Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim
This is historical fiction split between 13th-century England and 21st-century America. Anne Rice, known for her Vampire Chronicles and her series on the life of Christ, has penned a multilayered, interesting and well-written work that falls somewhere between the paranormal and the religious.
Toby O’Dare, youthful guardian to his family and a talented musician, falls apart emotionally when his sister and brother are murdered by their unstable alcoholic mother. He becomes a contract killer, though he has an ongoing argument with God, whom he blames for the disaster. Though Toby hates his life, he feels is locked into it by fate. Though he lost his faith, he still prays. Though emotionally dead, he still thinks of the what-have-beens.
Enter Malchiah, a Seraph, one of God’s angels sent to save human souls on the brink of damnation. Toby accepts a chance for redemption, and Malchiah brings Toby to the 13th century in order to defend a pair of Jews accused of murder.
This is not your average paranormal because it brings in all kinds of religious (Catholic) overtones—unusual since the biblical quotes are from the King James Bible. Although I am unsure if a non-Catholic would get some of the references, the story is ecumenical enough that it has universal appeal.
Angel Time is different from Anne Rice’s “commercial” books. There are no vampires, sexual overtones, or blood. The complex story forces the reader to think beyond the obvious and consider the spiritual.
If this is a series, I look forward to the next book. I highly recommend it.
Gothic, brooding novels with tense plotlines are what we have come to expect from Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles. Still Gothic but with an angelic twist, we meet Toby O’ Dare, aka assassin Lucky the Fox, a soulless individual working for The Right Man. Lucky is on the brink of a kill at the only place he values in this world, the Mission Inn. After the kill Malchiah, Lucky’s guardian angel, offers him redemption from his sins if he agrees to work on earth for the angels saving lives. O’Dare’s first mission would be to help save the Jews in 13th-centuryNorwich.
The book reads like a novella set over three distinct and almost unrelated scenes; Lucky the Assassin; his transformation from Toby O’Dare; his seeming redemption. Rice fails to encourage the reader to warm to Toby, even when on his mission. Lead characters bathe in the light of beauty and godliness such as Godwin and Rosa, but have limited substance.
Living in Norwich, I was looking forward to details of the ancient city, but there was fleeting reference to the Castle and Cathedral and little scene-setting in this part of the novel. The plight of the Jews in Norwich was marginalised by Toby’s return to faith. Critics have commented that this new series coincides with Rice’s return to the church. Although this was a likeable novel and I was interested to see what happened to the characters, it lacked the sweeping historical prose we have been treated to in other books. Explanations were convenient but failed to answer questions. Angel Time didn’t deliver the ‘suspense about assassins and angels’ promised on the cover. Overall, the book was likeable for the scant historical fact but not as enjoyable as the previous supernatural romps.