Toby O'Dare was once a good man, a person with hope and a family. But violence in his adolescent home demolished his future, and he found himself alone and on the verge of adulthood. Unaware that he was leaving behind a girlfriend who had become pregnant, he fled into a vacant existence, sinking into an aimless life as a contract killer. The ensuing years were devoted to a blur of ugly, thoughtless acts, and link by link, Toby forged his own chains. Thus his soul had become a wretched, twisted thing by the time the angels came.
"I saw them and I heard them in a great and endless galactic night...I heard the voice of Malchiah rise high and brilliant and immense as he said that I must now belong to him, that I must now go with him...Yet there came against him a smaller voice, tender, lustrous, that sang of my life on Earth and what I had to do; it sang of those who needed me and loved me; it sang of common things and common dreams, and pitted these with faultless courage against the great things which Malchiah sought to do."
This night Toby left behind the unspeakable deeds of "Lucky The Fox" and began his work for good. He gave up a normal life and now enjoys peace and contentment in knowing he's been given a second chance. Exhilarated by his love for God, Toby now throws himself completely into his errands, journeys that are only humanly possible because of the existence of Angel Time. He'd like to leave his past behind, and yet, whether our deeds be good or bad, should we truly wish for this? In his self-awareness, Toby realizes there are some sins he does want to keep. He's been in touch with Liona Carpenter recently and found that she's still unmarried and that the two had made a son a decade before. There is nothing Toby regrets less now than the act that led him to this moment, and he finally sets out to meet Liona in person.
After seeing Liona, Toby realizes he's still in love with her. Where Liona was beautiful before, she's absolutely radiant now, and his boy is a picture of innocence, full of generosity and brilliance. Together, they form a vision of love so powerful that Toby weeps openly in amazement, but in the company of angels, he knows that this love does not come free of responsibility. He cannot forget that he has given his life to God and agreed to a term of service. Agonized, Toby asks Malchiah if he'll ever have a chance at completeness. The answer: "Perhaps there is world enough and time for that. Eventually. But you mustn't think on it now."
And so Toby moves forward with his duties, this time with a full and heavy heart, to a place and time where a restless spirit --- a dybbuk --- haunts a troubled villa in 15th-century Rome. He gathers all his cunning and cleverness, as well as his valiance and kindness, to try to save lives and redeem himself. And all this he does while contemplating the mysteries of the heart and such things as good and evil, salvation and divinity.
I can think of no greater praise for OF LOVE AND EVIL than to say that Anne Rice is just amazing. This second installment of The Songs of the Seraphim series follows ANGEL TIME and carries all the heart and urgency of her most popular books. The series is a bit of a departure from some of her works as its focus is paranormal, but it's filled with religious overtones and moralistic reflections, and while these themes are similar to past books, they are approached more directly here. The subject matter is bizarre but natural, and the writing is active and meditative. This is a book that is written to entertain, a quick but satisfying read with literally no extra words and no lags in the pacing. Rice’s fans should be more than pleased with this outstanding sequel.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on January 5, 2011
Of Love and Evil: The Songs of the Seraphim, Book Two