on 27 January 2005
This is the sequel to 'Silk,' which was the very first Kiernan story I read. I liked that tale quite a bit, but the intervening years have wrought a considerable change in Kiernan's approach. She has become more polished, more story-centric, and even better at character development. I think 'Murder of Angels' is the best novel Kiernan has written so far, and that is not in any way a criticism of her previous efforts.
The center stage of the novel is occupied by two of the 'Silk' veterans. One is Niki Ky, a Vietnamese woman whose emotional ties with Spyder Baxter (Silk's dark central character) have left her a functional, but borderline schizophrenic. The other is Daria Parker, a struggling musician in the first novel and a successful one now. The two are lovers - Daria caught in the web of trying to help someone who never gets any better. Daria loses herself in her music, and Niki clings to her nightmares as an escape of her own. Both were marred by the horror of Spyder's death and wend their tortuous way in a relationship that has begun to leak at the cracks.
But just because Spyder died in this world, does not mean that what she has become has ended in all the worlds that reality borders on. Still tortured by the memory of her abusive father, Spyder lives on as the Weaver. In the place that the final events in 'Silk' catapulted her into Spyder has become a rebellious figure, distorting a new reality to meet her own purposes. There her enemy is the Dragon, who is a presence in the story, but never makes a direct appearance. Here struggle has turned the Dragon into a spiritual synonym for her father. This is threatening to ruin one world, and even to spill over into ours.
Niki becomes central to Spyder's plans. She is the Hierophant in her ex-lover's plans to expel the Dragon. She is pursues by red witches and dark minions as Spyder leads her to the bridge between the worlds and brings her face to face with something that will test her every strength. Daria, ridden with guilt over placing career before love, rides to the rescue, herself crowded by portents, dreams, and messengers. She is on a quest to retrieve the philter, something needed for the Hierophant to complete the ritual that Spyder is trying to fulfill.
Using very clear and solid strokes, Kiernan takes us back and forth between realities without ever leaving the reader lost in the shuffle. She is not the kind of horror writer that sprays blood over her pages, which makes this kind of mythological story especially difficult to write and keep up interest. 'Murder of Angels' is a genuine accomplishment, proof that a complicated story where things are not all black and white can maintain interest to the point of real involvement by the beholder. The only fault is one that is common in this kind of story. The ending comes too swiftly - as if Kiernan so cared for her characters that she was reluctant to let them go until the last moment.
This novel can be read in standalone mode, but it will require a vivid imagination to fill in the blanks. To really 'get' everything that happens in 'Murder of Angels' I think reading 'Silk' is a required first course. Since both books are good, this shouldn't be a drawback.
on 7 November 2004
'Murder of Angels' is a sequel to Caitlin's debut novel, 'Silk' and is just as disturbing and fascinating. Returning characters include Daria Parker, Niki Ky, Spyder Baxter, Scarborough Pentecost and Walter. The strange, horrifying world of angels and demons hinted at by Spyder in 'Silk', replete with arcane 'rules', comes very much to the fore. Sometimes difficult to read, almost painful, as you witness Niki's gradual mental deterioration (or should that be revelation?), it is Gothic literature for the disenfranchised, marginalised generation X.