Angelology by Danielle Trussoni – Book Review

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
Published by Penguin

In the days before the Great Flood, a choir of angels called The Watchers took advantage of their position on Earth to form romantic attachments with human women. The results of these liaisons were known as Nephilim, human-angel hybrids who were larger and more powerful than humans. One of these creatures managed to escape the waters of the Flood, working his way onto Noah’s Ark through the subterfuge of his kind, and thus ensuring that Nephilim would continue to exist. In the years since, the physically superior Nephilim have, as the ruling classes of Europe, oppressed humankind (can I just mention that this sort of disturbs me, as it seems to me a justification within the book of the oppressions that Europeans have wrought on other peoples by explaining that the rulers who ordered them weren’t actually human at all). However, they have also been fought by a group at times loosely affiliated with the Catholic Church, Angelologists.

Angelology tells the story of the Angelolgists of the late 20th century. A formally powerful, now sickly, Nephilim named Percival Grigori is searching for an ancient artifact to restore himself to health and power, employing an art historian named Verlaine. Verlaine discovers the existence of a series of letters from the 1940s between Abigail Rockefeller and Mother Innocenta, the Mother Superior of a convent in New York State. When he visits the convent in an attempt to research the connection, he meets Sister Evangeline, a young woman who was until now blissfully unaware of her place in one of the great Angelological families.

The majority of the action in Angelology takes place in 1999, although the second of three sections takes place during and in the lead up to World War II, in a renowned Parisian school of Angelology. I found the first section and the first half of the second to be quite slow, particularly for a book that is considered to be a thriller. The problem is that Trussoni has to set up a particularly complicated plot and world view, made even more complicated by the fact it was grafted upon the real world we know, while at the same time completely changing our conception of human history. The result was sort of an info dump. It was interesting information, an interesting alternative history, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t bog down the story. Once the story got going, however, it was engaging and moved fairly quickly.

The saving grace of the info dump is the fact that this is apparently the first book in a series, the length of which I am not certain, although it does stand alone. The second half of the book intrigues me enough that I will likely pick up the sequel whenever it becomes available. I recommend this to people who are interested in well-thought out world building and who are willing to sit through an initially slow thriller for the payoff.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

I have two copies to give away, via the publisher, to readers with a US or Canadian mailing address. Just fill out the form below by the end of the day on Monday, March 21.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews.  Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.

Tuesday, March 1st: My Two Blessings

Wednesday, March 2nd: English Major’s Junk Food

Thursday, March 3rd: Life In Review

Tuesday, March 8th: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, March 9th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, March 10th: The Book Faery Reviews

Friday, March 11th: Katie’s Nesting Spot

Monday, March 14th: A Fanatic’s Book Blog

Tuesday, March 15th: Book Reviews by Molly

Wednesday, March 16th: Devourer of Books

Thursday, March 17th: Chaotic Compendiums

Monday, March 21st: Boarding in My Forties

Tuesday, March 22nd: Café of Dreams

Wednesday, March 23rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Thursday, March 24th: The Infinite Shelf

Monday, March 28th: Calico Critic

Wednesday, March 30th: Alison’s Book Marks

Thursday, March 31st: Booksie’s Blog

* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva – Book Review

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
Published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin

When an art restorer is shot in his home in the middle of a summer rash with art theft, it seems to be no more than a robbery gone wrong. Unfortunately, that proves not to be the case. A valuable, almost unknown Rembrandt is missing. There’s too much at stake to make this public knowledge, so the art dealer who has been in possession of the Rembrandt contacts his old friend Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and retired Israeli spy and assassin. As Gabriel begins to investigate the history of the painting, he discovers it has a very dicey provenance, disappearing from the possession of a Jewish man in Amsterdam during World War II. This history makes things personal for Gabriel, and he is determined to do whatever it takes to find this painting and get to the bottom of the theft.

What a smart thriller! One thing I really appreciated is that Silva does not treat his readers as if they were stupid. One thing that drives me crazy about a lot of thrillers is that authors often write unnecessarily short chapters with ridiculous cliffhangers in order to keep the story moving. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes it is simply obnoxious. Silva does not indulge in any of that. His chapters are as long as they need to be, without any manufactured drama. It made me feel as if Silva valued my intelligence as a reader. Yes, it meant that “The Rembrandt Affair” started more slowly than many thrillers, but Silva built suspense organically, the tension growing as Gabriel got deeper into the case. Indeed, every time I picked up the book, it grew more and more difficult to put it back down.

Gabriel, by the way, is my new favorite spy. Yes, he’s an assassin, but he’s an assassin with a conscious. Plus, he is a cultured, sophisticated art restorer – and this is a real passion, not simply his cover. And he’s in a monogamous relationship, so no oh-so-predictable sexual tension between the main character and the woman he must work with, which was refreshing for a change.

Let me also just say, this is one of the most beautiful hardcover books I’ve seen in some time. The art on the inside of the front and back covers was lovely, and the page before the title page was gorgeous, looking as if it had been painted, with texture so realistic I could almost feel it. And the paper it was printed on was rapturous. Yes, I know, that sounds far too strong a word for paper, but it was so incredibly thick and luxurious that every time I turned the page I stopped and thumbed the page. Actually, I was a bit worried when I first saw the book, because I assumed from the heft that it was well over 700 pages, but it was really just under 500 pages of wonderfully thick paper.

A great, smart thriller in an absolutely beautiful package. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on more books from the Gabriel Allon series. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Lydia at Putnam.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.