Oh yay. Angelologists. Seriously, this is the worst covert society in any fiction ever. Well, where are they now?
Angelology Research Center, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
They have a research center in the Hermitage Museum? This makes me wonder things, like, “Do they have research centers in other major museums?” I’d like to think so, but let’s be real, there’s no way there that organized.
At that hour, with the sun rising at the edge of the city and the sky oozing a diaphanous mist, the oak tables were completely empty of scholars.
…I really, really want to spend a while bitching about that opening sentence, but after seeing Rorschach take on that dragon book by Eng, I feel like I’m being spoiled.
But yeah, it’s an awful opening sentence for a new setting. If it was followed up by a description of where the hell we were, I would just get over it. But it’s not. So I, knowing nothing about the Hermitage Museum and not being told any of it by Trussoni, have no idea where we are or what the room looks like.
Verlaine and Bruno have gone to the museum, hoping someone in there will be able to help them figure out the McGuffin—I mean, egg that Evangeline gave Verlaine. They are currently being approached by Vera Varvara in what should be her introduction. Because the last chapter she was in didn’t do anything. It just showed us a character, blandly described her and had her looking at angel sketches while imagining one seducing someone.
Here, Vera’s actually doing something that moves the plot forward. This moment could easily be the first time the reader encounters her and there wouldn’t be much of a problem.
Also, Vera’s own comments about how plain-looking she is? Apparently that’s nonsense, because Verlaine clearly checks her out and notes that she “was as beautiful and brutally elegant as he remembered.”
Also, they had a one night stand.
…he wasn’t sure how she felt about seeing him again. They’d met the year before at a conference in Paris, and spent the night together after having drinks at a bar in the fourteenth arrondissement, near the academy. The next morning they agreed that it had been a mistake, that they would simply pretend that the night hadn’t happened. They hadn’t spoken much since then. While he’d suspected that one day her professional savvy would be useful, he’d never imagined that he would be coming to Vera about Evangeline.
First: It’d take a few lines, tops, to imply they slept together through dialogue.
Second: wow, way to be professional. Look, I’m not going to criticize the fact that they slept together, but the next day they’re immediately like, “Yeah, let’s not talk about this ever again and pretend it never happened.” What is this, a CW show? C’mon guys, you’re the secret society defending humanity from the forces of evil celestial beings, not the Gossip Girls. It’s yet another thing that makes me take these people less seriously. If you’re too busy worrying about shenanigans that would be more fitting in a high school drama, why should any of us care about the plot?
But you know what Verlaine’s doing during this? He’s trying to remember what it was like to have sex with Vera.
…to his surprise he could not recall what it had been like to be with her in bed, what her body had felt like next to his. He could summon forth only the sensation of holding Evangeline…
Yeah. He can’t remember having sex with her, only holding and imagining having sex with a former nun. Isn’t that wonderful?
Vera moved her eyes over Verlaine until he felt his stomach turn. Details of their night together were beginning to come back to him.
Verlaine liked the way Vera stood when she spoke, her posture that of a ballet dancer midstep, one arm moving with her voice, as if her ideas had been choreographed to match the rhythm of her body.
And you know what? I don’t know why this is brought up. Maybe Vera’s supposed to be an alternate love interest for Verlaine other than Evangeline. It’s really not clear, but it’s certainly possible given how this book ends. But I think we’ll get to that later.
So they hand Vera the egg and she immediately recognizes it. Turns out it’s a Fabergé Egg!
Well actually, I could have told you that. I actually may have already done so.
Bruno, however, is not impressed because he’s an idiot.
Bruno rolled his eyes. “It’s just a piece of tsarist bling, a nicely made bauble. Nothing deeper than that.
Bruno, you work for a secret society, and an operative of yours was handed this artifact and told that it was important. It might as well have a neon sign saying “THIS IS PLOT IMPORTANT.” I knew you were inept, but man, even I did not grasp the depths of your idiocy Bruno. You don’t deserve to run a middle school, much less the Paris branch of a secret society.
