“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”
If you are familiar with the Book of Enoch, angel lore and the Nephilim; as well as the Book of Genesis and a number of apocryphal works, Angelology will seem a bit familiar. It’s because Author Danielle Trussoni relies on these works to bulwark her new story of angels, brave nuns, secret expeditions and lost, inexplicable and miraculous treasures.
Angelology is the story of Sister Evangeline, a young nun living a devout life at a convent outside of New York City. A request seeking information regarding possible connections between the convent and Abigail Rockefeller, pique her natural curiosity. From there we travel around metropolitan New York, back to pre-World War II Paris and into the caverns of Bulgaria, searching for angels and their gauzy fingerprints on humanity.
Evangeline is a level headed, smart young nun. She is sketched out in details throughout the first half of Angelology, appreciating her pious efforts, without becoming bored by superfluous personal details that exercise the author but not the character.
And while we liked Evangeline, we were reminded of another fictional nun thrown into a meta-physical thriller, Sister Ottavia Salina in the Spanish thriller, The Last Cato by Matilde Asensi. We warmed to Sister Salina a bit more because she was in WAY over her head unraveling a mystery involving Dante’s Inferno. A bit more of a rebel, willing to listen to her heart even when it conflicted with her vows. Was it cliched? Sure. But her transformation was character evolution, compared to Evangeline’s eventual metamorphosis. All around, both very enjoyable nuns as heroines.
When you start reading Angelology you wonder if you’ll be sucked into a strict reality, interrupted by some jolting grotesque antagonist. Quickly you realize its a parallel reality, similar and overlapping to ours, but different. It is our history, our world, but it’s written by different masters with a will outside of God. It can be called meta-physical thriller, but its devotion to Biblical and pagan mythic sources make it a tad more interesting than pedestrian occult-thriller- fantasy.
Angelology becomes interesting pretty fast because it is “real.” It embraces the reality that religion has to some in today’s society, but was copious a generation ago and omnipresent a millennium before. The world of Christianity at its birth was magical, borrowing from ancient traditions, updated and turned modern by each successive generation. A reality, given creative twists, appealing to the changing user.
Both God and the Devil are absentee players in this tale. They are a sort of producer and director of the picture. The Nephilim are the prime movers in Angelology. They replace vampires, demons or Satan’s minions as evil-doers. In case you don’t know Nephilim are the spawn of angels and humans (referenced at the top with the Genesis passage,) or the fallen angels themselves.
Trussoni had a few thousand years of material to seek inspiration from, cherry picking ideas and spinning off new concepts. It is supremely easy to get buried in your research, lose the focal point of your tale only to find it buried under a millenia of fascinating, but extraneous, back story. Trussoni creates set pieces, dropping in nice details that flesh out the broader story.
Would it be simple to say that angels are the new vampire? In a way, they are on the verge of breaking really big. Anne Rice left vampires and Jesus behind recently to pen Angel Time (a generally uninspiring book.) Last year we saw the movie Legion (based on a comic book) chronicle a struggle between armies of angels over a prophetical birth. And in the upcoming Garry Kilworth novel, Angel, San Francisco burns because of war in heaven spilling over to Earth.
Angelology can stake a legitimate claim as the standard for angel-centric thrillers. Not as scholarly deep as it could be, but still intelligent. Trussoni smartly relies on a wealth of ancient source material to knit together a pretty interesting plot with rewarding multiple climaxes.
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni was bought for our biblioholic enjoyment by the Boston Book Bums