Right, so getting back to the book:
The first part, strangely enough, is titled “The First Circle: Limbo.” Now the last book was also divided, but into three parts, representing the three spheres of angels in the Celestial Choir. It didn’t make sense then, but I understood it. Here, the book’s divided into nine parts named after the nine circles of Hell because… reasons.
I guess perhaps because you aren’t tortured in Limbo? (Limbo is, according to Alighieri, where one goes if he or she was virtuous but was never baptized) I mean, I wasn’t too tortured by the book in this first part, that might fit, but I also didn’t get to hang out with Saladin and Aristotle. Bummer.
Our first chapter starts by the Eiffel Tower in 2010, and Verlaine studying the body of an angel on the ground that is dead. Now Verlaine from the last book (ten years ago) was a fresh college graduate who specialized in art history but dabbled in painting on his own. Neither of these traits is brought up at all; now he is an angel hunter and his knowledge of art history has disappeared completely. Making that small bit of character development completely pointless.
The angel (or a hybrid creature, rather, but the book calls it an angel so let’s just keep it simple) twitches on the ground a couple of times before finally dying, leaking blue blood all over the place. Now I didn’t remember, but looking back at the first book it is confirmed that Nephilim and their ilk have blue blood, which is weird and unnecessary but also kind of cool, so we won’t dock any points for it. The fact of the matter is that this should be kind of more well-known—a body that fell from the Eiffel Tower and is leaking blue blood is going to get someone’s attention. This isn’t a back alley or something. Hell, in the last book when Percival coughed up blue blood, he does it into a handkerchief and stows it away immediately not to attract attention. The angelologists should at least have a cover for this, like she was carrying a tube of blue dye when she fell or something. But instead, it’s kind of glossed over, and I have no idea if the crowd can see this body or not.
This book makes it really unclear if people in this world know about angels, is all I’m saying.
Now some stories kind of make this work. In the Hellboy comics, it’s really unclear how much the general public knows about the supernatural. People don’t freak out about seeing Hellboy, but when a monster comes along people don’t know what to do other than call the BPRD. But in this book’s setting, these creatures secretly rule the world—either we know about it or we don’t. If we knew, then there’d be a lot bigger differences between their world and ours in real life.
Anyhow, the dead body has attracted a crowd, and several people in it that “would kill him if they knew he could see them for what they were.”
There were congregations of Mara angels, the darkly beautiful prostitutes who were such a temptation to humans; Gusian angels, who could divine the past and the future; the Rahab angels, broken beings who were considered the untouchables of angelic world. He could see the distinguishing features of Anakim angels—the sharp fingernails, the wide forehead, the slightly irregular skeleton structure. He saw it all with a relentless clarity that lingered in his mind even as he turned back to the frenzy surrounding the murder.
I gotta tell you, I have no idea what half of these mean. Anakim are specifically mentioned as a servant/enforcer class of angelic beings in the last book. They’re Biblically a race of giants that are sometimes connected to the Nephilim, so I suppose that makes sense that they’re mentioned in this series.
‘Mara angels’ could be a reference to the ‘Maras’ or ‘Moras,’ spirits in Slavic mythology that appeared as beautiful women and then sucked the life out of men after visiting them in dreams. They’re tied to the Germanic idea of ‘Mares/nightmares’, mythological creatures that don’t let you sleep.
These times when Trussoni shows off her research really shine, but it gets disappointing at the times when she clearly hasn’t. We’ll get to more of those later.
On the one hand, I like that she’s throwing out these different kinds of angels. On the other, they seem way more interesting then the kinds we’re actually going to deal with. I mean, how much would the plot change if we incorporated one of those angels who could see the future? Actually, why doesn’t the plot include those guys? Or how about those outcast angels, who might have resentment towards the other classes and be persuaded to help humans fight them? No? Okay then. Guess we’ll just leave them to gawp at murder scenes in Paris.
What makes this paragraph stick out to me more is the fact that we’re constantly told that angels secretly rule the world, and these guys… don’t. I mean, in the first book the hybrid angels are all rich aristocrats and models and actors and their servants, but here, just from this crowd, these angels pretty much just look like people trying to get by. I mean sure, it’s less than ideal circumstances, but they don’t seem like a race of evil overlords or even a stuffy upper class. They just seem like… a race of people stuck under the heel of a rigid caste system. Verlaine reminds us that they’d tear him apart if they knew he could see them as angels, but that’s because he’s an angel hunter, and the angelologists have a long history of needlessly being dicks to their species. Why the hell shouldn’t they be suspicious of an angel hunter?
I just… there’s so much that can be done built on this paragraph alone, and it’s just not. There’s so many interesting ideas, and we’re going nowhere with them.
Our next paragraph reveals that not only is Verlaine an angel hunter now, but he’s also a Grimm or something.
Verlaine had discovered his ability to see the creatures ten years before. The skill was a gift—very few people could actually see angel wings without extensive training. As it turned out, Verlaine’s flawed vision—he had worn glasses since the fifth grade and could hardly see a foot in front of himself without them—allowed light into the eye in exactly the right proportion for him to see the full spectrum of angel wings. He’d been born to be an angel hunter.
Some of you may call shenanigans on this pseudo-science, and some readers might just roll with it. I mean, do we need hard science in this kind of novel? I certainly don’t think so. I think it’s an intriguing idea. So why are we discussing it? Because this isn’t how it worked in the last book.
No really. The reason nobody sees angels in public, as explained in the last book, isn’t because their wings are invisible to most muggles, it’s because they keep them folded under their clothes. Percival’s described as having an elaborate harness-type doohickey under his shirt to keep them down. It’s mentioned that angel bodies can contort weirdly to allow this without it looking like they’ve got a hump when they’re wearing clothes. There’s even some random assertion that angels don’t have to make holes in their clothes for wings because they’re both biological and spiritual beings.
