand, I tend to try that kind of trick and end up with a load of dross. This was a book which I bought based entirely on the cover. The dark background with the picture of an angel partially obscured meaning that you only really get the wings intrigued me and so it quickly moved from the shelf to my hand, and from my hand to the counter. To give a certain amount of credit I did read the blurb on the back and it did seem interesting, but the cover was the main thing that hooked me in. So, is the saying 'never judge a book by its cover' true?
The first thing to say about the plot is that it is split into three sections which are interspersed throughout the novel. The first and possibly the most important is the current story of Evangeline which is told from her perspective. Interspersed with this is the same story told from the perspective of Percival Grigori and Verlaine. And the final section, which is situated approximately half way through the novel is the past told through the eyes of the now Sister Celestine and Evangeline's grandmother; Gabriella.
From the title of the book it is quite obvious that it directly pertains to angels, but this isn't your usual tale about angels. Usually angels are portrayed as shining creatures of light who are God's messengers from above, they are nearly always perfect creatures of God's will who show up all of humanity's failings. They are God's messengers. They are what we cannot even hope to aspire to. In this book though, although that type of angel does exist, we don't see them. Instead this book addresses a far darker kind of angel. These are the angels which live on earth and they are not pure angels, they are the progeny of angel and human breeding in ages long gone by. They are by no means perfect, but they still possess the sense of superiority of the angels of before because they are descended from an immortal race and they are better than humans. Unfortunately they do not possess the morality that humans have, and they have lost any hope of God redeeming them. The humans who study angeleology are a select group who are desperately working in an attempt to counteract the tyranny that these angels wish to unleash upon humanity.
You see, Evangeline was given up by her father to the St Rose Convent when she was little more than twelve years old. She knows little more about the work which her parents did other than it was enough to get her mother killed, and that her father rarely if ever talks about either his work or his deceased wife. So Evangeline doesn't know why her mother was killed, or by who. Well, this is until she is assisting a mysterious visiting scholar in the convent and she starts to uncover a disturbing set of secrets relating to her family. And suddenly she finds herself in a great deal of trouble, and a great deal of danger and she's in a struggle for her life and the lives of everyone she holds dear. She suddenly has to grow up very quickly, and she has to leave the sheltered laws of the convent which have governed her life for most of her young life because she us engaged in a war that has been going on behind the scenes for centuries. But it is just about to reach its climax...
This is one area where I cannot fault the book as Danielle Trussoni has depicted all of the characters wonderfully. A large amount of suspense in the novel comes from the fact that half the time you are not quite sure which characters you are meant to trust. Danielle Trussoni has really spent a lot of time on her character development, and her effort really does shine through as does the sense of mysteriousness which she has tried so hard to cultivate.
From Evangeline who is the typical young, naïve and sheltered nun and the only character you know you can trust, but who is the most vulnerable in the entire novel, to Percival Grigori with his cold and heartless view on the world. You truly run the gauntlet of emotions. But what is probably the most genius aspect of the novel is the depiction of the angels throughout. As I stated earlier they are not the golden halo version of angels which we are used to seeing, and tend to be what are depicted in most areas. Instead these are a superior race that want complete dominion over humanity and will stop at nothing to ensure that they get it. They don't have the same moral system which we have, and they see it as their God given right to be the masters whilst we as humanity are the slaves.
Because of this whole dictatorship over humanity thing that the angels seem to have you could be forgiven for thinking that they would be a completely unlikeable race and would be bad guys in a darker shade of black than we could even imagine. Instead, and to be honest I don't quite know how Trussoni has managed this but she has written them with full personalities, and they don't seem evil they just seem desperate. You can to a point understand their motives, even if you are a member of the race which they want to dominate and control. This adds one heck of a kick to the book as you know you should be supporting the humans but at points you are really not quite sure. There is an ambiguity all the way through and this is probably due to the fact that she has written them all in with human personalities so to a point you can empathise with them.
This wouldn't be a full review if I neglected to mention the portrayal and accuracy of religious texts in this novel considering how important and central these are to the novel. And again, I have to admit I was impressed. I was more than half expecting this book to portray a group of religious crazies (otherwise noted as fundamentalists) as the angelologists. Instead, it portrays the angelologists as serious academics and the entire theory behind the novel is backed up by biblical quotes which are fully explained and explored. Obviously the interpretations are fictional, but it is realistic enough to suck you in for the duration of the novel.
But yes, I have to concede that this was a very well thought out novel and the basis for these angels actually existing on earth is fully and coherently done, with actually a very knowledgeable basis on biblical quotes. I have to admit the fact that this can be done makes me even more wary of the religious fundamentalists as it is amazing what you can do with a couple of pieces of scripture.
