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Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Plot Type: 
    Book 1: Horror/Suspense Police Procedural with Soul Mates
     Book 2: UF 
Ratings: V5; S2; H0
Publisher and Titles: Ace:
        Sins of the Angels (9/2011)
        Sins of the Son (3/2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 4/28/12 to include a review of the second book in the series: Sins of the Son. That review comes first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of book 1:

       BOOK 2: Sins of the Son      
     Although book 1 is a horror-filled police procedural, book 2 ventures into authentic urban fantasy, albeit with lots of angelic characters and settings. As Sins of the Son opens, Aramael has been punished severely for killing one of the Fallen—his brother Caim—in the climax to the previous book. Now, Aramael is condemned to live on mortal earth with no communication with Heaven. Without his wings and his angelic powers, he is at the mercy of Fallen angels who mercilessly beat him up night after night. In the meantime, Alex has been assigned desk duty in the aftermath of her severe injuries in that same climactic scene. Seth has returned to his angelic home, where he is scheduled to be the focus of a pact between his parents: the One and Lucifer. Here, Aramael explains to Alex: “When he was born, Lucifer and the One reached an agreement under which, when the time was right, Seth would be reborn in to the mortal realm. He was to live among you until he reached adulthood and then, through his own choices, make the final decision regarding humanity’s fate. A path of good would have required Lucifer to finally step aside and leave the mortal world alone. Permanently. Any war that might occur then would be between Heaven and the Fallen and would not involve mortals….If he makes the wrong choice…humanity will be lost.” (pp. 190-191) The plan is for Seth to be transformed into a mortal infant and then make his decision when he has had a chance to grow to adulthood on earth.

     The plot follows Aramael, Alex, and Seth as each plays a part in decimating that pact. Seth goes first, bargaining with Mittron to be placed on mortal earth in his adult form so that he can find Alex, to whom he is mightily attracted. Unfortunately, that transfer goes horribly wrong, and Seth winds up naked and unconscious in Vancouver with total amnesia—so severe that he has lost all of his language abilities. When a photograph of Seth turns up on a police poster in Toronto, Alex immediately recognizes him and heads for Vancouver to rescue him. The situation becomes more and more complicated as various angels and Fallen try to intercede with Seth. Eventually, the One calls the Archangel Michael back from exile and puts him in charge on the angels’ side. Acting on his own, Michael immediately restores some of Aramael’s powers and sends him off to kill Seth because he fears that in his primitive state, Seth is likely to make the wrong choice. So, here’s the situation: Alex is protecting Seth and is attracted to both him and Aramael. Seth is crazy about Alex and hates Aramael because Aramael is still officially Alex’s soul mate. Aramael is trying to kill Seth, both because of his assignment and because he is insanely jealous of the attraction between Alex and Seth. In the meantime, both Lucifer and Michael are doing as much as they can to interfere in the whole process. As you can imagine, this does not end well for anyone.

     The story line gets somewhat convoluted as the actions of various characters—both good and bad—force changes in the terms of the pact that is the center of the plot. Two mortals, both connected to the Vancouver police department, get involved in the situation. Dr. Elizabeth Riley is the psychiatrist who finds the naked Seth on her doorstep. Hugh Henderson is a police detective who eventually assists Alex in her protection of Seth. Towards the end of the story, Lucifer makes a discovery about Alex’s family, and that affects both the action in this book and the next
The romantic triangle loses one of its points by the end of the story, but who knows what will happen in future books.

     The first book spent a lot of time on the mythology and character introductions, so it is a relief that this book is able to put that behind and delve deeper into the characters, particularly the One and Lucifer. This is a strong follow-up that maintains and strengthens the world-building and creates a clear series arc in which the war between Heaven and Hell is at the forefront.

     Ace is marketing this series as urban fantasy, but the first book is much more of a horror/suspense police procedural than an urban fantasy. The plot is dominated by one bloody crime scene after another, each centered around one or more graphically described, mutilated corpses (too many to count), all murdered by a crazed serial killer who is slashing his way across Toronto

     In this world, Heaven is headed by the god-like figure of "the One" (aka the Creator), a silver-haired woman who has become weary after endless centuries of heavenly and mortal strife. She is inscrutable in her words and actions and requires abiding faith from her followers. The series mythology follows the usual Heaven-Hell story. Here is a quotation from the book that summarizes that story: "[Alex] learned of the One's creation of a human race, nurtured throughout its evolution, and of Lucifer's intense envy of the One's attachment to those humans. Of the splitting of Heaven and the formation of Hell. Of the downfall of those angels who chose to follow Lucifer. The resulting noninterference pact. The appointment of a handful of those who remained loyal to the One as Powers when not all of the Fallen would abide by the agreement." (Sins of the Angels, p. 247)

     Although Poitevin tweaks the hierarchy slightly, the angelic structure generally follows the traditional Christian format, with nine choirs of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, Principalities, and Guardians. (Click HERE to go to the descriptions of the nine choirs as found on Catholic Online. Click HERE to go to Poitevin's version.) In this book, the primary heavenly characters come from the Seraphim, Dominions, and Powers.

