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Of Love and Evil
by Anne Rice


Book Two in The Songs of the Seraphim series.
The first book, Angel Time was reviewed here. This review many contain spoilers for it.


I didn’t exactly enjoy the first book in this series (for the reasons why, see the review link above) but now that the character of Toby O’Dare had been established, I hoped that the series would improve so I picked up a copy of Of Love and Evil. At less than two hundred pages, it’s a very short book, especially by Anne Rice standards.

Toby has been redeemed from his dark past, but that doesn’t mean he is free from making amends for it. He contacts a woman that he knocked up when he was a teenager and offers to fly her out to California so he can meet her and his son. Even though she hasn’t heard from him in ten years, she immediately accepts, and we’re introduced to Liona, the love of Toby’s life. Toby is delighted with his son, and quickly arranges to provide for the two of them. But the reunion is short, for Toby is once again needed to do the angel Malchiah’s bidding, this time in 15th century Rome. Unlike during his previous mission, Toby is going to be fighting evil – but this time he’s up against more than mere humans. In the dark, dirty city of Rome, demons and ghosts interfere in the lives of the living, insuring that this will be Toby’s toughest assignment yet.

If a man that I had disappeared and left me pregnant a decade before suddenly called and asked me to fly to the other side of the country for a weekend getaway, I would have hung up on him. Yet Liona, in her brief appearance in this story, is perfectly happy to do just that – and to take the child fathered by Toby with her! It doesn’t seem suspicious to her? It doesn’t strike her as a possibly hazardous situation? I mean, I get that she loved him and that he had to leave their hometown suddenly because of the circumstances of his mother’s death…but her actions were so stupid that I can’t believe in her existence except as a convenient plot point. No sane woman would be as forgiving and loving as Liona is such a situation! Even more implausible was the fact that her son instantly bonded with his father and wanted to move out to California and live with him. The man is a stranger to him! I am concerned about Toby Jr.’s life back in New Orleans if he’s so eager to leave it.

This isn’t even the main storyline, merely an introduction that showcases how much life improves when a soul turns from the path of evil. At least, I assume that’s the intent. But it sets the story on such uneven footing that I had trouble getting into the rest of the story.

Once Toby is back in the 16th century, trying to protect a Jewish doctor accused of poisoning his patient through the demon living in his house, the story picks up pace and gets a lot more interesting. I actually liked Vitale, the doctor, and his patron/friend Niccolò. They had a strong friendship that overcame the virulent anti-Semitism common to the time. One many suffered physically as a poison sapped his strength; the other was being emotionally ravaged by the stress of living with a demon in his house. The battle between good and evil, and the way destroys a man, was told more effectively in their lives than in the endless internal monologues of the main character Toby.

But I’m still not clear on why the angels need men like Toby to do their bidding. I really hoped that would be explained a little more than it was in Angel Time. I mean, the angels are there in the past, hanging out and watching events…but it still takes a time traveler to affect change? That makes no sense to me. It’s not as if there aren’t already plenty of souls living in the fifteenth century; surely one of them would be just as effective a vessel.

The brevity of the book leaves a lot of little world-building details out, and that left me feeling unsatisfied. The book also ends on a cliffhanger, and there’s no indication that Rice is working on the sequel. Even if she does eventually publish one, I don’t think I’ll be joining her for it. Toby is not an interesting character, and even though some segments of the book are entertaining it gets incredibly bogged down in details about good versus evil that don’t go anywhere.

1.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Of Love and Evil, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

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