First, I must give an apology; last time I said there was a Fabergé Egg that they talked about that had never been mentioned before that point. That’s not actually true; I looked through the book and it’s mentioned. Remember Chapter 25, where I skipped a bunch of the rambling about alchemy and crap? It’s in there. I briefly alluded to it before putting a gif of Agent Washington, so it’s not even something I left out of the sporking. But that’s still a hefty two-thirds or so into the book, and an awful place to first mention a semi-important Plot Device. I must correct my mistake though, because it is an earlier mention, so that’s something.
In Chapter 31… nothing happens.
Perhaps that’s not a fair assessment; something does happen, but it’s not interesting or plot relevant. Chapter 31 is Valko reflecting as he puts on his hiking boots and goes down into the Devil’s Throat Cavern with the other angelologists. That’s it. Yeah, there are some thoughts of his, but they’re all worthless. For instance, he comments that he thinks Sveti and Vera don’t have the physical training or abilities to make this climb, but they don’t have any issues with it in the story (and it also comes across as a bit sexist, given we never see that Azov was particularly in-shape either). He remembers the first time he came here, how he met his first wife, and how he moved back to the area after his stepdaughter Angela died.
If I cared at all about these characters it might be nice. But I don’t; Trussoni has made sure of that. At every turn in this book she’s prioritized her convoluted Plot over the development of her characters, and so this four-page chapter in which no major plot points happen? It’s just another forgettable piece that could have been edited out entirely without affecting the narrative. I’d forgotten it was here at all; with the last chapter’s ending and beginning part seven (or “The Seventh Circle: VIOLENCE”), I’d assumed we’d pick up where something was happening. But nope. It’s odd, because the next chapter easily could have been split into two and expanded, but for reasons beyond my understanding this chapter remains. Editing, what’s that?
So you’ll forgive me if I don’t actually do much with this chapter; it’s just not worth the effort.
Chapter 32, on the other hand, begins straightaway with the angelologists getting to the Devil’s Throat Cavern and finding an angel body. Yup, the last book mentioned that in the Dark Ages a clergyman named Clematis explored the cave and barely escaped, fatally wounding a fallen angel that his expedition had been duped into freeing from its cage by sheer dumb luck. The angel apparently didn’t decompose and has been lying there ever since, which is lucky so angelologists have been able to take pictures and study a specimen.
From Clematis’s account of the angel’s attack, modern angelologists guessed that pure-blooded angels might have some sort of radioactive power, so Valko warns the other not to touch the body because they don’t know if it’s still radioactive. This is, I think, the one smart thing that Valko says in this entire novel.
Azov bent over the body. “But I thought that they couldn’t die.”
Alright, I hear you Azov, but here’s the thing: in your universe, in your secret society, the death of this angel is a well-known story. At your conventions, you have pictures of this body; Vera has a few copies in her office, which are brought up earlier in the book. The First Angelological Expedition, as it’s called, is constantly mentioned. So you know about this incident, or at least you should. Ergo, you know that full-blooded angels can die. This is a fact well-established in your profession. To make a real-life example, it would as if a scholar of religious history asked who that Martin Luther guy was. If that person didn’t know, than he or she shouldn’t be there to begin with.
It seems more as if Trussoni wants to reestablish the rules of her setting, that angels can be killed here. Which seems a bit of a ‘duh’ considering that it’s stated tons of time that here angels are actual flesh and blood creatures, instead of etheric or spiritual beings. Or maybe she just wanted to have Azov express some sort of disbelief at what he’s seeing, like, “He knew what he’d find, but it was still hard to believe.” But once again there isn’t much illumination on the subject other than what I’ve quoted above. So… as far as we can tell, Azov is just that uneducated in the history of their society, despite him being a high-ranked scholar and being co-workers with Vera.
Also it might be so Valko can say this bit of pseudo-philosophical bullshit:
“Immortality is a gift that can be taken as easily as it is bequeathed,” Valko said. “Clematis believed that the Lord struck the angel down as vengeance. It may be that angels live the way humans do—in the shadow of their Creator, wholly dependent upon the whims of divinity.”
Fun fact: I think this is the only time God is directly referenced in relation to the Plot of this book. You’d think He’d be brought up more, considering the subject matter is, well, angels, but weirdly no one seems to be pretty concerned with what the Big Man Upstairs wants or is up to.
To avoid the Dresden Files Effect, let’s bring up an urban fantasy series that did it well, at least for a while— Supernatural. In the show, there’s a couple of times when the question of God is brought up, but once angels enter the picture it sort of explodes onto center stage. Dean constantly demands to know throughout the fourth season what God is doing and how He factors into everything, especially when the angels act in a morally questionable way. It’s an ongoing question, and it’s clear that it’s very important, so when we get the answer it actually means something.