     The Guardians are assigned to help point mortals in the right direction, away from sin, but since all mortals have free will, the Guardians' efforts aren't always enough to keep their charges on the straight and narrow path of morality and goodness. Mortals who are descendants of the Grigori (aka Nephilim, Naphils) don't get to have a Guardian; they must rely on their own moral compasses to guide them to the right decisions in their lives. Poitevin weaves the angelic mythology and the story of the Fall into the plot in mostly easy-to-swallow portions. In this quotation from the book, a character explains why angels have neither emotions nor free will: "When Lucifer left and took the others with him, we went to war. The agony of having to fight our loved ones nearly tore us apart and, to make it easier on us, the One took away our free will and the capacity to feel love for those near to us." (Sins of the Angels, pp. 235-236).

Here is a list of the recurring characters in the series:

The Mortals
     > Alexandra (Alex) Jarvis: a 30-something Naphil (who doesn't know it) with a tragic past; she is a Toronto homicide detective.
     > Staff Inspector Doug Roberts (aka Staff): Alex's boss, head of the Toronto Homicide Squad; he knows about Alex's childhood tragedy and is generally sympathetic toward her.

The Angels
     > Aramael (mortal name Jacob Trent): a Power who is sent to mortal earth to protect Alex and hunt down his twin brother, Caim.
     > Seth (mortal name Seth Benjamin): the Appointed, son of the One and Lucifer, who agrees to help Alex and Aramael, but finds himself drawn to Alex; he is above Mittron in the angelic hierarchy.
     > Mittron (aka The Highest): the top Seraphim, currently the One's right-hand man, who has private and personal issues that appear to be overriding his loyalty to his leader.
     > Verchiel: a Dominion, Mittron's former soul mate but now his subordinate, who suspects Mittron of dastardly deeds but doesn't have enough free will to fully pursue her suspicions.
     > Mika'el (aka Michael): powerful archangel who left Heaven after a disagreement with the One thousands of years ago.

The Fallen
     > Lucifer: Former consort of the One, he is a Fallen archangel and now leads the Fallen. Click HERE to read the author's bio of Lucifer.
     > Samael: Lucifer's second in command, he is a Fallen archangel.

       BOOK 1: Sins of the Angels            
     As the series opens, Alex and her fellow detectives are desperately trying to catch the brutal serial killer who is slashing apart innocent people and leaving them posed in a position that resembles a crucifix. Meanwhile in Heaven, Mittron knows that Caim (a Fallen angel) is the murderer, and he orders Verchiel to send Aramael (Caim's brother) to capture Caim and to protect Alex, since Caim will target her and because she doesn't have a Guardian of her own to help her. Caim believes that if he can inhabit the body of a Naphil at the moment of her death, he will have one last chance to return to Heaven. Caim also wants revenge on his brother for sending him to Limbo and separating him from his soul mate. When Aramael learns that he must protect a naphil, he is, understandably, quite upset. Here is a quotation from the book that explains why: "Nephilim. Seed of the original Fallen Angels, the Grigori, who were cast from heaven for interference with the mortals they were to watch over. Reminder of all that had been lost in the ensuing exodus from Heaven, and of the enduring, irreconcilable split that remained between angel-kind." (Sins of the Angels, p. 21)

     The plot follows Alex as she works on the case and tries to deal with the fact that sometimes Aramael appears to have angelic wings that no one can see but her. Alex's mother was a schizophrenic who saw angelic visions and eventually killed herself and Alex's father, so Alex is afraid that she, too, may be succumbing to madness. As the police search for clues in earthly Toronto, the angels are up to their wing tips in secretive missions and a few dirty tricks in Heaven. You won't be surprised to discover that Heaven has power-hungry megalomaniacs, reluctant whistle blowers, and emotionally unstable soldiers—just as we do on mortal earth. As Caim tries to force Aramael into action, he increases his murderous attacks. The police are at their wit's end, and Alex and Aramael must solve the case. The climactic ending leaves many loose plot threads to be gathered up in the next book.

     As far as the romantic situation goes, it is obvious from their first meeting that Alex and Aramael have a deep physical and emotional connection, but since they rarely have a personal conversation and because they keep so many secrets from one another, the romance just didn't work for me. The couple spends most of the book disliking and distrusting one another, even though they feel a kind of lusty attraction that neither one of them really wants. I'm sure that their relationship will develop in the next book(s), so I'll keep reading the series. There is a romantic ringer in the form of Seth, who is also attracted to Alex, and vice versa (to some extent), so we'll have to see where that leads.

     Poitevin has built an inventive world that is well structured and consistent, for the most part. There is one point, late in the book, when Alex and Aramael allow Alex's sister to overhear some carefully kept secrets. That didn't make much sense to me because Aramael had been doing his best up to that point to keep Alex totally in the dark about the entire Heavenly connection. Why would he knowingly let her sister listen in when he just met her moments ago? Sometimes the narration can get to be a bit melodramatic, but, in general, the story-telling is compelling and fast paced. Alex makes a great, if slightly stereotypical, heroine, with her tragic past, spunky manner, and innate intelligence. Aramael's character is not as nuanced as Alex. He is a ferocious hunter who has led an emotion-free life (except for rage and guilt), so he maintains a stoic manner much of the time (kind of like Christine Feehan's Carpathians before they meet their lifemates).

     Click HERE to read an entry on the author's blog entitled "Playing with Hellfire: The Christian Mythology Behind the Grigori Legacy." Click HERE to read "Archangel's Defiance," a prequel short story about the incident that caused the exile of the Archangel Mika’el (aka Michael).

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