The great battle between Heaven and Earth still rages on, with dark angels living among us. The Fallen Ones are ethereal inhuman creatures whose power is altogether astonishing and terrifying. Their descendants, the Nephilim, are hybrids of angels and humans who populate the Earth, living in disguise and seeking perfection and domination. Angelologists now work to recover a celestial artifact that, in the wrong hands, will either salvage or doom mankind.
Sister Evangeline lives with the nuns of the St. Rose Convent in Milton, New York, coveting and researching ancient and modern angelology texts. She's part of a long line of angelologists in her family, having lost her mother to the Nephilim after she was imprisoned and tortured. The nuns at St. Rose are part of an organization that is known of but not formally recognized by the Vatican. Theirs is a secret society based not on singular worship but on fighting the "war of attrition" that has been going on for centuries.
Evangeline is thrust headfirst into this war when a scholar named V.A. Verlaine writes to her. Verlaine has been hired by a man named Percival Grigori and is requesting access to records of correspondence between the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller and the convent's own Mother Innocenta. These records hint of something the Nephilim are looking for, and though Verlaine has an academic interest in the information, he's unaware that his employer is one of the "Old Ones." Struck by her interest in this scholar, which both shocks her and is contrary to her vows, Evangeline ends up secretly revealing knowledge that personally endangers them both and exposes the angelologists to their enemies.
Desperate to know more about the correspondences, Evangeline eventually questions an older colleague about them. Sister Celestine's failing health has left her near the end of her days, but between bouts of coughing, she finally levels with Evangeline. Abigail Rockefeller and Mother Innocenta, both dead now, once had intimate connections with the angelologists. Celestine also had a vital role in the war during the 1930s, and she recounts to Evangeline her part in the battle still going on.
This involved Celestine retrieving an artifact, a lyre given to the Fallen Ones by the angel Gabriel. Attempts to retrieve vital information about the angels and this artifact once led Celestine and a team of angelologists on a dangerous expedition. They crossed the River Styx and descended into the bowels of the Earth to an area called the Infidel's Prison. This is the cavern where God once imprisoned the disobedient Fallen Angels, the team finally being drawn to the site because of peasant rumors of celestial music. What the angelologists actually found, however, left many dead and all in danger, with the Nephilim now having good reason to pursue and exterminate them.
The Nephilim's discovery of the importance of this information galvanizes the human team again to find the artifact. Evangeline, Verlaine and Gabrielle (Evangeline's grandmother) are allowed into meetings and into the operations of the Council of Angelologists. They work against time to retrieve clues to the hiding place of the lyre that Celestine once recovered. With the Nephilim hot on their tracks (led by Percival Grigori and his family), they race to recover it as they are hunted down. The race to find it soon becomes a race to destroy it once they realize it's the only way to save humanity.
ANGELOLOGY is being compared by readers to THE DA VINCI CODE, and in some ways, this proves to be true. The novel does include a treasure hunt halfway around the world, complete with deciphering of cryptic messages, a bit of symbology, and much interweaving of historical figures, as well as biblical passages to give it backing and depth. Author Danielle Trussoni has clearly thought through her subject matter, enough to give substantial background to her ideas. But the style and tone of the book are much different from Dan Brown's. With such great attention given to explaining angelology concepts, genealogy and history, the novel tends toward lengthy, dry texts in many sections. You do have to be quite a patient reader to sift through some unnecessary information and grasp the gist of the story before much is happening. The ideas, however, are very imaginative, enough that the book has gained substantial interest and will likely continue to do so. Sony has already purchased the movie rights to ANGELOLOGY, and that was rumored to have been accomplished after a bidding war.
The angels themselves and the Nephilim are fascinating creatures as they've been imagined. They are being likened to a "master race," and humans mean less than nothing to them. They are beautiful and lascivious creatures, seven-foot giants (Goliath being one) with blonde hair, aquamarine eyes, iridescent flesh and feathered wings (easily retracted and hidden). They despise kindness and mercy, seeing these traits as wholly human and weak, and revel in violence and the pleasures of the flesh. The Nazis, it turns out, were under Nephilistic control here, as were many other historical factions. For patient readers, this original, panoramic clash of good and evil will provide a great reward for the effort involved in reading ANGELOLOGY, the first in a trilogy.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on December 22, 2010