Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

In my last post I mentioned how much I liked my book-a-day calendar, but I didn’t say that one of my favorite parts of the calendar is its tiny book reviews. The pages on those calendars are small so they only get a couple of lines to describe each recommendation, but they do a great job capturing the essence of the book. For example, the calendar said that Angelology was like a cross between Dan Brown and Umberto Eco, and that is a great description.

The premise of Angelology is that the angels of biblical times took human wives, resulting a race of divine beings called Nephilim who live amongst humans. But these are not happy guardian-type angels–the Nephilim have no souls and have been manipulating and oppressing humanity for centuries. Angelologists (a word I’m glad I could just read and didn’t have to say out loud) are the scholars and adventurers who dedicate their lives to fighting the Nephilim’s efforts to exterminate humanity. Oddly, their efforts seem to involve a lot of research in Latin. Two stories run in parallel throughout the book–a modern-day tale of a young nun and a historian trying to unravel a mystery, and a series of flashbacks to a story of angelologists working in Nazi-occupied France. Angelology is far better written than a Dan Brown book, but it does have that element of trying to solve a mystery through the use of medieval relics.

Things I particularly liked about the book:

1) Trussoni creates a very complete world where the existence of angels has been smoothly worked into historical reality.

2) The WWII characters were compelling and the descriptions of Vichy France were fascinating.

3) Most of the modern-day story takes place in New York City, which I really like reading about.

4) Depending on how you read it, the ending was open-ended in a way I found satisfying and true to a complex story.

Things I did not like:

1) The book was long. It felt long. I suspect a good editor could have cut 100 pages out without losing a thing.

2) The modern-day characters seemed flat to me–the young nun, in particular, felt really implausible.

3) There were a number of things about the Nephilim world that didn’t really make since to me. Like, they have servants from lesser angelic classes that are never really explained? And I guess that the Nephilim’s ultimate goal is to completely exterminate humanity, but they don’t seem to be working towards that end with much enthusiasm (despite a relationship with the Nazis). I said that the world felt complete, and it does, but the more I think about it the more cracks appeared around the edges.

4) Depending on how you read it, the ending set things up for a sequel and I feel like I’ve read enough about these people and don’t need another book.

This wasn’t a perfect book, but it was interesting and ambitious. And I’d far rather read a flawed, ambitious book than a technically-adept dull book.