Here? God’s mentioned, but no one seems like they’d like to know what He’s up to. Does He approve of the goings on of the angels and Nephilim on Earth? Does He have a plan? Does He want humanity to sort it out? Is this whole situation a divine joke?
Neither Trussoni nor her characters care.
Also this statement makes zero sense. The angel was not struck down by God, his wing was ripped by Clematis. Clematis may have believed that he had divine help (whether that’s true is anyone’s guess), but he’s the one who killed the angel. Valko easily could have said that angels can be killed as well as you or I, but instead chose this odd roundabout way to say it because… I dunno, Trussoni wanted to sound like a melodramatic Christian fortune cookie.
I suppose it worked in that sense, then.
So they go down this tunnel, and there’s Lucien’s room. Lucien, usually living by himself, notices people coming and asks if Valko is there. Valko says he’s got some people with him and asks Lucien if they can come in.
The angel hesitated, and then, as if realizing that he couldn’t refuse, stepped aside and let them pass into his chamber.
Well this makes me think that Valko is an ass.1
Think about; Lucien doesn’t have a ton of social interaction with people, and there’s no indication that he’s ever met large groups of people at once. And apparently he realizes he can’t refuse. He doesn’t feel at ease saying, “No, I don’t feel comfortable with this situation,” or “Can you bring them in one at a time” or even “Buzz off for now, I’m busy writing smutty fanfiction.” Valko is the authority figure in this relationship, and he asks Lucien if he can do something knowing that Lucien doesn’t have a choice but to accept it because Valko’s going to do it anyway, whether he likes it or not. With all the times that Lucien’s been described in childlike terms by Valko… I don’t know what to do with this.
If Lucien really is supposed to be childlike and innocent (which is more my reading than anything spelled out in the novel), then… well, not that I think your kids should always do what they want, but Lucien isn’t a child, so Valko shouldn’t have automatic power here, especially since Lucien is half archangel. Valko should actually respect his wishes and word things in a way that shows that Lucien doesn’t have to do what he asks.
Vera (and the reader) observes Lucien’s room: a small cave with very few things in it, just some basic furniture and a writing desk. A bed isn’t mentioned at first, but later is. Why do I care? Well there’s this—I found this (spoilery, so be warned) review on Goodreads that says the text does mention a lack of bed and then contradicts itself when Lucien pulls out a Plot Device from under his bed. My book doesn’t say that, but it’s a later edition.
So here’s something to keep you up at night—either that review is wrong, or I have an edited version of this book, and it’s still a nonsensical piece of turd. Think about it—the book with all the grammar, editing, characterization and plot issues that I’ve related to you…is one that’s been edited. If that’s the case, try to imagine what the original read like.
Oh yeah and there’s this malarkey:
Lucien had an aura of tranquility, of a being that existed outside of time. Vera felt fear and awe and reverence at once. She wanted to fall on her knees and behold the angel’s beauty.
The fudge am I supposed to make of that?
Let’s start with it’s insane, because Trussoni thinks that people would see this being and immediately decide to worship it. I suppose it’s possible that it’s some sort of aura that angels give off in this universe, but that’s never explicitly stated. So as far as we can tell, the humans in Trussoni’s universe just fall to their knees (or take off their pants) the second they see an angel. And that’s weird.
I get it Trussoni. But there are several issues that I’ve already gone over. Like, even if angels are so beautiful, not everyone should be in awe of them because not everyone has the same standards of beauty. And this idea that humans would instantly start lusting like crazy over someone of the opposite sex that is that attractive… welp, Trussoni, people have a thing called self-control. You’d think that angelologists, who regularly deal with super-attractive beings, would have practice it to some degree.
I suppose they do, given that Vera doesn’t actually fall to her knees, but that it’s brought up at all is strange.
And then we get a description of Lucien, and none of it makes sense. For instance:
…his skin had the fluid consistency of candlelight.
Candlelight isn’t consistent. It flickers. What is “fluid consistency” anyway? Is it supposed invoke a contradiction? Couldn’t you have settled for just giving us a straightforward description?
Even as her eyes moved over him, he seemed to melt away, his arms dissipating into his wings, his wings disappearing in the darkness.
What does any of this mean, Trussoni? It sounds like an emo teenage poem threw up on your descriptions! I can say that because I’ve written emo teenage poetry.
