Angelopolis

But in the spring of 1959, fifty-seven years after it was laid, the egg cracked apart. A child lay in the catastrophe of shells, a golden-skinned boy with eyes that burned red and wings that wrapped around his shoulders. …

He seemed to me to embody the ancient descriptions of the heavenly host, the passages that one finds in biblical literature, with skin like pounded gold, hair of silk, eyes of fire.

And so Danielle Trussoni’s Angelolopolis continues the dazzling tale she began in Angelology, binding together mythical folklore, history and philosophy to create a modern day twist to the ever-fascinating subject of angels. What she does here is something I hadn’t really come across before.

It’s been 10 years since the angelologist Verlaine last came in contact with Evangeline, the mysterious woman who has the blood of angelologists and the Nephil running through her veins. There is perpetual war between the the Nephilim, the human-angel hybrids, who have infiltrated the highest echelons of society through their breeding and wealth, and the angelologists who try and contain them. When Evangeline is captured by a vicious and mercenary angel named Eno who works for the ancient Grigori family, Verlaine sets out to rescue her and uncover the secret behind Evangeline’s lineage and stop the Grigori’s from accruing any more power. And what is the fascination behind Fabergé’s eggs so beloved of the Romanovs?

Whilst Angelopolis is filled with some delicious nuggets of twisted Baltic history, especially the Russian Imperial House, intertwined with biblical stories going back to the Flood and studded with philosophical asides from Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, which Trussoni has remodeled into a prison for angels in Siberia, to Rasputin’s mystical teachings, there were a few flaws in Trussoni’s second book.

Although the historical titbits were fascinating, sometimes they felt like infodumps, miniscule lectures slotted in between the action, more tell rather than show. As a lover of history, I didn’t mind but I can see other readers getting a little cross-eyed with all the information. Saying that, I really enjoyed the book and raced through it, wanting to know the fate that awaited Evangeline and Verlaine. However, some of the action scenes seemed a little contrived, the ferocious angels ultimately a little too weak and the ending felt rushed. And I wasn’t thrilled about the brand name dropping which seemed to jar a little with the religio-mythicism of the angels.

These are small quibbles to what I think is a fascinating take on angel lore and I’m more than impressed by how Trussoni weaves all the different strands, historical, mythical and scientific, into something coherent and, dare I say, almost believable. Comparisons with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy may seem inevitable but they are two vastly different stories with Trussoni’s focus being more on the academic dissemination of angel lore and the scientific analysis and methodology in how to capture them. I loved it. And I can’t wait for the next installation!

I would like to thank Viking for kindly sending me a copy to review. Do click through to check out the Book Club Kit which includes a wonderful Q&A with Danielle Trussoni. Enjoy!

is a stunning debut! I can’t remember when I last read a book in this genre which has made me want to race through it but also savour. each. word. As I mentioned before, the premise of Angelology by Danielle Trussoni reminded me strongly of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour (my favourite Rice novel) with echoes of the Talamasca striving to guard the world against devilish beings. There is history, mythology, liberal biblical references (we are talking about angels and the nephilim here) as well as art, and the setting is divided between New York and Paris. Could it get more delicious?

I didn’t really know what to expect of this book, although I had seen reviews sprinkled around the web. And I didn’t expect to like it so much. I have recommended it to a friend who has already bought it, read and loved it (but we do have similar reading tastes).

Angelology opens with Sister Evangeline, a young Franciscan nun running into Verlaine, an art historian who has broken into her convent looking for some letters written by the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller. He is working for the mysterious Percival Grigori who is searching for an ancient artefact. Soon Evangeline and Verlaine are thrust into a war between the nephilim, half-human descendants of fallen angels, and the angelologists, a secret society of scholars, who have been studying and trying to thwart the nephilim’s sinister designs to enslave the human race for over a thousand years. As Evangeline learns about her tragic family history and their connection to the angelologists, she struggles to help Verlaine escape the clutches of Grigori and unearth the whereabouts of the Lyre of Orpheus which may or may not destroy the nephilim forever.

It may sound a tad overdramatic but Trussoni’s novel is a race against time as well as a revelation of angelic folklore which really kept my nose glued to the book. The nephilim are beautiful, ethereal and ruthlessly evil, able to easily enchant and overpower human senses. Evangeline is not alone as her grandmother Gabrielle and her old friend Sister Celestine, who fought the nephilim in their youth, try and ensure that the nephilim do not triumph. There is a lot going on in this book and I’m not going to give anything away as I don’t want to spoil your reading pleasure. I loved the world Trussoni has created with its mixture of the esoteric, history and myth and not least for Trussoni’s quality prose. Her language is rich, smooth and sophisticated. The only things that niggled a little were her liberal references to brand names, which I thought was unnecessary and did nothing for the story, and Evangeline’s feelings for Verlaine which changed rather too rapidly to be realistic (but then you can’t really quibble about realism in a book about angels). But those are probably the only things I didn’t like. As you can tell, I loved the book and am waiting with abated breath for Trussoni’s next novel, Angelopolis. Hurry, hurry!

In the meantime, I’m going to try and get my cherubic fix by delving into some Milton and Blake (although I’ve never fancied reading Blake before as he seems rather inaccessible). Any other reading suggestions would be warmly welcomed!

As apparently angels are the new vampires, although I doubt vampires will ever go out of fashion (unless it’s through overkill, ha ha), you may want to read this interesting article in the Guardian here.

Anne Rice has also published a new book about angels called Angel Time, although the story seems to be very different to Angelology. Has anyone read it? And if you haven’t already, I would urge you to read The Witching Hour. It’s beautiful.

And finally, a shout out to the lovely people at Michael Joseph (Penguin) who kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

I read this for the Once Upon a Time IV Challenge hosted at Stainless Steel Droppings as I would categorise this book under fantasy/mythology.

* The reviews seem divided regarding this book, so you may want to check out what Farm Lane Books Blog and Amy Reads have to say about this book.