[Juracan working at his computer on next part of spork when Masked Man appears from nowhere.]
MM: Oh hai, Juracan. Whatcha doing?
Juracan: [pulls gun from desk, cocks and points at Masked Man] What are you doing here?
MM: Checking on your progress.
Juracan: My progress is that I’m still locked in an apartment. I have stores of food saved up for a zombie apocalypse scenario—
MM: I’m not even going go ask.
Juracan: —and I get my entertainment from shooting at passersby with my crossbow—
MM: Also somewhat disconcerting…
Juracan: —but other than that I’m just waiting for you to pop up so I can make you free me from this hell.
MM: How do you plan to do that?
Juracan: Like this! [fires shots into both MM’s kneecaps]
MM: [does not give a shit] Anything else?
Juracan: …I was kind of hoping you’d be crippled in pain or something.
MM: Nope, just fine.
Juracan: [fires multiple shots into MM’s torso]
MM: Are you done yet?
Juracan: _ Almost. _[headshot, then clicking from the gun] Okay, yeah I’m out of bullets.
MM: [reaches out, and gun flies into his hand; he fires at the ceiling]
Juracan: How’d you do that?
MM: I’m gifted. [points gun at Juracan] You’re going to finish that spork, or you’re never going to leave this place.
Juracan: Never leave it alive, or at all?
MM: At all.
Juracan: Why is this so important anyhow?
MM: Let’s just say… it’s for educational purposes.
Juracan: That’s really not making me feel any better.
MM: Good. So get back to it.
Juracan: Next time you show up, I’ll be ready.
MM: If you say so. _ Good luck. _[disappears]
And so we begin part two of Angelopolis, dramatically titled “The Second Circle: LUST.” Why? I dunno. I suppose there’s some mention of lust in this part, but there was in the last part too, so it’s not a theme of this section as far as I can tell. And it’s not like this book needs to be split into nine sections anyhow. There are just over three hundred pages in my edition. We’re not even fifty pages into the book before it’s broken into part two.
There’s no reason to do this, is all I’m saying.
So where do we begin? The last chapter had a bit of a cliffhanger, after all. Do we see where Evangeline’s been taken? Do we get Eno again? Is Verlaine or Bruno travelling on the road to Russia?
If Vera Varvara were permitted…
Or we could introduce a completely new character who has never been mentioned or hinted at before this point. Once again, not bad, but after everything I’m not inclined to be too generous.
Also, “Vera Varvara?” I’m sorry, I didn’t know that we passed the naming part of the writing process to J.K. Rowling. Look, I’ve always looked at alliterative names suspiciously, but look at it guys: it has three v sounds. It’s one of those names that just sounds made up. And I don’t know if “Varvara” is actually a last name. According to Behind the Surname= it isn’t.
So what is Vera Varvara up to in…
[checks setting at the top of the chapter]
…the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg?
If Vera Varvara were permitted to do as she wished, she would leave her office, with its chipping white plaster and disorderly papers, and walk through the vast Baroque hallways of the Winter Palace. She would make her way through the ancient corridors, with their gilded mirrors and cut-crystal chandeliers, as free as a child in a palace built of rock candy.
As you can see, Cassandra Clare isn’t the only one who can do odd similes.
That’s not a bad way to introduce a character, I guess. Right away, we know where she works, and that she’s into history and architecture. Simple enough. Not great, but not bad either.
So what’s it like for an angelologist in Russia?
There were angelic creatures below; she could feel them lingering, their presence like a high frequency vibrating her ear. She ignored them and let the chill night wind sweep over her.
Why aren’t the angelic creatures swarming into the Winter Palace? To take all the valuable Romanov stuff in there that she’s studying? If the Nephilim were so obsessed with physical wealth and beauty, and as we soon learn were tied to the Russian royal family, why aren’t they swarming the place? Or hiring thieves to go in and clean it out? Is the entire staff angelologists? How has no one infiltrated the place? Is it warded or something?
The explanation is, of course, that there is none and you’re supposed to roll with it.
And remember how I said that the character introduction wasn’t that bad? Yeah, here’s a half-page of character traits instead of organic character development.
Vera was neither tall nor short, thin nor fat, beautiful nor plain.
I’m going to stop you right there before we go on because that’s an awful sentence. You do know that the opposite of beautiful isn’t plain? It’s ugly. So if she’s between plain and beautiful, she’s somewhat attractive. If she’s neither, then she’s ugly (or at least unattractive, but since this book has a preoccupation with physical beauty…). Please specify.
In fact, she considered herself to be a perfect example of physical mediocrity, and this knowledge empowered her to live entirely in her mind, to push herself intellectually, to forget the frivolous lives led by so many women she knew—lives filled with shopping and husbands and children—and to excel in her work.
I… think you have self-esteem issues. “I can’t be beautiful and no one will love me? I will get my revenge by being smarter than all of them!”
