Aaaaaand we’re back! The next two chapters have been put together for this part of the spork for a simple reason: not enough happens in one of them for a full sporking. Yeah, I could sit here and nitpick every small detail Trussoni wrote, but in this next chapter there’s nothing especially problematic or frustrating. It’s just a sequence of things that happen and that move the story and characters forward. There’s not that much wrong with it, and there’s even a couple of bits that I like. Sort of. You’ll see what I mean.
We’re back to Verlaine, who tells us about his dreams. No, not his aspirations, his actual dreams that he has:
Before he’d found Evangeline dead beneath the Eiffel Tower, Verlaine had had a presentiment of her death. She had appeared to him in a dream, an eerie creature woven of light… Come to me, she had said as she hovered over him, a beautiful and horrible creature, her skin glowing with luminosity, her wings gathered about her shoulders like a gauzy ethereal shawl. He understood that he was dreaming, that she was a figment of his imagination, something he’d conjured up from his subconscious, a kind of demon meant to haunt him. And yet he was terrified when she leaned close and touched him… He knew with terrifying clarity that Evangeline was going to kill him.
I skipped a few bits of the paragraph, but you get the gist. Why did I bring up this passage? Well, because… in truth I kind of like it. Personally the idea that something can be beautiful while at the same time terrifying and intimidating really appeals to me. I mean, I don’t like the way this dream is framed—he begins with saying that he had a dream of Evangeline’s death then talks about Dream!Evangeline trying to kill him, which is quite the opposite; but it’s an interesting dream. I like it.
Of course, I don’t know if this dream is ever brought up again. It’s only mentioned now because Verlaine is reconciling the woman who haunted his dreams with the dead body he just saw. And it makes sense! I mean, when you’re obsessed with someone that much1 the idea that they’re just gone must be really shocking. Poor guy must be traumatized.
Verlaine is thinking about this as he walks up to his parked Ducati 250. I assumed that this was a car until I looked it up, and found it was a motorcycle. This works better, because I was wondering why the hell Verlaine spent the effort and money to purchase a car in a city like Paris, given that angelologists seem to have to pack up and go from place to place a lot and the metro in Paris isn’t that bad. I wouldn’t even know that it was a motorcycle unless I looked it up, because it’s never really mentioned in the text. I’m really not a guy who is overly concerned with motor vehicles.
But I can understand why the Ducati isn’t paid that much attention in this scene. He freaks out about a scratch in the paint, but for the most part he’s a bit more concerned with the whole fact of Evangeline being dea—
As he reached the quai, something else caught his attention. Later when Verlaine examined the moment he saw Evangeline, he would tell himself that he’d felt her presence before seeing her, that a change in the atmospheric pressure had taken place, the kind of imbalance created when a gust of cold air sweeps through a warm room. But at the time, he didn’t think. He simply turned and there she was, standing near the Seine.
SURPRISE! Evangline’s not dead!
And I suppose I could, if so inclined, critique the language of the rest of the chapter, but to be honest I’d just be nitpicking and hairsplitting. Let me just say this: it’s miles ahead of last chapter. I know exactly what Verlaine is doing and thinking—he’s following Evangline, and he’s comparing it to other angel hunts in his head. Yeah, it could be written better, but it’s not bad, it’s suits the purpose of what it’s trying to do just fine.
And there’s even some conflicted feelings!
If he caught Evangeline, he would have to capture her. He had to remember what she was and what she was capable of doing to him… He needed to move fast, to put his feelings aside.
Granted, this doesn’t sound like the guy who declared his undying love in his first chapter, but hey, I get it. He’s been trained for ten years to think that all hybrid angels are scum, and he honestly doesn’t know anything about Evangeline right now. Who knows how she changed over the years?
Like I said, there are bits of decent writing in here. It’s just that the stupid mostly comes in and beats it down. I don’t ask for perfection in writing; I just want to be invested and entertained by the story.
Verlaine pulls his electric angel-stunning gun thing, and pursues.
On to the next chapter!
We meet the one who hired Eno, a Nephil we’ve never met. So who is this new villain? Percival’s dead, his sister Otterly’s dead, so it could be their mother, Sneja. Except Eno described a male voice on the phone, so maybe it’s Percival’s father, also called Percival? There was also an evil uncle mentioned. It could be him. I mean, so far the Grigoris have been mentioned a few times, so it’s probably one of them behind it.
