by Anne Rice
Book One in The Songs of the Seraphim series
I have a long relationship with Anne Rice's books. I think the first one I read - Interview with the Vampire, naturally – was picked up in late junior high or early high school. I loved it. Next was The Vampire Lestat. Loved that one, too. But as I progressed through her Vampire series, the books just seemed to get worse and worse, and I think I stopped somewhere around the fifth story. I enjoyed some of her other books, like The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, but at some point I just got tired of her books. When I heard that she was embracing her Catholic roots, I was surprised; when I found out she'd written a book about Jesus Christ Himself, I was intrigued. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, when I read it back in late 2009, impressed me; it seemed like Anne Rice had recaptured the passion of her earliest Vampire books. So when I learned she had continued with a new series involving angels and demons, I made a mental note to check it out in the future.
So here we are, two years later, and I've finally gotten around to reading that book about angels and demons. It begins in the present, as an assassin Lucky the Fox (real name: Toby O'Dare) carries out one of his missions. He meets a stranger who claims to be an angel – a seraph, to be precise – and offers Toby a chance to leave behind his evil way and employ his talents for the good of mankind. O'Dare's like, “Dude, no one believes in angels, that's stupid!” so the angel uses his Phenomenal Cosmic Powers to tap into O'Dare's brain and share his memories, proving that he is a messenger of the Lord. With proof like that, there's no way O'Dare can back out, so he becomes an...angel-in-training? I'm not sure what his new role is, but the angel sends him back to the 12th century to save lives, and O'Dare suddenly has the gift of tongues and all the historical background he needs to navigate medieval England. Amazing what an angel can do! (Although, if the angel can do all that why does he need O'Dare to intervene in the first place..?)
Unfortunately, O'Dare wasn't a very likable narrator. I mean, he's a killer and a cold-blooded assassin before he meets the angel. Even after learning his tragic back-story, I couldn't sympathize with him. After the angel shows up, O'Dare becomes like an eager puppy because he's so happy that he can be redeemed and that someone will love him just the way he is. I guess that's pretty realistic in that if he committed terrible sins and found someone willing to forgive them, he'd cling to them like white on rice. But he was rather annoying to read about.
The story picks up when O'Dare goes back in time. Although I'm highly dubious of the necessity of sending him in the first place – what did it accomplish besides providing a training ground to prove that O'Dare was now a Good Guy? - I thought that the medieval characters were far more developed than their modern counterparts. Since the story revolves around the Jewish diaspora in England and France, it was an interesting opportunity to link Judaism to O'Dare's/Rice's Catholicism. But I don't really think that the talents that made O'Dare such an excellent hit man are exploited here, which again makes me wonder why the angel wanted him to do it.
Oh well. Never mind that.
Not a very good book, overall. I might read the next one, because I assume that now that we've gotten Toby O'Dare established, he'll spend more time in the past fulfilling angelic missions – and that was the strongest part of this novel. But the writing was only so-so and the three plot threads (Lucky the Assassin does his job; Angel reveals Toby's past; Toby Time Travels) never quite connect into an united story.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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