Review: 'Angelopolis', Danielle Trussoni

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Danielle Trussoni
Ebook, aprox. 320 pages

A decade has passed since Verlaine saw Evangeline alight from the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of her new wings a betrayal that haunts him still. Now an elite angel hunter for the Society of Angelology, he pursues his mission with single-minded devotion: to capture, imprison, and eliminate her kind.

But when Evangeline suddenly appears on a twilit Paris street, Verlaine finds her nature to be unlike any of the other creatures he so mercilessly pursues, casting him into a spiral of doubt and confusion that only grows when she is abducted before his eyes by a creature who has topped the society’s most-wanted list for more than a century. The ensuing chase drives Verlaine and his fellow angelologists from the shadows of the Eiffel Tower to the palaces of St. Petersburg and deep into the provinces of Siberia and the Black Sea coast, where the truth of Evangeline’s origins — as well as forces that could restore or annihilate them all—lie in wait.

Why did I read this book?
I am a bit of an angel fangirl, I have my own angel books to publish one day (hopefully) and I read Angelology back when it came out in 2010. I was... disappointed, to say the least, but alas, I have a slightly masochistic streak that makes me want to give bad books a second chance.

So, Angelology had quite a few flaws - three different POVs in three different timelines, a terrible love story, and a final twist that caught exactly no one by surprise. I was hoping Angelopolis would correct some of these flaws, and while it did... it also created some new, equally bad ones. Let me walk you through them.

1. Plot
From what I gather, this book has one main plot point and that is... Verlaine, who is now an angel hunter, needs/wants to find Evangeline. Why? Well, let’s see if I can explain it. Professionally, he needs to find her so he can kill her, but personally, he spends half the book yapping about how important she is to him even though they haven’t seen each other or communicated in any way in over ten years. Besides, let me remind you all that Angelology ended with Evangeline perched on a bridge opening her plot twisty angel wings, and Verlaine looking at her from below, in complete despair because that meant the end of their love story, even though they’d known each other for 48 hours.

I have a very big problem with this. Evangeline was the main character in the first book, so why was she only given 2-3 pages of “screentime” in this one? Why did the author decide to transform her just-turned-Nephilim (that's a human/angel hybrid, for the uninitiated) main character into a plot device to fuel Verlaine’s manpain? I would rather have read about Evangeline’s transformation. How does this woman cope with life as a Nephilim when the events of the first book have taught her to fear them above all else? How does she cope with becoming a monster, every inch like the monsters responsible for the eradication of her family? How does she learn to use her new powers? Is he self-taught? Does she make friends among the old Nephilim families? How does this transformation change her, as opposed to how does this transformation change the guy who fell for her in the first book? Personally, I found the POV change rather unsuccessful, simply because it kept a curtain between me and the things I truly wanted to know.

About the plot development itself... it was weak. I’ve told you about Verlaine’s goal, but that goal is nothing but an excuse to unveil conspiracies and historical secrets related to Fabergé eggs (hence the cover), John Dee’s hypothetical talks with angels, a pre-diluvian seed bank, and a Panopticon for angels. I love alternate interpretations of Biblical texts and Christan mythology, I really do, but if your goal is to write entertaining fiction, sometimes you need to know where to hold back the history and focus on the actual story.

2. Characters
I’ve mentioned that Angelology, this book’s predecessor, commited the grave mistake of telling three different stories in three different timelines – two of those timelines were much more interesting than the others, and it just so happened that the least interesting of all was the contemporary timeline, the one where Evangeline and Verlaine meet. Why? Well, because the characters couldn’t keep me interested.

So let me tell you, if the characters were bad in Angelology, you don’t want to hear about Angelopolis. Here, characters are nothing but names and physical descriptions – they sit around, they talk, sometimes they act, but they never really feel, and the same goes for me. It’s hard for me to stay interested in a book if I can’t connect with at least one of the characters, and these people were nothing but walking, talking textbooks. Their motivations, when not strictly professional, were a mystery to me – and let’s be honest, even if we assume their motivations were all strictly professional, who wants to read a book about people robotically doing their jobs?

3. Setting/worldbuilding
Now, if there's one thing Danielle Trussoni is good at, is creating ambiance. From dark alleys in Paris to antique shops in St. Petersburg, from barren landscapes seen through the windows of the trans-siberian to greenhouses in Bulgaria filled with nothing but pre-diluvian plants... when Danielle Trussoni writes it, I can imagine myself there. The problem is... well, ambiance doesn't sell books unless you're Angela Carter (and your characters have a personality).

Apart from that, my biggest setting-related complaint goes to the way the author has chosen to frame her Nephilim. Back in 2010, I described this setting as "Nephilim are real and live undercover in their big-ass NYC penthouses" and "they're obnoxiously rich and throw parties round the clock and are responsible for all the evil in the world". This is all fine and dandy, more than fine and dandy, but the problem, I think, is that Danielle Trussoni doesn't know where to stop - if, in the first book, the Nephilim were connected to everyone from Adolf Hitler to Karl Marx, and I thought that was over the top, now they're also connected to the whole Romanov dynasty and Coco Chanel. Oh, and Jesus was a Nephilim too. We've gone from "interesting take on historical details" to full on conspiracy theory.

By now you all probably know I am a hardcore defender of the entertainment value of shows like Ancient Aliens, so... skip this book, go watch Giorgio A. Tsoukalos and his pyramid theories instead.

4. Writing style
I do remember liking, perhaps even loving the writing style in Angelology, but sadly, I didn’t feel that same wow factor in this book. While I have complimented the author’s ability to create ambiance and describe a setting to create a mood, the rest of the writing was definitely lackluster. The dialogues were wooden and unnatural - though perhaps we can consider that an unfortunate consequence of having only academic-type characters infodumping around coffee tables -, and the biggest chunk of writing was dedicated to exposition as opposed to character development and, you know, actual action.

Long story short...
Angelopolis is a disappointment. It doesn't live up to its already flawed predecessor, and it tries really hard to pave the way for a hypothetical third installment where, I assume, all hell will break loose and Evangeline and Verlaine will lead opposing factions into battle. It gets two stars from me, and before you ask... yes, yes, I'm pretty sure I'll still read the third one.

I have a slightly masochistic streak that makes me want to give bad books a third chance.

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