Axicore Grigori peered through the smoky glass of the limousine window.
Introducing a new villain’s fine. Sure. Whatever. And this isn’t a complaint, really, I was just surprised that we’re getting a new face; I figured we’d be sticking with the Grigoris we know and loathe. But I must point out: I have no idea how to say that name. AX-ih-core? Ax-ih-cor-EE?
Whatever you want to call him (and please, someone tell me what to call him or give me a nickname to work with), he’s evil. Like, cartoonishly so.
He detested Homo sapiens, and the thought of getting out into the soup of humanity made his skin crawl.
He never so much as touched the hand of a human being without feeling deeply, essentially violated. The very idea that his ancestors had been attracted to such vile beings filled him wonder.
If Evangeline was, in fact, Sneja’s flesh and blood, Axicore concluded, she was the ugliest Grigori ever born.
The guy’s so mustache-twirlingly evil. I’m sure he kicks puppies when he’s not trying to kill protagonists.
On the one hand, I think it’s interesting to have this character that has this complete disdain for humanity. But on the other…. He’s kind of mooching off of them. There are wizards in Harry Potter who don’t like muggles, but they have their own society and to all appearances don’t really interact much with them. Here? The cars he drives, the clothes he wears, the food he eats? All made by humans, as far as I can tell. This isn’t bad characterization, per se, but it’s a bit odd is all I’m saying.
And nope, this isn’t Percival’s younger and more pompous brother, but rather his cousin! Or something. The exact relation isn’t clear to me, he calls Sneja Grigori his great-aunt, but he and his twin brother are also said to be the grandsons of Arthur Grigori, who was mentioned as being an uncle on Percival’s father’s side in the last book. Arthur’s mentioned as doing something in India with the East India Company and there was a revolt by the locals or something. What was it again?
[picks up Angelology and flips to mention of Arthur Grigori]
Oblivious to the stares, Sir Arthur led the child before the prisoners of war—as the villagers were now called—lifted her into his arms, and deposited her into the barrel of a loaded cannon.
[violently shuts book]
…so that’s where Axicore gets it.
I don’t know what to tell you guys. Like I said, this isn’t bad writing, but it’s a bit over the top. The villains do awful horrible things and I’ve been given no reason for why they do it then because they think they’re better then us. And I’m tempted to say, “Well, they’re the children of angels, of course they think they’re better.” But… is that really it? Do none of them have any moments of kindness and generosity? No soft spots? Nothing?
Percival himself actually fell in love with a human—Evangeline’s grandmother. Yeah, it’s implied he was a bitter dick long before that, but part of the reason he’s become an even bigger arsehole was because the woman he loved, the woman he was willing to break his strict caste system’s barriers for and marry was actually an angelologist who was spying on him and never loved him. Yeah, it was a bit clichéd, but it was interesting and made readers realize that these guys did have the potential for some sort of softness.
Leaving Percival out of it though, people often develop institutionalized prejudice and racism because it fits that society. I’ll use a fantasy example here: in Asura’s Wrath, the Seven Deities look down on mortals and have no problem killing them because they’re harvesting human souls to help in their plan to save the world from something worse. Yeah, it’s disgusting, and it’s implied that several of the deities are using the Cause as an excuse to be dicks to humans, but there’s a system to support their dickishness.
These guys…. there’s not an institution. You could argue that according to the books, the Nephilim used to run the royal families of Europe, but royal families haven’t decided anything in Europe for a long time. I don’t know how these people have retained their family’s wealth, but assuming they don’t have to work for a living… they’re no longer in a system where the public supports them. They no longer have any excuse to be this racist against humanity. In a time when they ruled they could just say it was keeping the plebs in line, but today? If a handsome wealthy man gave disdainful looks at everyone who passed and didn’t get out much, and you noticed him, would you be inclined to associate with him at all?
I’m not stamping this as bad writing, mind you; there could be some really good explanation that I’m just missing, or hasn’t been explained in the books yet. I just call it underdeveloped.
