Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.


As much as Angelology deals with an intriguing topic and I liked some of its elements, it also has some shortcomings that seriously bothered me.

Firstly, what I liked:

  • The premise itself and the way Trussoni turns the myth of Orpheus.
  • Beautiful writing – sometimes (see below).
  • Evangeline – mostly the fact that she stays true to herself – I'm glad Trussoni didn't go with the trend of turning a character's personality completely around.
  • I find the idea of music being able to change molecular structure and thus damage/destroy or repair/heal things and people compelling.
  • The ending – how things play out especially in relation to Evangeline.

Secondly, what I found interesting, but not to my tastes:

  • The Europocentric origin of the Nephilim seems so clich├ęd to me, although I can see Trussoni's logic behind it.
  • Also, and I know it's a religion- and Bible-based, the punishment for the disobedient angel's transgression seems much too harsh for me.

And lastly, there were a lot of things I didn't like and annoyed me to no small extent:

  • A huge plot hole (slightly SPOILERY): the supposed radioactivity of (fallen) angels: if they are so radioactive that only a short exposure to their proximity is lethal for humans, how did they mate with human women without the women dying during the act, and even more, how were they able to bear them children? Unless angels are able to control the level of radioactivity they emit?
  • A stupid amount of foreshadowing: it made everything so predictable and I knew what was supposed to be the big surprise three quarters of the book ahead. I think that part of the plot should have just been dealt with early in the book instead of being hinted at time and again until I just wished the reveal was finally done.
  • Related to that: portraying Verlaine and Evangeline as basically ignorant and foolish, although they are supposed to be educated and intelligent people and yet they are completely oblivious to all the clues and hints.
  • And yet, once things get seriously dangerous and strange, they just take it in stride, without any sign of shock or fear or at least wonder. That is so absurd and unrealistic.
  • And while I'm at danger: everyone has an awful lot of time to talk things out and observe in the midst of being in a hurry and followed/threatened/attacked…
  • Details. Too many details of every little thing – the paper, the loops of letters, the pattern on the carpet… 
  • Digressions: no, I'm not interested in the furniture in the room while the main character is about to find out a piece of crucial information. Basically the dialogue and action are constantly broken by unimportant digressions and details.
  • And, why on earth did Trussoni have to stick insta-love in all this? What makes it even worse is Verlaine's reaction in the end, instantly forgetting this 'love'.
  • Repetition: of the facts, descriptions of the surroundings, etc., for example, Trussoni keeps giving lengthy descriptions of how cold it is – I know it's winter, no need to remind me over and over again. Once or twice it is beautiful, but then it gets irksome.
  • Also, I think the book could benefit from another round of editing: there are a lot of errors(what the heck is 'the creature comfort'?) and confusing scenes (a person who has just stood up and walked to the door magically jumps from the seat again.

Generally, I think Trussoni put in a lot of effort to make her style elegant and sophisticated but failed at the basics a bit too often. I could go on, but it's probably best to stop and not get into too much details and spoilers.

All in all, Angelology is an interesting book, but it has too many weaknesses for me to thoroughly enjoy it, although I'm a huge fan of mythology and supernatural. I was slightly appeased by the ending, however, I don't think I will read the following books in the trilogy. I am curious about how Evangeline's life goes on, but I am not up to more of the same style, at least not at present. Perhaps I am just too demanding and critical right now, as my reading is still in a rut.

3 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you are a mythology enthusiast and a traditional Bible-based view on angels intrigues you, Angelology might be a good read for you, despite its shortcomings.

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