[Which doesn’t really work because it’s specifically mentioned that they’ve got main blood vessels running through those wings and they bleed to death if you take them off… but whatever. Pseudo-biology or not, it’s an explanation.]
To quote Cinematic Excrement , “Continuity is not a polite suggestion!”
I get that there’s going to be a continuity errors in every series—look at the Batman: Arkham games. That series, which has such heavy continuity, there are minor continuity errors in there. But those small continuity bumps are minor details about where characters were at certain times and how they met. Here it’s a change on the setting, as if the author didn’t bother to notice how it worked in the last book and made up a new explanation.
So while Verlaine’s looking at the body, his mentor Bruno walks up and tells him it looks like the killer was an Emim, which is apparently an angel that can burn people—Verlaine says the “charred skin confirms” Bruno’s suspicion. Now Emim are another race of giants mentioned in the Bible, so… sure, we’ll roll with that one too. I guess all Biblical giants are Nephilim.
But Bruno pulls out the angel’s wallet and finds a New York driver’s license that belongs to… Evangeline Cacciatore!
[Reminder for those who did not read the last review or book: Evangeline was a protagonist of the last book who was a nun but then finds out at the end that she is the granddaughter of Percival Grigori and that she has wings.]
Now given that Verlaine didn’t tell his colleagues about what happened to Evangeline, he asks Bruno if it could be her, and Bruno’s like, “Well this can’t be her because Evangeline’s human and this body isn’t.” When realistically, his reaction should be more like, “Holy Amaranth! This dead angel has the ID of the daughter of two prominent angelologists who just disappeared off the grid after being a nun for over a decade. Something really weird’s going on and we should probably call it in.” But nope, he seems rather unfazed by it all.
It’d be like if instead of anyone in the Order of the Phoenix knowing that Harry Potter was going to the Dursley’s, Harry just disappeared completely. And then ten years after he disappeared, a passport with his name on it is found on a dark wizard. And instead of making any deal about it, the wizard cops just are like, “Well, Harry’s a kid, and this guy’s not, so this can’t be him.”
Bruno shouldn’t just be saying that it’s not Evangeline dismissively! He should be asking how the hell the driver’s license of a former nun that disappeared from New York that has ties to his secret society is being carried by a dead angel in Paris that just got murdered by an angelic assassin!
Apparently the body’s too misshapen by its wounds to tell if it’s actually Evangeline, and since they have no other way of ID’ing her Verlaine just kind of gives up. And then he reminisces about the first time he met Evangeline and fell in LUUUUUUUUURVE.
He remembered the first time he had seen Evangeline. She had been both beautiful and somber at once, looking at him with her large green eyes as if he were a thief come to steal their sacred texts. She had been suspicious of his motives and fierce in her determination to keep him out.
Um… she looked at you like you were a thief because that’s exactly what you were. A thief. Or at least a trespasser. You broke into the library of Saint Rose’s Convent to look at some letters that would have led you to the hiding place of an angelic artifact. Yeah, you didn’t know the importance of the letters, you just knew that you were hired by Percival Grigori and he was a sketchy guy who might gank you if you didn’t do what he paid you to do, but you broke into a convent. When you break into a place, especially one of religious significance, don’t act surprised if the people there treat you with suspicion. Hell, after you left the convent you admitted to her face that you stole letters from an archive of Abigail Rockefeller’s papers! She had every right and reason (even if she didn’t know at the time) to treat you like scum.
Then he made her laugh and her tough exterior crumbled. That moment between them had been burned into him, and no matter how hard he tried, he had never been able to forget Evangeline.
Just so we’re all clear, she was a nun at this point. When they first encountered one another, she was a nun. He’s more or less obsessing over someone he met who was a nun. There’s no weirdness about it, he just forgets to mention the nun bit as if it didn’t matter. But yes, she was a nun for a significant portion of her life. It doesn’t get more off-limits than that.
I get that sometimes, people who made vows of celibacy leave the religious life because they fall in love, and yes, she did decide not be a nun anymore by the end of the book when her convent burned down, but… I don’t know. It’s like the book doesn’t want to mention that she was a nun, and just plays up this angle of her being the one he can’t forget. Let’s say she wasn’t a nun. Let’s say she was married. If you were reminiscing about a woman (or man) who you had a crush on ten years ago, how is it that her (or his) marriage wouldn’t even cross your mind? Because it doesn’t here. I don’t even know if it’s brought up in the book at all; I sure don’t remember it. I don’t want to say it’s creepy that he’s constantly thinking about this woman who changed his life and he bonded with but you’d think he might feel some guilt or at least some awkwardness over having romantic feelings for her.
He hadn’t told anyone the truth about Evangeline. Indeed, no one knew that she was one of the creatures. For Verlaine, keeping Evangeline’s secret had been an unspoken vow: He knew the truth, but he would never tell a soul. It was, he realized now, the only way to remain faithful to the woman he loved.
…okay, it’s kind of creepy now.
Look, he knew Evangeline for a night. And in that time, she never explicitly told him that she liked him back. She did like him back, and I know that because I read her point of view, but she never directly told him that.
Verlaine is telling himself that after ten years, he is still in love with a woman who never explicitly said she felt the same way about him and that he never spent time around for more than twenty-four hours.
Also, he’s not telling his co-workers that she’s angelic, though to be fair that makes sense because then they’d probably capture her and torture her to death. It’s kind of the angelologists’ M.O. As you’ll see.
And with that I’m out.