on 14 May 2013
When Angelology was released back in 2010, Danielle Trussoni became an instant hit, and before long her debut urban fantasy novel charted on the New York Times bestseller's list. It was an original concept; a secret group that hunted the entire Earth for fallen angels, before these mythical beings started to gain the upper hand in an age-old war that has plagued mankind for thousands of years. It introduced us to a nun, a Sister Evangeline, who learnt of her secret past with the help of Verlaine, a man who had been working for an elite angel family, desperately searching for a cure that had plagued the high Nephilim family. Its Christian lore, clandestine mysteries and historical retelling captivated me and I instantly fell in love with this unheard of author. Angelopolis is the follow-up, and promises much more intrigue `against an astonishing fresh tableau of history and science.'
Angelopolis returns us to the action ten years after the ending of its predecessor. The two star-crossed heroes couldn't be leading more different lives. Evangeline is living her life evading a sinister, evil Enim angel, Eno, who is hell-bent on killing her, and Verlaine has progressed to be one of the top angelologists in recent years. That is until fate intervenes and the two lovers inevitably cross each other's path once more. Eno is on Evangeline's scent and before an intense fight ensues, Evangeline manages to pass a decorated egg onto the chasing hunter, before submitting to the Enim angel and is flown out of sight. The story progresses with Verlaine and his mentor, Bruno, who must unravel the mysteries of the Faberge egg, which leads them on a well-hidden quest from Paris to Russia, and to the Rhodope Mountain range and Siberia. Evangeline's true origins come to life and the true mission of Noah, Keeper of the Animals, is revealed. And what is this Angelopolis that is mentioned - a safe-haven for Angels, a Garden of Eden on Earth for Angels?
When I first read that ten years had passed from book to book, I was a little dismayed - what had happened to Evangeline? But thankfully, as I read on, Danielle Trussoni does a wonderful job at filling in the blanks along the way. And actually, it was really great to see Verlaine a more ambitious and manly character, compared to his rather meek personality in the previous book. He knows what course his life is now moving in, and he's happy to be a part of the secret world of Angels. This gives way to a brilliant set of action scenes throughout the book; fights, building scaling, explosions - you name it, it's all in here. And brilliantly structured too.
One of the highlights of Angelology was how Trussoni switched from the past to the present, and although it is understandably not the case in here, what she masters, is the switching of character viewpoint. Whether it is the rather eager Verlaine, the more mature Bruno, the intriguing Vera or the cold and lost Evangeline, we get to see the world in different perspectives, which is an extraordinary feat in itself. And plus, when we are following the quest of Vera to the Black Sea coast, we really delve deep into the true biblical lore that Trussoni excels at. Sometimes, a story doesn't need strong action to make the book thrilling, just the retelling of history and mythology we all think we know, to be turned on its head and shock us, well is just as exciting. Amazingly, this book has both! The little cameo appearances of characters such as Sneja (from Angelology) also delight.
But what really lies at the heart of this book is the revealing of secrets among History that all leads to Evangeline. It's a story about her lineage, her genealogy, and it's an impressive one at that. She's been lied to, tricked, deceived some more, and the reader feels the full brunt of these revelations. We feel for Evangeline, and we can easily sympathise with how alone and adrift she must feel. Ironically, the book is mostly about her, but Sadly, Evangeline doesn't appear half as much as I'd like in here.
It's plain to see that a book with angels in it is going to be classed as fantasy, and I suppose urban fantasy is more apt. It is however, strange to feel so at one with the book, as if everything that happens is in fact reality. This is a real gift, and one that we probably take for granted as readers. But fantasy it is, and quite humorously Trussoni evens borders the extreme. There is one moment in the book where she strongly suggests that Queen Victoria was of Nephilim lineage; the angel-human hybrid that sits at the top of the angel hierarchy, albeit apart from the Watchers.
What I really love about Danielle Trussoni's novels however, is her ability to write, the language she uses and the structure she forms her chapters into. I find her writing so romantic and very readable. I often found myself reading the book out loud because I found that had an even larger effect on me. Her sentences aren't incredibly simple; instead they elaborate profusely and build up the imagery sentence by sentence, and I could in fact read her work all day long. It isn't quite as extreme as literary, but overly simple like commercial. Even when she writes of genetics, Russian history, biblical mythology, she does so with such respect for each field, and still writes as if she is in fact a master of those subjects herself.
I so wanted this to be perfect, but sadly just like her first novel, there were small elements that I couldn't ignore. In Angelology it was the ending, in Angelopolis is was the ... well, ending of sorts. A banging cliff-hanger awaits us again, which is fine, but it was so abrupt, I was ready to read another 100 pages or so. A common criticism I have found with readers is that this book is incredibly short, and although I don't necessarily agree, I do think it could have been a little longer. Also, and I do realise that I'm probably going to counter my own argument from above now, but there was one particular line I absolutely hated. It just didn't read, or feel like Danielle Trussoni. It was thoughtless and completely not needed. A chapter quite late in starts: `Verlaine stepped into a narrow bathroom ... After taking a piss, he turned ...' - for me, the fact that he needed to urinate wasn't vital to the point she was making, and the colloquial term of piss doesn't match the romantic wording aforementioned.
Despite the Hardback edition being quite hard for me to get a hold of, Angelopolis takes a proud place on my bookcase. It is a fast, tense, interesting, bold, revealing and mythical sequel that reintroduces us to some brilliant characters, as well as introducing us to some fierce and spunky new ones. Her malevolent antagonist, Eno, is wonderfully created and adds touches of spiciness to this already powerful story. The history of the Russian Tsars is captivating, and on the whole her powerful imagery bring alive the romance of Paris, the seductive St. Petersburg and the otherworldly, yet familiar landscape of the Rhodope Mountains. If biblical lore interests you, if you are a fan of adult fantasy that differs from the densely packed genre of elves, dwarves and wizards, if you love a slightly retelling of history, although still keeping the realistic tension of the times, then Angelopolis is exactly the right read for you. Although, I'd strongly recommend the first in the series first, because undoubtedly both Angelology and Angelopolis are just the start of a much bigger story. I guarantee you that there are probably still more twists and turns to come that will shock us even further.
on 1 June 2014
I waited a long time to read this: 'Angelology' had been thrilling, with characters who engaged me, even the vile Percival. There was something Dan Brown, something Elizabeth Kostova in the exploration of the Rhodope mountains, and the shift to Eastern Europe and Russia in this sequel was everything I had hoped for. Obviously the main premise is beyond belief, but we don't read these novels for their realism, do we?
Verlaine is the more fully developed character and if I have one disappointment, it was that having cared about Evangeline in the first book, there was nothing from her point of view in this second book. I am hoping (begging,even) that Trussoni will remedy this in the third book. For a third there must surely be. There's so much 'angel' stuff out there, largely romantic slush for teenagers, that a real thriller angel masterpiece is something to treasure, with as many surprises as a Faberge egg. Read it, return to 'Angelology', then read it again and savour!