Vera was sure that if she placed her hand on his shoulder, her fingers would simply pass through.
Is this statement hyperbole? Is it literal? I don’t know! No one clarifies! So maybe Lucien isn’t a corporeal being, which makes me wonder how he would have had sex with Angela Valko.
Lucien asks if Valko brought him ink, because he’s apparently been writing a lot. Valko explains to the group that Lucien’s half seraph, so he’s naturally inclined to write songs of God’s praise. An interesting idea, but—
Wait, hang on a sec, a seraph? I thought his daddy was an archangel???
Alright, for those not in the know, Christianity (specifically Catholicism) has a very specific hierarchy—there are nine different types (choirs) of angels, with that divided evenly into three spheres. This is canon in the books, too. The first book was not divided into nine parts based on Aligheiri’s The Inferno but the Three Spheres of angels.
Now seraphim are the highest choir, who are represented the way Valko mentions—singing praises to God. Well sort of. They’re highly associated with fire, and don’t have two wings but six. If we’re supposed to take Biblical accounts of angels as canon, then we have some issues as none of the angels in Trussoni’s ‘verse are shown to have six wings, to my knowledge.
And the contradiction comes into place because archangels are actually one of the lowest. Now some people make a distinction between archangel with a lowercase ‘a’ and Archangel with an uppercase ‘A’, so for instance, an archangel might be a subspecies or race of angel, whereas an Archangel is a rank that an angel may hold that marks them as a leader. And if we look at the Book of Enoch, which is an accurate account in Trussoni’s canon (as stated in the first book), specifically Enoch chapter 20 verse 7, Gabriel is mentioned as being the archangel who is in charge of seraphim and cherubim.
[Or of serpents and cherubim; I suspect a translator somewhere got confused as the word ‘seraph’ can also refer to serpents, specifically some that plagued the Israelites in the desert on their way out of Egypt).
Basically, what I’m saying is not that there’s necessarily a contradiction, but that it’s confusing as all getout and Trussoni hasn’t done anything to clarify.
So Valko asks for the Fabergé Egg that wasn’t mentioned until Chapter 25, which is also a handy-dandy vial for one of the ingredients of the angel poison they’re working on. Or something. I lost track, to tell the truth. Vera is all excited because she thinks that this was all part of Rasputin or Philippe’s master plan but honestly I stopped caring and I’m wondering if anything in this book was actually planned at all.
So our “heroes” mix the formula, which also suddenly includes Lucien’s blood out of nowhere. When Vera asks, Valko’s all like, “Why do you think we need Lucien?” and the thing is… no one said they needed Lucien. As far as we know, they decided to go talk to Lucien because they were curious about him and Valko wants to show him off like a pet ocelot. Yeah, he happens to also have the Plot Relevant Fabergé Egg, but they didn’t know that. No one said Lucien was actually key to the Plot right now at all, other than important backstory.
Once the potion’s complete, it’s not a huge bottle of poison, but Valko insists that “A few drops released into the water supply of any major city would be enough to affect the entire Nephilistic population.” Hooray for genocide, I guess? Any innocent bystanders who might just happen to have some Nephil in their bloodline is screwed, that’s for sure. But I’m certain that none of the angelologists actually care about that.
Then Vera asks the very good question about whether this Nephilim-killing medicine would also kill Lucien. Valko handwaves it all with something to the effect of “Well theoretically it’d only kill the less-pure Nephilim” but there’s no evidence that it’s the case. If the formula was from Noah’s time, when Nephilim were more angel than human, then… yeah, it should totally kill Lucien.
Also, when they ask him about this genocidal idea that might kill the only good angel they have on their side, Valko gets sketchy.
facing the scrutiny of his fellow angelologists made him uneasy and defensive.
Hell yeah, having someone call him out on his bullshit and crazy genocidal ideas makes Valko uncomfortable. I’m glad Trussoni said something about it. I know I’ve gone on about how Valko is totally the kind of guy who’d drive really slow in the ultra-fast lane, but this line really seals the deal for me.
It is a sacrifice Lucien must be willing to make.
Actually never mind; this line seals the deal for me.
Hey, here’s a revolutionary idea, guys: ask Lucien! Ask Lucien if he’s okay with you murdering his entire species on this planet, especially if he might also die! This isn’t rocket science, acting like decent human beings. These angelololologists really need to sort out their priorities. It isn’t that I left out the bit of dialogue where Lucien responds; it’s just plain not there because God forbid we ask the guy if he’s okay with a plan that might give him a horrible death.
You’re also not going to believe Valko’s next brilliant idea.
