Angel Time--Anne Rice

Review copy received 11/04/09


From the time of its announcement, I had been looking forward to this new book by Anne Rice.  As I say in every review, I am not a die-hard Anne Rice fan.  I found Interview with a Vampire interesting and intriguing, but in hindsight, must lay much of the responsibility of the current vampire as victim and love-object obsession at its feet.  After that, I had no patience with her writing until Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. In that book I observed a kind of control and authorial voice that I had not seen in any of the books I had sampled since Interview.  So too with Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. Perhaps because of the subject matter, perhaps for other reasons, these two books seemed to witness a level of control of language and story that the other books did not.  Gone were messy florid passages that lavished two, three, four paragraphs on the description of the lace and flounce of a jabot.  These new books were spare, polished, poetic.

The autobiographical Called Out of Darkness continued the trend in a confessional mode.  And so, I had high hopes for this book.  And, for the most part they were borne out.  The language has gotten a little sloppy.  The introductory sections inviting us to meet the angel had a tendency to too many uses of "beautiful" and "soft".  The tight rein on language seems to have been loosened and some of the floridness and sloppiness of earlier books seems to have crept in.  Not much mind you--and do understand that I have a extreme allergy to it--break out in a rash, sneeze--it's just terrible.

The pieces of the story are a little awkward--we're given Lucky the Fox (Toby O'Dare) a man who became a hit man after a difficult early life setting out on his most recent hit and in the course of completing it encountering an Angel who reveals to him (and to us) his entire life and sets him out on a mission in Medieval England.  We're given a long introduction to his ability to play lute, which, one assumes, may become important in subsequent books because after its purpose in getting us through Lucky/Toby's story, it vanishes entirely, even though it was a pretty good prop against a medieval background.

Awkward or not, Ms. Rice buoys the story along, mission and all, to a reasonable and satisfactory ending, from a story-telling point of view.  However, there is much to be desired from a strictly moral point of view in the tale.  While called to believe and to act out that belief, the first mission is resolved by a series of lies and deceptions that left me a little puzzled.  We have a great theologian of his age and a new convert conspiring together to weave a fabric of lies that can only result ultimately in more harm than good.  All of this flying in the face of the great teacher of the Age, St. Thomas Aquinas who instructed that one may not do evil that good may result.

Okay, I'll admit that I'm being too hard in the first book in a series. Would it have been believable if after Toby's conversion he suddenly eschewed all of the tactics that helped him earlier in life?  No, it would have made for a more difficult read and buy-in.  Is it possible that through the series (and the structure of the novel and subtitle: Songs of the Seraphim suggest that it will be a series) we'll see some moral growth on the part of Toby?  All to be hoped.  Is it also possible that the lute will come back and play a more prominent role (given the time lavished on it in this book)?  One hopes so.

I've nitpicked and cavilled enough.  Truth is, that given the quality of the three books prior to this, I'm probably just a little disappointed in my expectations.  Not that I should be--for popular reading, this is head and shoulders above a great many other works in similar theme.  The control is still there and Anne Rice knows how to weave a tale and make characters.  She does so with superb flair in this book even when she uses an old device to trigger the alert reader to an entirely expected end.

The novel is slender, well-constructed, not larded (as some of her previous works have been) with overly descriptive passages and too much information about nearly everything.  The series is off to a promising start and the book allowed for the passage of several pleasant hours in the company of Ms. Rice and her characters.  This is a book for all of her fans, and perhaps for those looking for a light read, a dip back into the more expected fantasy realms of Anne Rice.  Nothing spectacular, but certainly nothing at all disappointing to those who have enjoyed that vast array of Ms. Rice's oeuvre.

***1/2--Recommended

Comments

  1. Seriously, I'm beggin' ya to remove the description of the "old device" you mention so that others like me who are halfway through the book but trusted for no spoilers won't have that tidbit dumped into their consciousness.

    Other than that, nice review. I also noted that rather florid language when describing the places he "loves." I don't think I've seen the word "love" used so frequently that way ... well possibly ever.

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  2. Dear Julie,

    Thank you. I hadn't seen that as a spoiler since it was pretty obvious from almost the inception of that part of the plot. But no harm in removing a word.

    Yes, love, soft, and beautiful seem to show up an awful lot in the descriptions.

    Thanks again.

    Steven

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  3. I just read the book, courtesy of my local library express section. I borrowed it because it was free and I still wanted to give Anne Rice a chance. I have come to the conclusion she is only slightly popular due to her drunkenly spending what little "vampire chronicles" and "mayfair witches" capital she still has. She spent the first two or three chapters pounding the story of Toby's bizarre lonely tortured state and his deep love for certain locales into the reader. Repeatedly and not very subtly either.
    She has jumped the shark with a large use of repetitive boring internal soliloquoys instead of real character building. As the reader, I could hardly "get sucked in" to the storyline in any way. I couldn't care less what happened to Toby/Lucky the Fox or anyone else in the book.
    If this is a proposed series, I would guess that Toby won't be in them. It will be another soul in need of saving who will be sent on a mission. and another.. and another. Like a literary version (and I use the term loosely) of the "touched by an angel" tv series.


    I haven't read any of her "Christ the Lord" series.

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