What isn’t underdeveloped is what this guy looks like though. Seriously, this description is very thorough:
He was a head taller than human beings, his skin fine and pale, and his eyes white blue. He dressed impeccably, as did Armigus—they often wore matching attire and never wore the same suit twice… With their elegant clothing and thick blond hair that fell over their shoulders in a chaos of curls, the twins were stunning, classically handsome, startling enough to make the most beautiful women stop and stare…
…this sounds like the preppy villain from a high school movie.
No really! He’s a dick, he’s hot, and really rich! Blond hair, blue eyes and he and his twin have matching suits! Genderbend that shit and you’ve got the antagonist for the next Mean Girls knock off!
Axicore’s just not that original of a villain at this point; we’re even told he and his twin look like Percival in his prime. And that’s problematic, because I already got that with the flashbacks in the last book. Despite all their flaws, I sort of liked Percival and Otterly Grigori as villains. They had personality, flair, and motives. This guy’s just a hot guy who’s a prick; so what? That doesn’t make him interesting or dangerous-sounding. If he wants to differentiate himself, he’s got to do something incredibly badass and unique other than being a Percival clone.
There’s a plot I’m supposed to talk about, isn’t there? Axicore is parked outside McDonald’s (well the text doesn’t say that, but I’m going to assume he is because it’s more amusing) to pick up Eno and berate her for her failure. As he should! He paid her good money and she killed the wrong person. That’s just unprofessional.
Now being an elitist douchenozzle I’m sure he thinks very little of an Emim like Eno—
He admired her enormously, thought her one of the most fierce Emim he had ever seen, and –although he would never openly admit this—found her much more attractive than most lower angelic creatures. Indeed, Eno was a beautiful killing machine, one he admired and secretly feared, but not the most clever angel in the heavenly spheres.
He’s…. got the hots for this mercenary assassin he hires from time to time. Who he doesn’t think is very smart2. I don’t know what to do with that…
Wait, shouldn’t that be “fiercest”? Not “most fierce”? And “cleverest”? Not “most clever”?
I want to let this slide. The book is not saying he’s overwhelmed by his attraction or anything of that sort. But something we find about Eno is that people just become obsessed with her for no reason except her incredible hotness. Given the experiences she has with angelologists, the thoughts that Axicore reveals here, and how other characters in the book look at her, you’ll see what I mean. It’s frustrating.
One of my favorite books, The Name of the Wind, has a point in which Kvothe asks his apprentice Bast to describe the woman that he fell in love with, as Bast has met her. Bast, who is quite a womanizer, in a startling display of good writing, more or less admits that she was attractive but not really his type. You know how rare it is? When a beautiful female character with an important relationship to the main character isn’t considered drop-dead gorgeous to every man in the world?
That’s all I’m asking for! Someone to look at Eno and be like, “She’s good-looking, I guess, but given that she’s a psychotic paid-to-kill assassin, I’m not going to objectify her or seek her affections.” But nope! Eno’s hot, so if you’ve got a penis you’re going to be madly attracted to her.
Axicore tells Eno that Evangeline’s alive, and she’s a bit disbelieving at first because she outright says “I never make mistakes.” Why does she think this? I don’t know; there’s nothing to suggest that she’s the Floyd Lawton of angelic hitwomen.
This is what happens when you choose your assassins based on how hot they are. You end up with a mentally-unstable person who is fooled by the fact that the person she’s tailing is carrying an ID with the same name. As far as I can tell, that’s the only reason she killed the wrong angel—she had Evangeline’s ID on her, so therefore she must be Evangeline. Yeah, she kind of looked alike to, but if Eno had really been following this mark for weeks like she said, you’d think she would have noticed that the person she chucked off a landmark wasn’t the right person.
Eno’s employer informs her that Evangeline’s being chased by an angel hunter (Verlaine), so Eno opts to hurry and finish the job now so she can blow this crepe stand go home. She says “we” in reference to going home though, so I guess Axicore’s her ride.
I don’t know if Eno leaves right now, because it doesn’t say, but Axicore reminisces about his childhood and how awesome it was to fly with his brother and show off their wings.
They were the golden children of an ancient family. They were young, beautiful, with all of creation at their feet. There seemed to be nothing at all that could bring them down to earth.
Yeah, except not being able to hire decent killers. That’s going to bring you down a bit.
See you next time, in which we get a McGuffin!
1 I’m refusing to call it love.
2 And he’s right; as we’ve seen firsthand, Eno’s a moron.