We must strike hard against angelic creatures, with all the weapons at our disposal. Noah’s medicine is one part of our attack. The Watchers—who are at the root of the entire history of evil—must be dealt with now as well.”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “No, Valko can’t be suggesting what I think he’s suggesting. He can’t be that stupid, can he?”
I assure, you he is.
He wants to release the Watchers.
Valko, wonderful angelolologist that he is, thinks that in order to defeat the Nephilim, he will have to release the fallen angels who sired the original Nephilim from the prison God put them in, and that these fallen angels will somehow be convinced to fight against their descendants.
You’re thinking, “Nah, Juracan must have skipped something, some critical bit of dialogue or exposition; there has to be some lead up to this.” But there’s not. None whatsoever. Suddenly Valko just decides that they must free the Watchers, and that they will help them defeat the evil Nephilim. Azov even tells him how stupid this idea is, how it’ll get them all killed, but Valko answers with some bullshit to the effect of “The medieval angelolololologists who found this cave were told it was a stupid idea that would get them all killed, and they did it anyway! We do stupid shit all the time! So shut up and let’s do it!”
Don’t believe me?
“You can’t be serious,” Azov said, his anger rising as he stepped close to Valko, looking him directly in the eye. “You know the potential consequences of releasing the Watchers. They could fight the Nephilim, yes, but they could also turn on humanity. You will put all of us in danger.”
Valko folded his hands on the table and closed his eyes. For a moment Vera believed he was saying a prayer, as if he were asking for divine guidance in what he was about to do. Finally he opened his eyes and said, “This was the case with our forefathers, the noble men who came here for the First Angelic Expedition, and it is our work still. Danger is something we accept in our work, Hristo. Death is something we accept. We cannot go back now.” Valko slid the vessel into his pocket. “The time has come for us to move, Lucien. Let’s go.”
Just so we’re all clear: Valko says that in order to defeat the Nephilim, they need to open the gates to the prison holding what he believes is the literal source of all evil in the world, and that it’ll help us out.
Let me repeat for those in the back: VALKO WANTS TO TEAM UP WITH DEMONS, FOR NO REASON THAN SO MAYBE HE CAN SAY THIS
When other angelololololologists are telling you that you’re going off the deep end, you know there’s something wrong with your ideas.
And so Valko does it.
No really. He gets Lucien and the others on boats, crosses the river, and Lucien opens the gates so a bunch of Watchers walk on out of their cage. How do they open the cage? What does the cage look like? [shrugs] I dunno. No one says.
The opposite bank of the river seemed empty at first, but upon closer inspection, Vera made out a cadre of glowing beings arriving upon the shore, arraying themselves in a great fan behind Lucien, their skin throwing off a tempered, diaphanous light. There were between fifty and one hundred angels, each one as lovely as the next. Their wings seemed to be made of gold leaf, and rings of light floated over their masses of blond curls. But even in their pure angelic splendor, the Watchers were not match for Lucien.
They’re all blond, of course, with curly hair, with literal rings of light around their heads because the only thing Trussoni knows about angels is from this guy named Jack Schitt.2 They all bow to Lucien because he’s of the master race or some shenanigans (“in heaven, I am of a superior caste”), and he gives what Trussoni imagines is an inspiring speech about killing their descendants. The Watchers argue a bit about it, debating with Lucien whether they should kill humans or the Nephilim, and they seem to agree on killing the Nephilim.
“They are the result of your great sin against heaven,” Lucien said. “Accepting them is denying your guilt.”
“He’s correct,” another Watcher said. “We must throw them back, deny the Nephilim, redeem ourselves.”
Sounds good, yes? Like they’re on our side? Well that’s a plot twist. But then Lucien says this:
“Come now,” Lucien said, stepping toward the band of fallen angels. “We are made of the same airy material, there is no stain of human reason in you. Join me. Together we will rehabilitate you. Soon you will shine with the image of the highest angels. The creatures of the sun will meet the creatures of the shadows. Beings of the either will fight side by side with beings of the pit. Angels, prepare! The war is soon upon us.”
Yeah, here it sounds like the Watchers were disagreeing or unsure, but this paragraph comes directly after the last one I quoted. It’s like he’s trying to win them to his side, but it already sounded like they were leaning that way.
It also sounds like Lucien is promising them a spot back in Heaven, which is pretty hefty claim to make…
Wait, how does Vera (our POV character) understand what they’re saying? I mentioned earlier that we hadn’t established what language the angelologists are speaking (French? Russian? English?), but we have established that angels speak Enochian in this universe, and as far as we know Vera doesn’t speak it. There’s no mention of what language they’re speaking, so are we supposed to assume they’re speaking English, the language of the majority of readers? Russian, Vera’s home tongue? Enochian, which we don’t know if anyone speaks? Are we supposed to believe Lucien taught them a modern language?
