I have discovered something. I really like books with hope in them. Books with a glimpse of hope shining through the grimy darkness. I will read a whole book because of just a little promise of hope.
Really makes me sad when that promise is betrayed.
Tuesday Night, I was in Barnes and Nobles and I saw a book called Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Not a info book like Dragonology or Wizardology, but a novel. It looked wonderful. It looked splendid.
More particularly, it looked like a Muse had given another author the same instructions she has given me, and now I could read how this author handled the same assignment differently.
It was all about angels, Nephilim*, Gregori**, and secret societies fighting for good. All stuff I am familair with and write about. Almost exactly the kind of thing I have planned for my some day to be written Against the Dying of the Light series.
It sounded perfect.
I bought it. I NEVER impulse buy hardback novels by unknown authors. I’m lucky if I can scrape together enough for a paperback. I usually only buy hardcover if its an author I really love (ie: Mary Balogh, Jim Butcher, or George R.R. Martin.) But I bought this one.
When I got to the top of page nine, where the constant, two hundred year constant prayer by the nuns at St. Rose was described I fell in love. Then came some interesting but not inspired parts. Then, 168-172, with a really neat analysis of how the Nephelim had destroyed the modern world by separating the intelligent from the religious. So cool!
The promise just was not kept.
There was beautiful writing. There was compelling storytelling. There was eeriness and that heady sensation that modern writers attached to vampires, but which really fits better with fallen angels than with blood suckers. (Anne Rice had a speech about how angels and vampires are related in the human psyche and how their fads are intertwined…she thought the angle fad led to the vampire fad and that another angel fad would follow.) All this was done very well.
But there was nothing holy.
No glimpse of Light beyond. The hope that is mentioned and glimpsed in the early chapters does not come to anything. There was even a scene where a real angel, not a fallen one, appeared—which I had REALLY been hoping would happen. (I’m so sick of all angels being evil…but that’s a different post.) But there was nothing to it but plot and action. Angel comes, solves problem…there was no awe, no holiness, no wonder.
I am not even concerned with the utterly ridiculous unhappy ending tacked on in the last two pages for no reason. The author set up a romance very nicely with no hints that it might go awry, gave the hero all the info he needed to be able to decode what finally happened, and then had him freak out and act like an idiot for no reason on the next to last page.
I just discounted that. Was not worth my time to get annoyed about. No, it was the lead up to the last pages, the final climax, that fell so short of what it could have been.
Donald Maass talks about the most powerful elements you can put in a book. These are the things that really move people, the things that the best books of all have:
Forgiveness and redemption.
This was a book that cried out for moments of redemption or at least forgiveness. It screamed for it. It hinted at it. There were sad, heartbreaking ways it could have been delivered that would have been so effective.
Just petty characters making uninspired decisions. Many things could have been better. The worst was that the villain had once loved the heroine’s grandmother. He has even has a dream in which she whispers that she loves him…something no human or nephilim had ever said to him in his long immortal life. And…she had loved him!
But he kills her without conversation or interaction. It was a scene that screamed for something…a chance at forgiveness? A chance at forgiveness repulsed? A moment of redemption or regret? A last exchange of love? No…nothing.
Can’t put it in to regular words. Must use analogies:
I felt as if I danced with other maidens beneath a pavilion with rain and darkness all around us, each of us holding a little burning lamp (Kind of like this.) While the others stayed in the security of the pavilion, I and my sister stepped out from safety to bravely light the darkness. We carefully tended and protected our little lights, daring to go farther than those behind us. Then, as I stayed faithful to my trust, I looked over to see Franchezzo’s ancestor***, his proud and handsome face partially rotted away—though he was unaware of it, whispering into her ear. And, before I could stop her, or even cry out, she leaned forward over the little lamp that was our sacred charge and blew it out.
Or like: imagine a Cliffside upon which a great winged man is bound. His body secured with steel chains and leather straps. His head down, long dark hair over his face. He raises his head revealing a face of incomparable beauty, fierce and glorious, undaunted. Gathering his strength, he pulls. He breaks free of his restraints. With a triumphant shout, he shoots upward, airborne and free. Amidst unending blue, he soaring, flying heavenward and home. Except that his great wings buckle, and he plummets downwards, crashing onto the waves below. His broken body is found later washed up upon the shore.
*Nephelim – “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:4 The word translated “giants” here is Nephelim. In Jewish lore, the Nephelim were the offspring of angels and humans.
** Gregori – Greek for Watchers. The angels that fell in love with mankind and disobeyed God to help them. Very much like Prometheus. (Interestingly, this writer 1) Picked Japeth son of Noah to be the one who fathered the Nephelim race (or rather the guy who killed and replaced him did.) and she mentioned Prometheus several times…but she never brought out the connection…that Japeth is thought to be the same person as Iapetus, the titan father of Prometheus.
***From Wanderer In The Spirit Lands –Franchezzo meets an ancestor in Hell who claims to have been whispering in his ear during his life, influencing him to do bad and prideful things. In particular, he offers to teach Franchezzo how to influence writers and get them to serve Hell’s purposes.