Anchor, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4000-7895-0
Fantasy, 2010 (Reissue)
Before breaking the spine of this book, I hadn’t read Anne Rice’s books in a long time, long before she embraced religion and decided to write her take on the life of Jesus Christ. The Vampire Chronicles books lost their way sometime after Pandora and never recovered. Therefore, the last piece of writing that I had read from this author was her amusing rant on Amazon, calling everyone who disagreed with her greatness a negative blister on her rear end or something.
Angel Time seems like an interesting beginning of a new phase in Ms Rice’s career, and the premise sounds promising, so I decide to give this one a try. It is the first book in a series called The Songs of the Seraphim, and this book therefore sets up the rest of the series.
This book – and this series – revolves around our hero, Toby O’Dare. Under his alias Lucky the Fox, he is a successful hit man who has money and is apparently content with his life… until a seraph, Malchiah, shows himself to him after Toby has completed his latest kill and offers Toby a chance at redeeming himself. Eventually, Toby will be whisked off to Norwich, England, back in the 13th century, where he will have to protect a Jewish couple from being lynched by a mob hungry for their blood.
Believe it or not, I’ve summarized the entire book in the above paragraph. Angel Time sees Anne Rice using many words, as is her style, to painfully belabor, expound, and detail her story so this book is actually far more complicated than the synopsis would suggest. This book is divided roughly into three parts – one part about Toby being a hitman, one part about the flashback to his past, and the last about his 13th century sojourn. And as with Anne Rice’s typical style, you will have to be very enamored of her subject matter to keep reading, or else this story is going to be a trial on your patience.
I’m somewhere in between when it comes to my reaction to this book. I am definitely intrigued by Lucky the Fox. Now this is a delicious damaged hero, who embraces his debased nature while allowing the occasional goodness of his heart to show in order to tease me with the possibility that he is a darling woobie. His past is a bit predictable but that section of the story is still very readable. However, as the story progresses and later sends Toby back to the 13th century, Toby starts to take a backseat to the real star of the story: Anne Rice’s faith. Toby immediately morphs from dark antihero to some paladin bent on redemption, and the sudden character transformation is almost a character derailment to me. These later parts of the story are more about Ms Rice’s views on various aspects of Christianity (saints, sinners, the meaning of redemption, that kind of thing) than they are about Toby.
As a result, Toby’s character development never feels complete or real. He is, after all, forcibly mutated into a born-again paladin of the faith after spending some time in Malchiah’s company. What could have been an interesting character study soon morphs into a morality play about how God loves Jews too, only this time these people tend to engage in boring lectures instead of entertaining me with Everything’s Alright.
There is some academic amusement to be had by comparing just how similar or not Angel Time is to Interview with a Vampire. For example, Toby’s physical description could easily be Lestat’s and, like Lestat, Toby started out as a killer. There is a young girl here, but unlike the doomed Claudia, she and Toby all find their way into the light and prosper. I wonder whether it is intentional on the author’s part to make Angel Time come off as a “redemption” of Interview with a Vampire.
Still, no matter. The fact remains that this one starts out a pretty good read, but it soon devolves into a stupefyingly dull filibuster-style study of the various aspects of Christianity. Toby was so much more entertaining when he was lost in darkness. Make of that what you will.