There’s just so much WTF with this scene it’s headache to read.
And then there’s a blast of light that knocks out Vera and she thinks she’s dead.
Sadly, she’s not. But when she wakes up Valko is, burned all over because (shocker) LETTING FALLEN ANGELS OUT OF THE PRISON GOD PUT THEM IN IS A PISS POOR IDEA.
Sveti is also dead, but it’s never said how.
Vera and Azov are hurt, but alive, and all the angels are gone except Lucien and one other, a guy named Semyaza. Lucien helps them get out and Semyaza introduces himself.
The angel introduced himself as Semyaza
Yeah, Trussoni couldn’t even bother to give Semyaza, traditionally the leader of the Watchers and possibly an analogue for the Devil, introductory dialogue.
Vera also claims the Watchers “disobeyed God out of love” because apparently going around impregnating multiple women and teaching forbidden knowledge is an act of love, but I have no idea what any of that has to do with anything happening right now at all, considering a couple of her co-workers just got fried like a Kentucky Chicken.
Vera asks Semyaza why he doesn’t join the other Watchers that have fled, and he gives this nonsensical response:
“In the presence of other beings like yourself, one can endure great suffering. For thousands of years I’ve been a creature of hell. I don’t know if I can adjust to the light.” Semyaza smiled. “Besides, the earth belongs to humanity. There is no place for me there. I am a prisoner not of this cave but to eternal life as a fallen angel. I would like, for just one minute, to understand what it is like to be human. My memories of falling in love are so vibrant. There is nothing in my experience like it. To feel warm blood in my veins, to hold another body so close, to eat, to fear death. For that, I would return to earth.
Alright, Trussoni? Earth and Hell should be capitalized here.
Also, what the hell? So maybe-Satan decides that he likes falling in love and being mortal, so he’s going to wander the Earth pretending to be human? That’s weird and doesn’t make sense, but it sure as hell makes a better story than what we’ve been reading so far.
Now I’m sure you’re confused. You’re wondering how the Plot de-railed so fast—we were talking about ancient formulas and conspiracies, and suddenly the Plot lurches forward to releasing the Nephilim and then it seems to go badly for reasons I haven’t explained. You’re asking questions like “What happened?” and “Why did the Watchers ditch Lucien?” and “Where did they go?” and “Why did they kill Valko and Sveti?” and “What the hell just happened?”
So were all the readers. Look up reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, if you’re okay with spoilers: several of them say something to the effect of “I don’t know what happened at the end of the book.” It’s not because it’s nonsensical or contradictory, or even something weird and trippy that’s hard to understand. It’s because Trussoni flat-out doesn’t tell.
There is no part of the book further on where Trussoni has someone describe what happened in detail and why it happened. Why did Valko think the Watchers would help? How were the Watchers released from their prison made by God? How did Valko and Sveti die? How did Azov and Vera live? Where did the Watchers go? Why did they decide to not follow Lucien’s plans? Or did they? Is this all Lucien’s deceptively devious evil plan? In short, what happened in this scene?
I can’t answer that, because I don’t know. Most readers don’t know, as far as I can tell. I’m sure readers like to think they know, and I can’t tell them they’re wrong. Because this is like a choose-your-own-ending scene right here. No one knows except Trussoni, and there are days when I doubt even she knows. We’re in the final chapters, guys; prepare to be confused. I mean, super-confused. Gone are the days when the nonsensical parts of the book are things as simple as contradictions and crappy world-building. Now? Now we hit the full shitstorm of crazy. Stuff vaguely happens, and none of it is explained, not even in the half-assed manner it was before.
So yeah. Expect more of this. Characters will come up with ideas and motivations on the fly, vaguely bad things will happen but not be sufficiently described, and all of it is to lead up to a cliffhanger that will make you hate this book. It’s almost like Trussoni couldn’t figure out how to write the most important scenes in the novel, the actual climax of the book, in a meaningful way, so she just skipped most of it to get to the ending.
Strap in guys. The Crazy Train is now rolling, full steam ahead. And when it stops, it’s going to be a doozy.
See you next time.
1 Alright, Valko was always an ass, but it comes forward pretty heavily here.
2 Basically, a halo in art is meant to be a representation of divine light,) not a literal glowy ring around someone’s head. They’re more associated with Jesus and saints than actual angels.