Well, so far it seems like I've been waxing lyrical about this novel and so you must be wondering why I've only given it two stars. The issue is that the plot idea itself is genius, the character development is fantastic and the use of religious scripture to complement and back up the story at hand is very, very clever. So what was wrong with it?
The answer is very simple. Or at least the big reason is. It was slow. Far too slow. Particularly at the beginning (as in the first 200 odd pages) very little happens quickly. A lot of time is spent on character development and describing the most banal of events in the most detailed manner known to mankind. And this just wound me up as I was desperate to actually get on with some action. The section moved at a much quicker rate and I have to admit I really did enjoy it, but this is the part that is all set in the past and so all the way through over 220 pages you know that you are only reading background material.
This probably irritated me more than it would have in most books because of the critical acclaim at the back of the book:
"An intelligent thriller that rips along like a bat out of hell" (Woman and Home)
"Compulsively readable, thrilling and much, much better than Dan Brown." (Daily Express)
"Clever, whiplash fast" (Marie Claire)
And yes the book is better than Dan Brown, but this isn't saying a great deal in my personal opinion as I have never been all that keen on his style. But under no circumstances could it be called whiplash fast, and nor does it whip along like a bat out of hell!
There are also other issues with the book, but none of that irritated me as much as the 640 pages of slowness to a degree that made me want to hit something...or someone. This does however include a 'twist' which I saw coming from several miles off and the fact that a lot of the book just seems too disjointed as the different character accounts are not tied together well. There is just too much skipping between characters in the first and third sections of the book and I often found it difficult to click into a new character. It seems like there is very little to actually link many of the various characters and you just seem to be plunged in at the deep end far too often.
It wasn't a bad book. But when a conclusion starts like that it doesn't tend to be a good sign! It had a massive amount of potential, but it never actually cashes in on this potential which makes it a very disappointing read. So, can I recommend it? Only if you have a lot of spare time on your hands and are very interested in religious fiction. Even then, I wouldn't recommend buying it at full price!
"Their disobedience was an act of free will - a very human quality reminiscent of Adam and Eve's ill conceived choice in the garden. The disobedient angels were also capable of a uniquely human variety of love - they loved wholly, blindly, recklessly. Indeed, they traded heaven for passion, a trade that is difficult to fully comprehend, especially because you and I have given up all hope of such love."
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
I remember reading reviews of Danielle Trussoni's Angelology in the book blogosphere when it was first released in hardback and largely I wasn't all that interested. Books with a heavily religious theme just don't often catch my fancy. However, after picking this up in my local Waterstones bookshop my interest was caught by Kate Mosse stating front and centre on the cover page - "A clever, fast paced thriller... A pleasure from start to finish". I went on to read some of the other glowing recommendations and found that the book has been compared to both Dan Brown as well as Stephanie Meyer, so off home I went with book in hand. I was soon to learn, much to my disappointment that at least in my opinion this book is probably much closer to something (but very tenuously so) to Dan Brown's style of writing. I didn't see anything even remotely like the twilight series (that I enjoyed) and this was more of an adult fiction book than a novel aimed at the young adult market.
*** Synopsis - back of the book ***
"When Sister Evangeline of the St. Rose Convent stumbles across a mysterious correspondence with Abigail Rockefeller in the archive, it reveals that angels once walked among us...and might still. This discovery plunges Evangeline into the hidden and dangerous world of the Angelologists - a secret society that battles to prevent the ascendancy of the Nephilim, the angels' descendants on Earth. Evangeline becomes the catalyst in a race to hunt down powerful and ancient artefacts that can be used to enslave humankind. And not only is the key to finding those artefacts within her grasp - but also a secret about her own past and its links to the Angelologists. Possession of either could cost Evangeline her life..."
*** What I thought ***
One of the small niggles I did have while reading this book was it was hard to determine exactly who the main character of the story was. The book is set mostly in two different timeframes (the present day and over a period of time during the 1930's - 1940's) and over many various locations around the world. The present day portion of the book mainly centred on Evangeline and Verlaine, as well as Gabriella and Celeste but to a much lesser extent. There is at least a good quarter of the book (if not more) that was set back in time, it was almost like a long flashback. However, this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. The present day material with Evangeline at times just felt a bit rushed and under developed. I preferred the story of her grandmother Gabriella and Celeste (Gabriella's best friend and Evangeline's protector) much more.
There were a few times in the story where it felt like the author cheated in getting the characters out of a sticky situation by introducing an event that didn't have any previous mention. It was almost a tad like...'and then she woke up', which just ruined the flow of the story for me, but it was still plausible enough that I wasn't entirely put off as much as I could have been. It was just a bit disappointing to read.