This is clearly filtered through Vera’s point of view, but it’s so bitter and weird that I don’t know what to make of it. “Oh, well you’re married? That’s because you didn’t have what it takes to be an intellectual.” And I get that bitterness, really; I kind of drilled into my own head during middle school that people who date in middle and high school were providing themselves meaningless distractions. But looking back, that’s kind of a stupid way to look at things. Some people fall in love and find the One and all that jazz. Some people don’t. No need to be all like…
… Bambi was my favorite movie at a stage in my childhood. I regret nothing.
An old boyfriend had once complained that her mind was like a metal trap—it hung open, inviting one to engage, and then clamped down hard on whoever dared to come inside. She had never had a relationship with a man for more than a month or two, and even that duration of time she found to be cloying.
My book has notes that I wrote in margins and between paragraphs. It helps me with the sporking, you see. And under this paragraph, I have in capital letters: “SHOW DON’T TELL.”
Dear God, Trussoni, can you not just have a conversation written where two people show their traits by what they say and how they say it? You just have to blandly tell us what a character’s like and recount an anecdote in the most boring way possible. Not even a flashback or a memory; just telling us everything.
Imagine if other books were written like this!
Artemis Fowl was a brilliant and ruthless protégé, but was still totally a momma’s boy at heart. And when he wasn’t worrying about his sick mother, he was dealing with his daddy issues.
There was clearly an immediate attraction between Percy and Annabeth, despite their differences and godly parents’ rivalry.
Harry hated Snape so much, that he and his classmates refused to use his ‘professor’ title.
You see? It’s God-awful. All of those things are traits that are shown through dialogue, through character interactions, and how these characters acted around each other. By just telling us how they react without giving any examples, why do we care?
People care about people. We don’t know Vera as a person yet, so all this crap is just crap we don’t care about. I’d be a lot more lenient if this book had awesome action sequences, or funny dialogue, or just a really intriguing story. The last book was kind of like that. This? Heck no.
Vera’s position as a junior researcher revolved around the study of the Russian Nephilim, their infiltration into the royal family and the aristocracy, their artifacts, their genealogies, and their fates during the revolution of 1917…. The effects of the Nephilim on earth could be found underneath the social, economic, and political structures humans experienced each day. She knew that the creatures had infected the essence of her country once and, with the angelic population rising, would do so again.
No, I honestly want you to tell me how the Nephilim influence my everyday life. Because I can’t think of a way. We haven’t seen them involve themselves that much into politics. The last book implied that there were some movie stars and models who were Nephilim, and that a bunch of them are super rich but… they’re not really that shadowy group of people who secretly control the world. They’re more like those eccentric rich people who don’t do anything all day. They’re not the Lex Luthors of the world; they’re just a more useless version of the Kardashians.
There’s this huge paragraph of all the historical stuff they’ve got in the Hermitage Museum, and the stuff that’s not on display. I’m telling you, most of it is useless description. I’m sure art history students will be impressed, but for the rest of us, it’s kind of unnecessary. But then I found this passage:
For example, there was an entire storage room filled with canvases depicting angels and swans and young women, presumably virgins.
…what the hell?
There’s no explanation as to why Vera assumes the women in the portraits are virgins, there’s just this presumption. Because when you see young women next to swans and angels, you automatically think virgins? I don’t know! Trussoni’s not giving me anything to work with! Why someone’s past sex life is related to angels and swans? Because Vera says so, that’s why.
For some reason, the taste of the collector mattered to her.
Yes, for some reason, it mattered. For some reason that Vera, an angelologist who works in a museum going through a bunch of stuff which probably has a connection to Nephilim, can’t put her finger on, she thinks it might matter why someone around the Russian royal family might have a bunch of pictures of angels.
Let me repeat: Vera the angelologist doesn’t know for sure why this group of pictures of angels that used to belong to Nephilim might be somehow significant. This is like if your history professor wondered aloud why there are portraits of past presidents in the White House.
Are all angelologists absolute shit at their jobs, or is it just the ones we see? Actually that’s not true, Celestine in the last book was pretty badass, but she’s dead now.
Among the portraits of angels and swans and presumed virgins, Vera found some detailed sketches of angels.
Each print contained a portrait of an angel unlike any she had seen before. The creatures seemed utterly unique, with details that set them apart, and it was clear that they were very pure beings, perhaps archangels.
Let’s talk about Nazis.
No really. Because I can’t think of anyone else who is that obsessed with blood purity. Except maybe Death Eaters. Let’s not kid ourselves—this constant reminding of how ‘purer’ angels are better than the dirty, lower hybrids is incredibly reminiscent of rhetoric of blood purity. In Trussoni’s world, the archangels aren’t some of the most important angels in Heaven because that’s the job God made them to do—it’s because they and their offspring are ‘purer’ than other angels and their offspring.
You could try to pass it off as the higher-ranked Nephilim pushing this caste system on their less-fortunate relatives, but the problem is that even the angelologists buy into it. The angels that are Grigoris or descended from archangels are just so much more attractive and powerful and just all around better than all the others because of their heritage.
This isn’t how it works in the real world. Your value is not dependant on who your parents or their distant ancestors were.
