That’s right, it’s a fight!
Verlaine steps out of the house only to get punched right in the face. I’m kind of confused, because if it were me I would have punched Bruno first, but whatever. I’ll take what I can get. Verlaine puts together that the car they saw following them must have contained the assailants, and had been waiting for the angelologists for when they left the house. But despite the assertion that the attack “had been planned and executed perfectly,” I have a few questions, which can basically be summed up with this question: Vera????
Vera left the building at the end of the last chapter and went across the street with no problem. They didn’t see anyone follow her. She just leaves this entire situation scot-free. So if this really was the perfect attack plan, why did the bad guys just let her go? Are they uncomfortable hitting girls? And the way the scene is described makes it sounds like the baddies have been standing right outside the door, waiting for this moment. Did Vera not notice them on her way out?
Anyhow, Verlaine wipes the blood out of his eyes while knocked down on the street, and looks at his attackers: two Nephilim (who are totally Axicore and Armigus Grigori, but Verlaine doesn’t know that yet). He sees that they’re identical twins in every way “from their lush blond curls to their Italian leather shoes.”
Do those like the kind of shoes you bring to a fight? The rest of the paragraph also implies they’re dressed in suits right now, which doesn’t make any sense. I don’t care how handsome or stylish you are, you don’t wear suits if you’re planning on mugging someone in the street. It’s not like they’re Kingsmen who have bulletproof suits, they’re just wearing suits because they’re posh villains and that’s what Trussoni imagines they dress like. Instead of real life, where the bullies that wear that kind of thing are basically just preppy rich kids in private schools.
What’s weirder about this scene is that Verlaine has no idea who these guys are. It takes him a minute to figure out that they’re Grigoris, because all Grigoris look the same or something, but it shouldn’t take him that long. Axicore says in his first chapter that he looks just like Percival Grigori did in his prime; Verlaine was watching a film with Percival in it earlier today. If he’s such a brilliant badass, as Trussoni keeps trying to tell us, you’d think he’d realize the connection faster.
Also, have the twins just been existing and the angelologists never knew about them? ‘Cause they’re not exactly subtle. They buy the flashiest, most expensive clothing they can, almost refuse to get out of the car to mingle, and one of them apparently kidnaps people to bring into his torture room. I understand if you don’t know as much about them as, say, Eno, who is an active field agent for the Nephilim, but you should have some intelligence on them.
Verlaine attempts to kick the nearest twin in the solar plexus, but it has no effect. Also, why would he kick rather than punch? For a kick in that target, you’d have to telegraph the attack; with a quick punch he would have made it more sudden. Granted, that probably wouldn’t have worked either. Anyhow, while kicking his opponent, Verlaine feels his coat to make sure he hadn’t dropped the Faberge Egg.
I mean that. It doesn’t say what happens between him kicking the Nephil and feeling his jacket pocket. Don’t believe me? See here:
He felt his show connect, but it had no effect. His target—it must be a Grigori, he realized; there was no other family that looked quite like them—simply smiled, as if Verlaine were doing nothing more threatening than an insect. Bruno fought, taking on the second Nephil, but it pinned him to the ground. Verlaine patted his jacket, feeling for the egg. For the moment, it was safe.
Verlaine kicks, it has no effect, and Bruno gets wrestled to the ground, and then Verlaine pats his pocket. There’s no gap for what Verlaine’s doing. Did he push the Nephil back with his kick at least? Did he lower his leg afterward? It doesn’t say. So for all I know, Verlaine is standing there, with his leg out and his foot planted on his opponent’s torso, and is checking his pocket. And the Grigori is kind enough to stop and wait. How nice.
Now if you check your pocket while the villains are looking, they’re going to notice that maybe that’s where you’re hiding the McGuffin. So Eno walks “from the shadows” , kicks him in the stomach, shoves him to the ground, and takes the Fabergé Egg and his gun. I still don’t know if Verlaine lowered his leg. Having what they want, Eno runs like hell and the twins climb back into the car and drive off.
Verlaine suggest they split up to catch them, and that he will go after Eno. Bruno asks if he thinks he’s up to it, and Verlaine is all like, “We’ll soon find out.” Which doesn’t sound like a satisfactory answer when it comes to hunting centuries-old angelic assassins.
Bruno had warned him that taking her on alone was suicide. Yet she was the kind of creature every angelologist dreamed of hunting. She would either be the biggest catch of his life or she would kill him.
So first off, congrats on objectifying a woman to being a literal trophy to be mounted on your freaking wall.
Second: why are you splitting up? She stole the egg and ran; she has the McGuffin! There is no value whatsoever in going after the other two guys. Tactically, you should take down the only target of importance right now: that’s Eno. Eno’s the one who has the egg, Eno is the one that has the track record of being dangerous, Eno’s the one who knows where Evangeline is. You want her right now. The other two were just there because… wait, what were they doing there? If I were an evil genius, I’d send some thugs. That’s what they’re for. You guys are you convinced you’re royalty: delegate, people!
