Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Plague of Angels by John Patrick Kennedy

Plague of Angels by John Patrick Kennedy is a retelling of the Christ tale primarily from the perspective of the first fallen angel and Queen of Hell, Nyx. I was intrigued by the book's blurb and cover art (both of which led to my Kindle purchase), but the beginning of the book made me very uncomfortable.

Because the majority of Plague is being told from Nyx's perspective, the book is extremely sacrilegious but not for reasons you may think.

Nyx, the first angel to challenge God and fight for the free will of angels, is cast down to the realm of Hell with her co-conspirator Lucifer and thousands of her followers. Once there, the fallen angels suffer one thousand years in the Lake of Fire where they must relive, over and over again, their betrayal of God and all of the ill deeds they have ever done. Nyx emerges from the Lake and fights Lucifer for ownership of Hell and command of the fallen. Nyx wins, making Lucifer her second-in-command.

Once God creates humans, the fallen angels roam the earth, causing mischief and destruction. Some of the fallen even assume the roles of gods and goddesses, forming their own religions and gaining followers through miracles and prayers answered. Two such angels are Ishtar and Persephone, fierce fighters who are Nyx's once- and current-lovers and closest allies. (Also some of the most sexually promiscuous characters in the book: "It was six hours later when Ishtar left the palace, walking gingerly and rubbing her aching jaw muscles.")

When God expels all angels, fallen and Heavenly alike, from the earth, the only angel left is Nyx.

The Archangel Micheal comes to the earth to reveal to Nyx God's plan: God is sending his son to the earth to judge mankind, and Nyx's job is to tempt Christ in the desert. Well, Nyx does a little more than that, indulging in lascivious sexual acts with multiple men and pretending to be possessed by demons. When Christ (who reveals to Nyx that his real name is Tribunal**) exercises the demons from Nyx, who is pretending to be the human Mary Magdalene, the two begin a robust sexual relationship. Tribunal shares with Nyx why he is on earth, and the conclusions he has reached.

**This name change is what made the book less uncomfortable for me.

Some scholars argue that Christ and Mary Magdalene did have a relationship, so I wouldn't claim this aspect to be the sacrilegious part of the book.

Nyx (Mary Magdalene) becomes one of Tribunal's (Christ's) followers, staying faithful to him throughout the course of his life. In fact, when Tribunal is crucified, Nyx rages against God, who sent her beloved Tribunal to earth to die for the sins of mankind. She transforms into a snake and slithers her way up the cross, desiring to be near her beloved in his final moments. Tribunal knows the true identity of the snake (having known Nyx's real nature all along), and whispers a word of power to her, telling her to use the word when she wants to see him again. Then Tribunal dies and Golgotha is caught up in a colossal storm of destruction.

Driven by her love for Tribunal, Nyx finds and tortures Judas Iscariot, Tribunal's betrayer, for three days. Her torture of Judas is one of the more graphic scenes in the book, with detailed descriptions of the way she beats Judas and the way she sexually harms him using the demonic body she transforms into, complete with large, razor covered phallus.

After three days, Nyx encounters two Heavenly angels who tell her Tribunal has risen; these angels are the two who have rolled the stone away from Tribunal's resting place. They tell Nyx that God has allowed that only three angels were to be on earth, and she was not one of them. She slays the angels and uses the word of power, Tribunal's true name in the Angelic tongue, and he appears before her.

He tells her that God has betrayed him (again repeating his final words on the cross); he had judged mankind and found them wanting. He told God that mankind should be destroyed, and God refused.

HERE we see the sacrilegious. The rest of the book focuses on Nyx trying to help Tribunal stop the spread of Christianity so Tribunal can kill God and restore the Fallen to earth, creating a new Paradise with Nyx as his queen.

Once I got past the nontraditional elements, the novel was really good.

Throughout the story, the reader gets the distinct feeling that, despite the harrowing acts she commits and being Queen of Hell, Nyx is a "good" angel. This perspective, in addition to the way the author shapes the plot through Nyx, is fascinating to read. In this way, Kennedy's depiction of Nyx is very similar to Milton's depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost.

I especially liked the way John Patrick Kennedy used history as the springboard for the plot: Nyx has to corrupt the various ceasars of Rome to prevent the spread of Christianity, her acts culminating in raising the empires that eventually start the Crusades (a war she wanted to start so she could regain Jerusalem from the believers and give it over to Tribunal).

The way Kennedy describes the differences between the fallen and Heavenly angels is also one of the things that makes the book enjoyable. For instance, the fallen angels are covered in red (followers of Lucifer) or black (followers of Nyx) armor, while the Heavenly angels are covered in white armor. The armor of the fallen hugs their skin in sexual, alluring ways, while the armor of the Heavenly angels are serviceable, not suggestive. Another distinction between the two is the angels' blood: fallen angels have silver blood, whereas Heavenly angels have golden blood. There is even a green blooded angel, but you will have to read the book to find out about that one :) The really cool part? When an angel dies, it bursts into dust that can be absorbed via inhalation to gain the angel's power/essence:

Thousands upon thousands of angels had been destroyed on both side; not mortal death, but the scattering of their energies to the four winds of the universe, some never to be reformed, others to slowly pull their substances back together, shadows of the strength they once were.**
**All typos are true to the text.

While there was a lot I loved about the book, there were some things that made the text difficult to read.

In addition to the sacrilegious nature of the book (which I am sure many people will be able to read and not be bothered by), the dialogue used by some of the angels feels disingenuous. For example, Nyx frequently says things like "You betrayed me, bitch." The language of the Fallen often feels like it is composed of very modern vernacular. I was able to overlook it, rationalizing in my mind that the language of the fallen was vulgar and eventually found its way to earth; after all, the Heavenly angels spoke with eloquence. Perhaps it is just a matter of lost grace.

The POV also changes drastically throughout the book, and not just between sections. There are some sections were the narrator is focusing just on Nyx, but towards the end of the section, the narrator is more omniscient, revealing thoughts in everyone's minds. There were places where this POV mix-up felt very sloppy and difficult to handle.

Finally, there were a lot of typos. Some just had to overlooked, but the inconsistent use of He and he/ Him and him to refer to Tribunal and God got confusing. Also, there were times when the characters' names were misspelled to the point that I had to reread the sentence a couple of times until I realized who was being talked about. Ishtar is referred to as "Iris" towards the end of the book. This mistake would have been understandable in the first half of the book when Ishtar was masquerading as the goddess Isis to pull followers from the Christian religion. However, some character name mistakes, like Epiphenia to Epiphaniea and back again, were just severely distracting. Such instances felt like the author was still figuring out how he wanted her name spelled, which is understandable; however, this oversight in conjunction with the sheer number of typos made me question how well the book was edited and if the version published is the version of which the author was most proud.

Ultimately, would I recommend this book to others?

Only to those who are looking for a really, really interesting read (and who can easily overlook many, many typos).

Also, check out this amazing cover art again:

What do you think? 
Something you would read?
Leave me a comment below.


Kody Kasper said...

Well, you certainly make it sound interesting, Majesta! I look forward to seeing if the novel lives up to your review!

Majesta Miles said...

I hope you find that it does :) Like I said, it is a really good book if you can get past the typos! I think you will particularly enjoy the detailed descriptions.