This incessant talk of purity makes me sick.
Right, so what I’m going to bitch about next?
Checking the signature, she realized that the prints were the work of Albrecht Dürer, a fifteenth-century artist, mathematician and angelologist whom Vera deeply admired. His Apocalypse series was taught extensively in angelological courses as a vision of what would happen if the Watchers were ever released from their subterranean prison.
In terms of famous historical people who were into the occult and possibly angelology, Dürer doesn’t really hit the top of the list. It’s not a bad choice, but it’s not amazing.
On the subject of the Apocalypse series:
Okay, for reference the entire Apocalypse series by Dürer can be found here. Now up to this point, the angels we’ve seen in the series have very stereotypical traits—they are humanoid with wings, occasionally with some (rather feeble) powers like killing people by touching them or predicting the future. The series of images in question depict scenes from the Book of Revelation, including the seven-headed dragon, the Four Horsemen, and the Whore of Babylon. That is, creatures and beings who, as far as we know, have no actual basis in Trussoni’s fictional universe. Unless there’s a group of angel shapeshifters somewhere I skipped over, there’s nothing in these books that could bring similar images about.
And I know I’m already bloating this article as it is, but I’ve got to ask: where does Hell fit into all of this?
As I understood the first book, there were three categories of full-blooded angels: those in Heaven (who serve God), those in Hell (who rebelled against God in the War in Heaven), and the Watchers (who mated with humans and were imprisoned in a cave on Earth). Now it’s not uncommon to combine the story of the Watchers with that of the rebel angels in Hell, but given that none of the Watchers in these books are given the names ‘Satan,’ or ‘Lucifer’, I kind of assumed that it referred to a different being altogether. And given that the prison of the Watchers has actually been discovered as a place on Earth, I figured that settled the matter: the Watchers are in one place on Earth, Satan and his fallen angels are in another in Hell.
But according to the angelologists, the release of the Watchers would start a very literal version of the Biblical apocalypse. So… are they and their children the demons of Christian lore? If so, how come no one just comes out and says so? The way it is, I’m just confused.
In any case, Vera talks about going through some pictures of a dead Watcher that were taken during the huge flashback section of the last book, by somewhat competent angelologists. Of course, it’s a stupid description.
The long limbs, the hairless chest, the ringlets of hair falling over is shoulders, the full lips—the creature seemed vital and healthy, as if it had closed its eyes for only a moment.
You see? Angels are more beautiful than you, even when they’re dead. Because they don’t decompose. Or something.
Angels were not sexless beings but physical creatures whose bodies were but a more perfect expression of the human body.
That’s right? You see that quote above of the description of the dead angel? It’s “a more perfect expression of the human body.” So the perfect body, the expression of absolute beauty is, according to Trussoni, a body that: has no hair on its chest, is tall and has long limbs, full lips and curly hair. And also blond haired and blue eyes. And male.
You see why this book makes me uncomfortable?
The angel had been dead for thousands of years.
Also, no. I know this because I read your last book, which contains a journal entry by the man who killed it. It’s an old corpse, but not older than the birth of Christ, because the man who killed it was a Christian clergyman. So… not ‘thousands’, as it’s only been dead for a thousand and then some.
Okay, I’m almost done, I swear.
Only an artist as masterful as Dürer could make a viewer viscerally understand how a Watcher could, like Zeus, seduce a virgin. Gazing at the prints, Vera imagined the encounter: In a swirl of wind, an angel appears before a young woman. He opens his wings, blinding her with his brilliance. She blinks, tries to understand who or what has come to her, but is too afraid to speak. The angel tries to comfort her, wrapping the terrified woman in his wings. There is a moment of terror and empathy and attraction. Vera wanted to feel it: the tangle of feathers and flesh, the heat of the embrace, the conflating of pain and pleasure and fear and desire.
I’m… by no means an expert of seduction. So feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. But this… doesn’t sound like seduction as much as rape. Vera’s imagining of events goes like this:
-a woman is alone
-angel comes in and shows off his body
-woman doesn’t know what to do and is understandably freaked
-angel wraps the woman in wings and has sex with her
Nowhere is there a word about consent, or even a nod of approval. There’s just the understanding that because the angel is attractive, of course the woman wants to have sex with him. It is as if the angel in this scenario feels entitled to the woman because of his hotness.
I suppose it could also be some kind of anonymous ancient world one night stand, but it’s… I don’t know. Telling us that two characters have chemistry, even ones in another character’s imagined scenario, without showing any attraction between them sketches me out. You know when you watch a really crappy movie where two people just have sex despite their not being any connection between them? This imagining reads like that—it doesn’t make sense.
It’s as if Vera, as distant as she is from normal people, doesn’t seem to get how human interaction works. Let me put it this way: if an insanely hot person (of whatever preferred gender) just appeared in your room naked, and then embraced you at your first sign of apprehension instead of talking or doing anything remotely rational, would you consider that a memorable seduction? Or would you just be incredibly uncomfortable with a stranger you don’t know insisting you have sex with him/her?