Also, why is Eno running? She can fly. There’s a lengthy couple of pages where the book tells about Verlaine following Eno through the streets and stores, but if she just flew she could get way ahead of him and be harder to trace. Her first chapter says she doesn’t care who sees her wings, so why isn’t she doing that?
Verlaine is thinking to himself about how he should capture Eno like he’s caught so many angels before, but I don’t get that either. If you’ve split up, then Eno coming in alive shouldn’t be that important. Your objectives are getting the McGuffin and finding out where Evangeline is. Yeah, Eno has both, but if you’ve already split up, it’s likely the twins know where Evangeline is as well. Bruno could wrestle it out of them—whether Eno’s alive too isn’t as important. At the very least you can wound her. I suppose then you couldn’t torture and vivisect her as much as you want, and I know how big that is with angelologists.1 But prioritize, Verlaine! Getting a prize shouldn’t be as important as getting the egg back.
Of course, a scene with Eno is never complete if there’s not a man drooling over her. And that man, for this scene, is Verlaine.
….so close that he could smell her thick scene—a musky smell that marked her kind.
Her pale skin glowed; her features were sharp, aquiline. When she looked over her shoulder, he saw that her eyes were amber, more golden than anything in the natural world.
…the characteristics that had come to be the hallmark of angelic beauty. It was no mystery why angel hunters kept chasing her. Eno was ravishing.
Eno was one of the most frightening and seductive creatures he’d ever seen.
If this were the first time the reader had seen Eno, I’d be more forgiving. But every scene Eno’s been in the reader has had it beaten over his or her head just how stunningly hot she is, so for us to reinforce it here is just frustrating.
Also, why does her beauty mean she’s the one angel hunters naturally go after? Wouldn’t it make more sense that they go after her because she’s dangerous? We know that’s not the case, given that Eno’s chapters reveal that angelologists tend to try to rape her after capturing her, but… oh, who am I kidding, trying to apply logic to this nonsense?
So when he corners Eno, Verlaine has his angel-taser thing and some kind of collar that they use on angels and tries to pin her to the ground and stick her with it. She easily breaks his hold and pushes him off, opening her wings and taking flight, like she should have done in the first place.
Now Verlaine has to think quickly about a way to catch her. Now if it was me, I’d immediately pull the gun and open fire, try to at least cripple her wings and bring her to the ground. Maybe not the smartest move, given that you’re out in the open and it might bring too much unwanted attention, but it’s the first thing to come to my mind. And Eno with her wings out is a big target until she gets enough altitude. After all, earlier in the chapter we’re told that her wings “would span the width of the street.” If Verlaine is such the badass that Trussoni wants us to believe, then he could easily make that shot.
Instead, Verlaine hot wires a motorcycle “in a matter of seconds” to pursue. The problem is that all Eno has to do is fly high enough that she’s not easily visible from the ground; hell, if she just dropped from the sky and hid somewhere, she could lose him. But that’s how normal people might think, and that doesn’t happen in this book.
As he’s driving, Verlaine sees that Bruno is following the twins’ car… in the backseat of a taxi. Verlaine sees that Eno is acting as an aerial guard to the twins, and if he attacks the twins, Eno might come down and help.
If Eno had any brains at all, she’d bail. She has their McGuffin, she just needs to put it in a safe place. There’s no reason for her to act as an aerial guard; no one’s going to attack from above. If anything, Eno should take out Verlaine while he’s busy driving his motorcycle. Does Eno have no self-preservation instincts at all??
But no, that would be too interesting. Instead, Verlaine just teams up with Bruno, just as reinforcements arrive and they surround and stop the twins’ sedan. Who are these reinforcements? Why Russian angelologists, of course! And what are they like? Well, they’re all bikers.
He’d never met their colleagues in Russia, but he’d heard about them often, mostly in jokes about their use of heavy gear. They wore black gloves with steel knuckles embedded in the leather and black steel helmets with angel wings painted in silver on the sides.
A) This is ridiculous. Why would the Russian angelologists be bikers? Why would motorcycles be suited to chasing creatures that fly? I guess it’s better than being on foot, but really? I don’t see it as being especially practical. But more importantly, my second point:
B) This is AWESOME!
Seriously, a gang of biker angel hunters? That’s the coolest thing Trussoni’s ever come up with! I mean yeah, it’s a bit weird, but it’s creative, it’s new, and it’s a story that almost writes itself. Imagine: a gang of bikers hunting evil angels across Russia. C’mon, why weren’t these guys the main characters? Yes, it’s impractical, yes it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense and it comes right the freaking fudge out of nowhere, but so what? It’s fun, damnit, and I haven’t had any fun with this book until now.
Sadly, the rest of the story is not about them, but I have that wonderful mental image in my mind, so I think I can make it through the rest of the novel.
An angel hops out of the twins’ sedan, but it’s not one of the twins; it’s a Raiphim! Aw crud! They’re screwed!