The end was in my opinion really rather lacking, probably the last sixth of the book turned into a story that I wasn't that interested in. Characters seemed to act out of character and everything plodded along happening quite quickly, but it just didn't feel like the same book I started off reading. The ending was also highly predictable, even my husband who hadn't even read anything other than the back cover and looked at the front guessed the final twist in the ending. The ending also feels like there is a sequel waiting in the dark to make its appearance. Personally, I wouldn't completely rule out that I would not read any sequel, but I will definitely not be holding my breath for it or queuing up to buy it.
There are times as well when the writer has written that the characters haven't understood the cryptic clues, but often these weren't really cryptic clues. They weren't even clues, at moments the book feels like it has been dumbed down just a tad too much and there was no sense that I as a reader had to work out what was happening. I like a bit of suspense and intrigue to keep me turning the pages, excited about what is going to happen next and more often than not this book just didn't deliver that.
It is quite a long book somewhere over 600 pages (in the paperback edition), but the print is maybe on the larger size so don't let the length of the book put you off. I did read this book relatively quickly and it was what I would classify as an easy read. However, for such a long book the story skimmed over a lot of the characters and didn't really go into as much depth as I would have liked about a number of topics, which for me would have made the story ten times more gripping. I found towards the end of the novel that I had actually got fed up with several of the main characters and didn't really care about what eventually happened to them, which is definitely not what I want to happen when reading a book.
I have mentioned a lot of the negative aspects of the book, but there were some really good points as well. Overall, I did enjoy the story and it was easy to read, for me reading is mostly about entertainment and relaxation. This is the perfect book to just turn off your brain and be entertained. I also thought that it was quite a refreshingly original take on an Indiana Jones type tale.
This book is widely available and I have seen it stacked on bookshop shelves as well as supermarkets and of course you can easily pick it up from online from stores such as Amazon for £3.49. However, in my opinion this book isn't a keeper so I would recommend trying to pick it up from your local library branch.
Something that struck me while I was reading this book, was that it would probably be one of the rare exceptions where if this ever got turned into a film, the film might be better than the book. I think this story really could have been done with a good editing and might have benefited from maybe a 100 pages being cut out. In my opinion if this story was tightened it could have been even better.
This is an entertaining book to read, or at least most of it is and although it might not be a tightly packed story it is still a slightly new take on a familiar tale. Therefore, I am going to give this novel a three out of five star rating. I keep changing my mind on whether I would recommend this book or not and I think as long as you realise the story is predictable, the characters are mostly mediocre, but it is entertaining in parts and does have some good ideas, I think I would recommend it if you are after some light reading.
I will apologise in advance... This is a bit of a mish-mash of a review. It's the result of me emptying my head just having finished reading the book!
Religion is something I tend to stay clear of and I've never had much interest in mythology either, however when I read GoodReads' description of Angelology something drew me to the book. It sounded interesting and different, so I was delighted when GoodReads selected me to receive the book as part of one of the giveaways and when Penguin sent me the hardback edition complete with a bookplate signed by the author.
The story is based in a world just like ours, except in Angelology the angels walk among us, not that you'd know or accept that unless you were an Angelologist. These angels aren't like you'd expect them to be, they're bad, even evil, but they are dying and believe that the Angelologists have the information and means to cure them, and they will do anything to get what they want. The Angelology Society have to stop them and Sister Evangeline finds herself at the centre of this war.
The earlier chapters of the book introduce us to the main characters, while the rest of the book knits the story and the characters together. I think Evangeline is the most important character in the book as most of the characters seem to connect with her in one way or another.
The story itself slowly gathers pace until it's going at full pelt. There is one point mid-way during the story where a chapter seems to go on and on (it's possibly the longest chapter I've ever read), yet the information is vital. I think this is the part of the book which will either have you close the book and put it down, or will keep your interest, as I have read of a few people putting the book down half way through. However, the angelologists have gathered much knowledge and so must the reader. The author, Danielle Trussoni, must have done a lot of research into angels and the bible as the book is very detailed. This certainly isn't a light read, but it is an interesting one.
Most of the book is written in the third person. However one chapter (the longest one) is written from Celestine's point of view, which may seem odd, but when you read the book you realise why it was done that way.
The first thing I noticed about the book was the chapters... Instead of being titled "Chapter 1" and so on, each chapter's title is marked by a location, "St. Rose Convent, Hudson River Valley, Milton, New York" is the title of the first chapter, for example. I thought that was a nice touch, I like it when authors do things a little differently to the norm (it shows creativity).
All in all, despite my lack of religion and mythological interest or knowledge, I really did enjoy this book. I found it interesting and the further I got into the book, the more I had to keep reading (to the point of not wanting to put it down!). I'd certainly recommend giving it a go!
P.S. - I hear it's being made into a film.
Visit the Penguin website (www.penguin.co.uk - do a search for Angelology) for a link to the Penguin Taster of Angelology (e.g. download a PDF of the first few pages of the book!).