Now Vera goes on quite a while about the history of the Fabergé Eggs, but I looked up the history myself to make sure there weren’t any errors. Not only was it not wrong, but it read pretty closely to the description of the history on Wikipedia. If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend checking out the actual website on it. It’s a lot more interesting than anything I could tell you from summarizing this book.
This egg in particular is one of the lost ones—in particular, the Cherub and Chariot Egg (mind you, Wikipedia says there are seven lost eggs, while Vera claims there are eight, but whatever). Vera is naturally very excited to have found it.
Bruno gave the egg a dismissive look. “It’s not really missing if we have it,” he noted.
I’m going to write what I wrote in the margins of my copy of the book on this page: OMG YOU ARE SO STUPID
It’s like he’s trying so desperately to be the lovable smartass of the group, except he sucks at it! Just because you have something, that doesn’t mean it’s known to the general public. What part of “secret society” don’t you get, you pompous, moronic, self-righteous chuck-muffin?!
[several deep breaths later]
Vera finds a plate inscribed with Cyrillic letters inside the chariot in the egg, labeling it as a something catalogued at the Hermitage Museum. Thing is, Fabergé Eggs weren’t catalogued into the archives like other Romanov treasures. Meaning that the label marks this one as special somehow. Someone went and stuck the archive number on it, hoping to lead whoever had the egg to an item of importance.
So Vera leads them to the archives to go and find out. There’s a little over a page detailing them walking up to the archive and getting through security, but it’s not that interesting, truth be told. There’s a fingerprint scanner and a guard who scans a chip in Vera’s arm to verify her clearance, that’s pretty much it. I don’t know if the guard is an angelologist, or if he just works at the museum, or if he’s a rent-a-cop. The text doesn’t inform us.
There is, however, a couple of items that are more interesting than the plot or characters of this novel.
The ceilings glittered with chandeliers, and glass cases lined the walls, holding objects donated by past angelologists: a treatise on the seraphim by Duns Scotus;
Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) was a British theologian and philosopher in the Middle Ages, though he’s really not known for doing anything much regarding angels. He did however do a study which discussed how it was possible for there to be different kinds of angels given that angels don’t have physical bodies, which is an idea that doesn’t quite work in this book given that the angels in it totally are physical beings.
Now why this item’s in Russia, I don’t know. Like I said, for all I know, this could be the only angelologist archive/museum, but it’d be strange considering that it’s in a city that’s supposed to be enemy territory. It’d be like if SHIELD kept all their records in a library surrounded by HYDRA bases.
What else have we got?
…a scrying stone that had belonged to John Dee;
Once again, not sure why it’s in Russia, but sure. John Dee, as you’ve probably heard, was an English occultist. I’ll save more information on him for later, because I’ll rant about it. But one thing to note is that Dee didn’t do his scrying alone—he also received help from a guy called Edward Kelly, who has less prominence in occult circles despite being just as important, and the guy who did the actual “scrying.”
…a gold model of the lyre of Orpheus;
Which was the McGuffin in the last book was proven to be the harp of Saint Gabriel, or something. Point is, it was destroyed and no longer matters.
…a clipping of hair taken from the dead angel in the Devil’s Throat.
There’s a dead angel in this cave called the Devil’s Throat? Did I mention that?
Basically, the Devil’s Throat is this deep pit in the ground where all of the Watchers (the angels who procreated with human women to make the Nephilim thousands of years ago) are locked up. It’s pretty remote and hard to get to, but there’s been two known expeditions there. The first was by a clergyman over a thousand years ago, and he freed an angel who turned out to be evil, so he killed it. Its body remained on the cavern floor to be found in the twentieth century, apparently not rotting or anything because it’s just so beautiful (and also convenience).
So yeah, that dead angel has hair here. Sure, why not?
The archivist hands Vera an envelope, and they open it, revealing a reel of 8mm film, that was dropped off in the year 1984. The year of George Orwell’s book!
…okay, that was a joke. Orwell has nothing to do with this book. But Bruno tells Verlaine (and the audience) that it’s also the year Evangeline’s mother was murdered.