Wait, what the fudge is a Raiphim?
It was one of the Raiphim, an angelic order indigenous to Russia. From the lexicon of angels Verlaine owned, he knew that the Raiphim were phoenixlike monsters who rose again and again from the dead. They were known as “the dead ones” for their pale pink eyes and their ability to return to their bodies after death. He had never seen one up close. He found them ghoulish, their pallor that of bloodless flesh.
I’m first going to say that ‘Raiphim’ is sort of a Biblical term (it’s not used in regards to angels or giants, but hey, whatever). It’s used in Isaiah 26:14, for context. So good for you Trussoni, using an actual Biblical term. You did your homework. So there’s that. Doesn’t excuse the fact that ‘phoenixlike’ should be two words with a hyphen (phoenix-like).
I got a question: how does Verlaine recognize this bastard on sight? We don’t have a clue what it looks like. Does it have certain kinds of wings? How is it dressed? What is the general body shape? We don’t even know if this Raiphim is male or female. All we get is the eye color and skin tone.
The Raiphim is barely described, and referred to as “the beast.” To angelologists, that’s all these mooks are; animals to be put down.
Now, reading this book, the Raiphim is one of the things that stuck with me. Emim can shock/burn people by touching, Mara can seduce men, Gusians can read the future, and pure-blooded Nephilim can lay eggs and pass for Lestat impersonators. But Raiphim? Their special power is that they can come back from the dead.
Why are they not the top tier of angels? Because that seems like a really useful power to have. If I could come back from the dead, you could bet your bottom dollar that I’d be using that power to run the town. Anyone who got in my way would just keep killing me only to see me come back and kick their ass.2 Bruno even warns the badass bikers that “They come back stronger and meaner if you kill them.”
And given that all the Nephilim are explained in the last book to have a common ancestor who escaped the Flood, how did this trait evolve in this race of angel and not in others? Because evolutionarily that seems like a really good trait! Why are the angelologists wasting time with Eno and the Grigoris? I’m against their awful methods, but if they’re going to dissect someone, dissect the guys who can come back from the dead. Imagine what you can learn from experimenting on that kind of organism, if you had no morals holding you back.
Also why are they native to Russia? Is that supposed to be a reference to Koschei the Deathless? Or Rasputin (who we mentioned earlier may or may not have been a hybrid angel)?
What I’m getting at here is that Trussoni has introduced this incredibly interesting idea into her story, but soon afterward she drops the whole thing and doesn’t bring it up again. I get that she’s already got a lot going on in the story, but then she shouldn’t have introduced these intriguing elements that overshadow the rather generic plot and boring/horrible main characters. She doesn’t describe the Raiphim (of which there are two in this scene; another pops up later) at all, instead forcibly turning our attention back to the twins, who apparently stood in the middle of the road with Eno so they could watch the fight.
Verlaine is confused, because he has no idea who the twins are, and the angelologists are supposed to know about every single Nephilim out there. I’m serious.
According to Bruno—and to the rest of the hunters who relied on profiling—if a creature didn’t exist in their database, it didn’t exist at all.
That’s right! According to that statement right there, the angelologists have individual profiles of every single Nephil on the planet. The Raiphim? The angels in the crowd from the opening scene? The crowd outside the Hermitage? According to that statement, they have profiles on each and every one. I don’t buy it, of course, because there’s no way that they are that organized or skilled. So this statement is ridiculous.
Both groups apparently stand there awkwardly (Trussoni had the fight end and doesn’t give the characters something else to do while observing the twins and Eno), and Bruno notices that Eno is looking for something. So Verlaine goes for Eno.
They fight, he tries to stun her and he collars her, but she uses her powers to electrocute him until he falls unconscious.
Remember how I said Trussoni wants us to believe that Verlaine is now a badass? This fight doesn’t show us that at all. Yeah, he does okay, maybe, better than I would have in a fight with Eno, but that’s not a high standard. It’s a problem of showing versus telling. If maybe before we had seen Verlaine fight angels successfully, we’d get to believe that he was as good as the text claims he is. But all we get is mentions of past victories. We’re almost halfway through the book, and Verlaine still hasn’t done anything remotely as impressive as the text needs us to believe he’s capable of.
Let me put this simply: Trussoni has said that Verlaine is an angel hunter who has beaten and captured dozens of angels in his relatively short career… and he loses the first fight the reader sees him in.
I’ve met badasses. And you, Verlaine, are no badass.
And so ends part three of the book. Next time, we’ll pick up with Vera and part four, pretentiously titled “The Fourth Circle: GREED” (in which there is only one really long chapter). I’m sorry to say that the rest of the book doesn’t have anything as awesome as zombie angels or biker angel hunters, but I assure you, the crazy train is about to leave the station.
1 Remember how Verlaine was all doubtful of the angelologist cause? Well that’s not a problem anymore! Goodbye, interesting subplot! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
2 It’s not really explained if there are any limitations on this power, either. Do stakes through the heart work? Does decapitation?