We’re back on the Trans-Siberian Railway with Verlaine, and you know what that means—another link to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song!
Anyhow, Verlaine went to the bathroom and checks himself out in the mirror, seeing how he’s got a bruise on his head and how he’s so injured that he barely feels like moving. He leaves the bathroom to go back to his compartment and picks up a newspaper in Russian despite not being able to read Russian. Because he likes being confused. No really.
That he could puzzle over the angular symbols all morning and they would signify nothing at all was strangely pleasing to him.
If this was an opinion shared by the author, it’d explain so much about this book.
But then someone passes by him, and because Verlaine is a protagonist he recognizes that they’re a Nephilim!
He recognized the static in the air, the sense of abeyance as everything froze and then broke apart. Looking more closely, he saw that the man’s skin oozed a slick of plasma, that the structure of the shoulders and back corresponded to Nephil wings, that the distinctive scent of the Nephilim followed him. He recognized the velvet suit and the elegance of his comportment: One of the twins from St. Petersburg was on the train.
Er… static? Oozing plasma? A distinctive scent? I don’t recall any of these being traits described as being common of Nephilim. Furthermore, I kind of feel as if the Grigoris are the type who’d wear expensive perfumes or something, and that would mask their natural scent. But there’s a bigger issue here.
The twins have a very distinctive look.
We’re told that the male members of the Grigori family have a very obvious, easily-recognizable look—blonde, pale, and incredibly attractive. We’re not given many details about the twins other than that, but we’re repeatedly told they look different from normal people at a glance, if only because they’re so incredibly good looking. Now we’ve never seen Verlaine show any attraction towards men, but still, if he passed an incredibly attractive man that he’s seen before you’d think he’d recognize him on sight, not how they smell or the shoulder structure.
And it’s not as if this guy has a disguise or anything. No; Verlaine should, by all logic, be able to identify this bastard at a distance just by glancing at him. And yet we’re supposed to be awed by how brilliant he is by deducing the passing man is one of the Grigori twins, someone who’d he actually fought with shortly before being knocked out and waking up on this train.
Verlaine, instead of pulling a gun and headshotting this son of a bitch, follows him to the back of the train to a final secret car. The guy guarding the door of this last car is human, Verlaine makes sure to note, but that doesn’t make sense—we’ve always seen the Grigori using Anakim as guards. The no discernible reason a human bouncer would be hired.
And it’s a party car. There’s loud music, scantily-clad waitresses, and booze. And then out of nowhere Sneja Grigori, the twins’ aunt, is there.
I’m serious. Verlaine is talking about the environment, then wondering if anyone would report it or even know if he got murderized right now, and then BAM, we get this:
Although Verlaine had never seen Sneja Grigori before, he knew at once that this was the matriarch of the Grigori family. She lay on a leather couch, her body stretched from one end to the other. Two Anakim angels hovered over her, one feeding her pieces of baklava and the other holding a tray with a flute of champagne. Sneja was so enormous that Verlaine wondered how she had walked onto the train, and how she would, when the train reached its destination, descend. She wore what looked like a silk curtain wrapped around her body, and her hair had been tucked into a turban.
Right here we get so many questions. First and foremost how the blood helicopter do the Grigoris have their own train car on this train?! This is the Angelologist Express, isn’t it? There are train cars with specially-designed containment cells for holding angels, and it’s heading towards their secret prison in Siberia. There’s no way there should be civilians on this ride, much less enemy agents—every single individual on this train should be accounted for and have the proper clearance to get on board.
There’s a later chapter that makes the assertion that this car, the last one on the train, just attached itself at one of their stops earlier in the journey, but… did none of the angelologists look into that? Is this really not their train? Do they really travel with angels to torture in civilian transport that anyone could get on (including their enemies)? Because this isn’t just some minions of the bad guys; this is their matriarch. This is like the Rebel Alliance opening their closet and finding Darth Vader playing Mario Kart. This should not happen to a competent organization.
And onto Sneja herself… well, first and foremost, she’s the first Nephilim actually described as a giant, so points for that? But it just seems so over-the-top in her description. I can’t take it seriously. She has guys feeding her baklava of all things, for God’s sake. What am I supposed to do with this?
Ever read Rick Riordan’s mythology books? Well if you did you’d know that there are several mythological characters presented doing mundane things. But it always comes across as incredibly silly—Dionysus playing Pac-Man at a party has him screaming that he’ll take Blinky’s soul, for instance. And I get that Angelopolis isn’t the same tone as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but looking back I guess my point is that the reason Riordan went for that tone is because there’s no way to take this kind of thing seriously.
