I will be doing many things this holiday weekend. Blogging is not one.
So, you’re going to get five retro reviews.
This is the first, and it’s probably the last time I’ll read Anne Rice.
From October 9, 2009 …
Review: Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim, Book One, Anne Rice, 2009.
Since this is the first of her novels I’ve read, I didn’t come to this book with any expectations or resentments about Rice’s recent change of subjects or themes.
This book suffers from several problems. The first is that its setup – a modern hitman recruited by his guardian angel to undertake a mission into medieval England – hints at an intriguing, violent story that never materializes. Malchiah, guardian angel to protagonist Toby O’Dare, seems to think Toby is ideally suited for this mission. I remained unconvinced. O’Dare’s contributions seem to be his beautiful, graceful appearance which renders him credible enough to attempt a deceit to save the Jews of Norwich, England. To be sure, Toby has also read extensively about the time. But Rice seems to cheat a little by giving him linguistic abilities which he hasn’t earned unless we’re dealing with an implicit gift of tongues. The second problem is that the characters all sound alike when narrating their tales be it Toby O’Dare or Malchiah or the Jewish woman Fluria. The third problem is that, for a tale involving an assassin and a threatened massacre of Jews in England, it’s remarkably ungrim and beautiful – in fact several figures are described as beautiful or graceful: Fluria, Meir, Godwin, Toby, Malchiah, even the mysterious Right Man (who may head a government assassination bureau). Granted, that constant emphasis on beauty and grace is sometimes an advantage in conveying the visual attraction of the Catholic faith, and Rice depicts some of the nuances of Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages. But it is too much beauty when depicting the fallen human world.
The fourth problem is that the story is too long. Rice writes some nice sentences, has some truthful, insightful bits in her internal monologues and then dilutes the effect by being too wordy. Finally, the ending is contrived, a revelation to Toby too neatly mirroring another character’s dilemna.
The book ends with a hint of more Toby adventures to come. I didn’t hate this novel. But I didn’t find Toby’s adventures intriguing enough to want more.