Book Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

6691426Title: Angelology
Author: Danielle Trussoni
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural
Rating: 3,5 stars
Goodreads
Review copy purchased from the local bookstore by yours truly.

A thrilling epic about an ancient clash reignited in our time- between a hidden society and heaven’s darkest creatures

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Genesis 6:5

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

After reading a request from a young art historian called Verlaine to look into the archives of Saint Rosa’s convent, based on correnspondence between a former mother superior and the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, Sister Evangeline, a young nun working in the library of the convent, discovers a connection between both women. And it has nothing to do with philanthropy, or art for that matter. Aided by the historian Verlaine, who appears to be love-struck over the young nun, Evangeline is forced to find out more, not only about Abigail Rockefeller and what exactly she and her former mother superior were trying to hide in the convent, but also about her own history, family and who she really is. This search leads them into conflict with the Nephilim, children of angels who are currently still roaming this earth. Nasty, vile and capable of anything, the Nephilim are a worthy opponent not to be messed with. But together, and with the help of angelologists like Evangeline’s grandmother Gabrielle, they must find a way to reclaim an archefact of great power. Something the Nephilim want whatever it takes, but something they must never get, for the consequences will be terrible.

It appears to me that Angelology isn’t all that new, exciting and innovating as it tries to be. Danielle Trussoni is simply the latest author trying to grab a slice from the Dan Brown pie. Dan Brown features demons, secret societies, symbols and century-old mysteries. Danielle Trussoni features half-angels, secret angelologist societies, symbols, and century-old mysteries. See the connection? That’s not to say that the book isn’t impressive, it just has this old ‘been there, did that’ vibe, but now with Nephilim rather than demons.

The research Danielle Trussoni did before writing this book, cannot be described anything other than impressive. The minor details touched – from cars to layouts of convents to locations in France and New York – is amazing. The mythology, the study of Angels through the centuries, the bible readings, are all very interesting facts, and she certainly possesses a great knowledge base to start with. Her writing style is amazing as well. She describes certain things in the utmost detail, and it’s debatable whether that is just sheer brilliance or slows the story down. The lyrical prose, the impressive descriptions and the attention for detail really adds a lot of quality and depth to this novel, especially the part that’s written in France in 1939 – that part is simply brilliant. I had a lot of trouble with the last 100 or so pages of the book though, which I thought were less in quality compared to the previous parts of the book.

I hate to say this, but about some things mentioned in Angelology, it appears that Mrs. Trussoni is simply ignorant. She accuses the Nephilim of basically starting World War II – or atleast convincing the Nazis enough to commit such horrible crimes – and puts them in the middle of Nazi parties in the year 1939. She then goes as far as blaming all evil things that happen in this world on the Nephilim. Her novel is all in blacks and whites: Nephilim bad, humans good, and that just makes it unbelievable. The world isn’t black and white. You can’t blame every evil act on Nephilim and paint them off as the bad guys. Humans do enough evil on their own, without outside-help. I also disliked the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any good Nephilim on this world. They’re all bad, wicked, vile and self-centered. Although, in all honesty, I have to admit that Percival Grigori, the main Nephilim character we see, did appear to be capable of some good, at least in the years 1939. I would have preferred if there were some good and some bad Nephilim. It would seem a lot more realistic. Nothing is ever truly bad, and nothing is ever truly good. There are different shades of good and bad, and unfortunately Mrs. Trussoni fails to acknowledge that.

At first, I was quite skeptical about how large the religious factor would be in Angelology, and I have to say that I’m both surprised and relieved that it only takes up a minor part. You don’t have to be utterly religious to enjoy this novel. There are some bible passages mentioned, but that’s it, and basically it can appeal to everyone, from every religion.

The plot is fast-paced and skillfully unfolded as the story continues. The characters range from being believable, interesting, intellectual and clever – read: Gabrielle Lévi-Franche and Celestine – to somewhat-boring, ‘why the hell did they end up in this novel?’ and rather useless – read: Verlaine. I did enjoy reading the stories of the bad guys, and figuring out that Percival Grigori has a genuine reason for trying to get the artefact the angelologists recovered from the mountains in Bulgary in the 1930s, and that it’s not just about powers. The part about the decay of the Nephilim was a brilliant touch, and adding Evangeline’s personal history to this novel was a nice sidestory as well. I enjoyed the part about Gabrielle and Celestine the most, because it seemed the most well-written, tense and suspenseful part of the novel.

The ending left me feeling rather dissapointed, because it all seems to happen in a blur. Also, when Evangeline’s true heritage is revealed, I felt like hitting myself on the head. A novel of this calibre should not need a sequel, and by making Evangeline as she is, Trussoni has clearly left the path open for a sequel. I don’t know why people want to take an interesting idea, make a wonderful, impressive and fascinating novel about it, and then milk it out for a sequel and maybe even a third novel. What happened to stand-alone novels, that are impressive enough on their own? It seems like everyone has forgotten that the old classics we still remember and enjoy are stand-alone novels. Nowadays, everyone wants a trilogy. It’s getting old-skool people.

Angelology is definately an entertaining read. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse will be delighted to venture into the adventures described in Angelology. The knowledge depicted in this book is impressive, the writing style demands for more and the characters are charming, distinct and well thought-through. The perfect kind of book to entertain you on a rainy sunday afternoon.