The character who is arguably one of the Big Bads, the matriarch of the evil Grigori family, one of the purest angelic beings in the series, gigantic in stature and unrelenting in her cruelty… is sitting on a couch in a dance club train car having a guy hand her baklava to eat. And we’re not supposed to be laughing.
I’ve got nothing.
“My nephews predicted that you would be coming, although they did not have the slightest notion that you would be making the trip as my personal guest.”
Why the hell did you not predict it? He’s on the same effing train! You’re all on the same effing train! You could have had this guy grabbed at any time. Or any of the angelologists for that matter.
Verlaine is like, “Your nephews? Who are those?” And then the twins, Axicore and Armigus, pose dramatically for the camera, described “as beautiful as cherubs” because we need to beat into your face how absurdly attractive these guys are (although Verlaine still couldn’t recognize them on sight).
Sneja informs Verlaine that the twins are here to break out Eno, and they exit stage left to do so. Once that happens, Sneja deliver what is quite possibly the most baffling line in the entire book:
“Tell me what you know about my granddaughter.”
[She’s referring to Evangeline, in case you’ve forgotten who is related to whom.]
Verlaine is similarly confused, first saying he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and then pointing out that she should know where Evangeline is considering Eno, who is working for the twins, is the one that took her. But Sneja swears in German and then gives the clichéd line of “Don’t play games with me.”
I feel like if there was a Villain Cliché Bingo, this book would be a great one to use.
But right, about this Plot Point:
How would Sneja not know what happened to Evangeline?! Let’s do a quick recap of the villains’ subplot up to this point:
-Eno, hired by the Grigori twins, Sneja’s nephews, goes and kills someone she thinks is Evangeline. The finding of this body by Bruno and Verlaine is the first chapter.
-One of the twins, Axicore, calls Eno over and berates her because that angel she killed isn’t Evangeline.
-Eno finds the real Evangeline and captures her (instead of killing her like she did the decoy).
-Eno goes to the house of Armigus, the other twin, and tells him that she got Evangeline, they’re moving her to Russia, and for him (Armigus) to go tell his aunt (Sneja) what’s going on and to go meet up in Siberia. This presumably means Sneja is in the loop of the Evil Plan, if not the one running it and using the twins to carry it out. Godwin is mentioned in this exchange.
-The next we see Evangeline, she’s in Dr. Merlin Godwin’s captivity being experimented on in Siberia.
-And now Sneja is saying she has no idea where Evangeline is.
Now back to your irregularly schedule sporking:
How does Senja not know where Evangeline is? Are the twins just not telling her? Is this their plan and not hers? If so, why not? There’s nothing to indicate there’s animosity between members of the Grigori family, at least not enough that they’d betray each other for no discernible reason.
Does she think the angelologists have her? Well, why? There are other people and Nephilim/angels around that witnessed all the events so far. She could just ask any of her other assets or henchangels what happened and they’d say the twins took Evangeline. You can’t tell me the twins have all the Nephilim in the world under their thumbs. They’re not smart enough.
I keep saying it, but NONE OF THIS MAKE ANY SENSE. Was there an editor to this book? Because if there was, that person needs to be fired.
Now almost as confused as the audience, Verlaine decides the best course of action would be to talk trash to Sneja, saying that Evangeline can’t be her granddaughter, because he knew her son Percival Grigori (to Sneja’s surprise, because she didn’t know that either) and goes with this:
“I worked for your son,” Verlaine said. “I saw him dead in New York. He was broken and pathetic, like a bird with clipped wings.”
That’s true, but at least he was more interesting than anyone in this book.
Senja Grigori takes this insult to her offspring about as well as you’d expect, and tells her people to grab Verlaine. Verlaine, to his credit, pulls his gun and points it at her, but before he can do anything that would move the Plot forward, the guards knock the gun out of his hand. As we’ve established, Verlaine can’t fight worth a damn, so he’s captured. Sneja decides to be creative with his punishment, and has him tied to the outside of the train car, because “I’d like to kill him here and now, but I cannot tolerate the mess.”
Uh… why not kill him outside? He’s already wounded from his last fight, and it’d make sure that he’s dead. As it is, you’re just allowing him to escape later. Maybe I’m just itching for some actual action scenes, but it just sounds more efficient all around.
Verlaine felt ice forming in the crevices of his eyelids and knew that within the hour he would freeze to death.
Well we know that’d be anti-climatic, and this isn’t a George R.R. Martin book, so he’s probably going to be rescued in… [checks watch] the next three chapters or so? C’mon Sneja, you’ve been alive for centuries; you’d think she’d have picked up how to not be a stupid Bond villain by this point.
But this is Angelopolis after all. See you next time, in which we get to talk some more about angel eggs!