Target audience: adults
Publisher: 23 House
Its first huge asset was a number of very likeable, three-dimensional characters, some of them with a great sense of humour. First of all we have Elise Moore who is an angel, Remiel, but also a normal 19-year-old college student, working part time in a bar, fancying boys and men, swearing and having fun. She has some paranormal gifts but she must learn how to use them and it is not always easy. What’s more, when she is attacked she doesn’t wait for rescue, she doesn’t pray, she defends herself, hurting or even killing. That’s my angel – I have a soft spot for such heroines. Especially that she has pangs of conscience later.
Then there are several Catholic priests: Father Chris, Father Alan and a mute visionary monk called Francis. All of them are not exactly like your average image of a Catholic priest and take it from a girl born and bred in a Catholic country. They are more like normal people: they can fall in love (not spoiling, nuh-huh), they can sin, they are angry with the Vatican’s bureaucracy and red tape (from time to time, not overly so) even though they love their God and are good Christians (more or less). The main baddie (called the Other, a demonic entity of a kind) was simply delightful – so similar to our she-angel in some aspects that I gasped with joy more than one time. He also understood her the best (and my heart was dancing – that’s my demon!). In other words these characters made this book a very interesting read. Taking into account the fact that it is Ms. Salo’s debut novel – chapeau bas! This lady knows her craft when it comes to the characterization!
Then there is Vatican and its mysterious churches like palaces and palaces like labyrinths and labyrinths serving as catacombs. It could be really felt that the author was there, saw that all and most probably bought a t-shirt or two, maybe even one similar to a habit ;). It was very entertaining and well-written.
Finally the plot – it was good, original, full of suspense, even riveting from time to time, with the right emphasis in all proper places and a great final – no mean feat, many good novels have been ruined for me by a weak/improbable ending. Now a warning for those readers who must have their HEA no matter what. This book might make you cry. Seriously. I didn’t cry but if I weren’t one hard-as-nails daughter of a chienne (pardon my French) I would have cried for sure. There’s a HEA of a kind but not what you expect. It is a bit heart-wrenching.
My last remark: don’t worry if you don’t know the Bible or the Catholic church. Everything is explained nice and easy. Sometimes too easy – but it is a matter for my other section.
What I didn’t like:
Some minor info dumps appear in the text – not very bothersome and even partially understandable (try to explain the history of the mankind from the Bible to a lay man in five sentences, or the history of Vatican) but still noticeable. It was not my major problem, though.
My major problem was that sometimes, just sometimes, some blatant factual errors slipped in. Like, for example when one of the savant priests, Alan, says that Eve was the first Jewish woman (p.176). Hello? Jewish? How come? There was no such a thing as nationality at the beginning and even much later, right? Eve was just a woman as Adam was just a man or I am missing something?
Then our Bible scholar says that Bathsheba was the downfall of the Jewish king David and the death of their firstborn son interrupted the royal bloodline of kings. It made me truly mad – let me explain why. I promise it will be nerdy and longish but interesting :p
Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a very beautiful woman. King David saw her from his balcony while she was bathing in her private garden. I suppose he was at the peak of his male menopause – anyway he coveted her rather badly. Not that he was a sex-starved bachelor, mind you. A king is a king and has its rights – Bathsheba was brought to the royal palace asap and she was impregnated by her happy royal admirer while her hubby fought for David abroad. In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army, hoping that he would go to bed with Bathsheba to…er…cover things up nicely. Uriah, however, was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service which said that they had to refrain from carnal pleasures and sleeping under their own roof. Stupid, honorable, unimaginative knight. His nobleness cost him his life. The desperate king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed in the front lines of the battle and then betrayed – left to the hands of the enemy. David had Uriah himself carry the message which was also his death warrant (the same trick was repeated by Shakespeare in Hamlet later). After Uriah’s murder, David made Bathsheba his wife.
David’s action was displeasing to the Lord and, even though the king confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance, Bathsheba’s child by David was struck with a severe illness and died a few days after birth. The king accepted it as his punishment; mind you, according to the law he was supposed to die himself as he committed both adultery and murder. Kings have it easier, no matter what. Now tell me, was Bathsheba in your opinion really a downfall of David or was it rather his own lust?
When it comes to the infant, punished for the sin of his father – it was neither the first nor the only son of David at that time so his death, although sad, couldn’t interrupt the whole royal bloodline in any way. David, like many Eastern kings, had a lot of wives and concubines; some of them bore him sons years before he met Bathsheba (let me quote here the names of just two older princes alive: Absalom and Adonijah). Even a mediocre Bible scholar would know that much.
A nice supernatural thriller with several great twists and turns and an original gallery of characters. It was really a pleasant surprise. For a debut novel – a great book, but I hope the author will try to omit factual errors in the future. Nevertheless I would like to read her other books (when she writes them of course) as well!