Book Review: Bella Maura by Dawn Dyson

9003854Title: Bella Maura (Beautiful Justice #1)
Author: Dawn Dyson
Genre: Spiritual, Christian Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Creation House
Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Author’s Website

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?
When novelist Sienna Emory decides to come to the aid of an old college friend, she finds more than she bargained for. Not only does her friend Cheney have a full-blown drug addiction, she also has an endearing ex-husband who is still trying to help her. An unlikely match, Sienna and Jonathan soon become close. Jonathan’s five-year-old daughter seems to be the answer to Sienna’s prayers. Never able to have children of her own, Sienna is overjoyed at the prospect of finding a mate in Jonathan and a daughter in little Bella. But Cheney is not a typical friend and Bella is not a typical little girl.
Join Sienna and Jonathan on the discovery of Bella Maura’s sprirtual gift. It will lead them, and you, from America to Jonathan’s hometown in Ireland, where the gift is perceived as a curse that has tormented the Driscoll clan for centuries. Will Sienna and Jonathan help Bella use it for the good?

I have to admit that I’ve hardly read any Christian Fiction, and that I usually shy away from the genre. Bella Maura is the exception to the rule, the novel I simply couldn’t resist even if it wasn’t in a genre I usually read or am very fond of. I’m glad I made the exception, I’m glad I gave Bella Maura a chance, because it certainly does not dissapoint.

Sienna is a renowed novelist, and ‘foster parent’ for ‘her girls’, homeless or abused young women she takes into her home and makes a part of her family. Since she’s a very generous, compassionate and loving person, she naturally comes to the aid of her old college friend, Cheney, when the latter calls and asks for her help. But Sienna has no idea of the mess she’s gotten into. Cheney has no intention of really recovering whatsoever, and like her drug addiction and alcoholism isn’t bad enough, Sienna also discovers that she has a daughter she’s been avoiding for years. When Sienna gets to know Cheney’s neighbour and friend, Jonathan, it doesn’t take her long to figure out that Jonathan is the father of the daughter Cheney abandoned: Bella Maura.

Unable to have children herself, Sienna immediately feels a strong connection to the young girl. And when Sienna and Jonathan’s relationship blossoms, she ‘adopts’ Bella Maura as her own daughter. But unfortunately, there are still some troubles ahead. Cheney is struggling her addiction in a rehabilitation centre, someone is leaving weird notes for Sienna, and Bella has a special talent to connect with God that could end in disaster.

Dawn Dyson has an amazing writing voice. She writes descriptions with such delicate care, each word of the sentence holding a special meaning, and each sentence as mesmerizing as the one before. She is truly a master of words, and the way she crafts her words, sentences and paragraphs into this great, meaningful and amazing story, is nothing short but a miracle. Her writing style totally charmed me, overwhelmed me even, and left me very impressed. She puts grave thoughts, and life-altering questions in her novel with such ease that I, as a reader, was hardly surprised by all the questions this book kept asking me.

Bella Maura asks questions about the meaning of life, about the existence of evil, about the goodness of another person’s heart, about spirituality, God, and more things that we hardly stand still to think about, but are important parts of our day-to-day life. We deal with good and evil on a daily basis, yet we never stop to think about the very nature of good and evil. And the thing with Bella Maura is that, where in other novels I might be repulsed by such questions, and disregard the novel as being either too spiritual or too difficult and nerve-wrecking to continue, now I didn’t. The beautiful narrator’s voice, the distinctive and recognisable characters, the undeniable sense of love that this novel radiates, is more than enough to keep on reading, to ask yourself the questions this book challenges you to ask, and to do all of that without even a hint of annoyance. Bella Maura doesn’t just force its readers to continue reading, to turn page after page after page eagerly anticipating what’s coming next – it also challenges its readers, dares them to think out of the box, to think about their own part in life, their own connection to God, to define what is good and what is evil. That’s pretty much what all great books do, and Bella Maura truly is a great book.

The main characters, Sienna and Jonathan, share this amazing love connection that makes me believe there’s still hope for all of us. Their love is strong, both on an emotional and day-to-day level and on a higher, spiritual level. From the first moment they meet, they are drawn to each other with a force that cannot be explained any other way then that they’re soulmates. Both are charming, loving, caring, compassionate and giving so much for others that they often forget all about themselves. They are both very inspiring, and although their romance might start off a bit like a whirlwind, and I’ve always had some trouble grasping the whole ‘falling in love with each other in a day or two’ issue, but nevertheless, Dawn Dyson succeeds in making their relationship convincing, heartfelt and adorable.

I also really loved the other characters: Bella Maura, Jonathan’s little girl with a special talent and a deep connection with God and the world around her, the girls Sienna took into her home and looked after, and even Cheney, Sienna’s old college-friend who is now a drug-addict and alcoholist. The personalities of all characters were very well described throughout the novel, and I had the feeling I got to know all of them by the end of it. My heart went out to Sienna, and to ‘her girls’ for overcoming abuse, and for still being able to live, laugh, care and love. They were really a family, despite all their different backgrounds, thoughts and opinions, and it was really heartwarming to see their interactions.

From the suburbs of America to the shores of Ireland, this novel offers a plotline that is as divers and intense as its characters, a fast-paced adventure and a  journey of self-discovery, and acceptance that there is something greater than us all.

As I already said, Dawn Dyson is not afraid to touch some sensitive topics, and to ask her readers some valuable questions, but she does so with the support of an amazing cast of characters, and a strong and suspenseful plot. Bella Maura will both amaze and surprise you.