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Angelology
Danielle Trussoni
Doubleday Canada, 452 pages

Angelology
Danielle Trussoni
Danielle Trussoni grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She splits her time between Bulgaria and Providence, Rhode Island.

Danielle Trussoni Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Evangeline stared at the paper in her hands. It way beyond her understanding. Why would someone like Abigail Rockefeller write to Mother Innocenta? What did "our interests in the Rhodope Mountains" mean?'
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Genesis 6: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose," and when "they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." This is the often appropriated Biblical legend upon which Danielle Trussoni draws for the basis of her tale. She is also making a strong attempt to cross Dan-Brown-style hokum, with bad angels. Perhaps in the hope of tapping into Brown's ever eager readership, and those bored with vampires. Indeed, Angelology is in the process of being turned into a movie, with all the power of Sony to promote the bad angels as the new vampires. From page one, the book reads like Trussoni had her eye on the big screen. There is a distinct lack of nitty gritty, and emotive exposition, which in some ways makes Angelology read like the novelisation of a screenplay.

The central character is a Julie-Andrews-lite nun, named Evangeline. In the course of her daily, dreary duties, she discovers wartime correspondence between the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, and the abbess of the New York convent that is her home. The suggestion is that the now deceased women conspired to spirit away a valuable object, which has supernatural powers. Naturally, the location of this missing artifact is only accessible to those who can work their way through a series of codes, concocted by the philanthropist and the abbess. But Evangeline, who is soon joined by a researcher named Verlaine, has rivals. They are the Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. These half-angelic beings live secretly among us, in the lap of luxury, hiding their true nature. Unlike the vampires trying to be good theme, which has dominated supernatural fiction in recent times, the Nephilim are unremittingly bad. They even have a homicidal army named the Gibborim. A name which, I must confess, hit my funny bone. Nephilim have wings, which like Angel of the X-Men, are an aspect they tend to keep hidden. Another twist, imbuing the story with an added sense of urgency, is that the Nephilim are a dying breed. They want Verlaine's research, believing that it will provide the key to curing their disease. It's a mix and match smash and grab of popular themes, which offers plenty of possibilities, if the author has the imagination and technical skills to make them all gel.

If I were to distill this review down to a single word, it would be clinical. Trussoni has done her research, and produces what becomes quite an involved and convoluted story. There are lots of puzzle pieces which have worked before, in various guises, for other authors. But what is lacking here is that vital spark of true originality. I also picked up on what I perceived to be marketing-based caution, exemplified by hammering home the point that only the 'bad' angels are a threat to humankind. Perhaps to avoid clashing with the Christian Right, or alienating potential readers who may believe in guardian angels. As a result, the Nephilim, always an evocative legend, end up being rather vaguely drawn. In particular when it comes to explaining the bio-mechanics of being a dying, angel-human hybrid. Angelology tries to meld the world of the thriller, where there are credible real world explanations, with the supernatural, where magical artifacts can tumble from above. Cross-genre novels can be fantastic, but only if their parameters are clearly defined in the mind of the author, and then explained to the reader. Angelology lacks that definition. It's still an entertaining book -- which I believe will make a better film -- and fans of The Da Vinci Code may lap it up. But for me, it fell short of my hopes and expectations.

Copyright © 2011 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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