Raziel
by Kristina Douglas, fantasy (2011)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-9192-7


Kristina Douglas is not a new author, far from it - she is Anne Stuart writing under this new pseudonym. Perhaps a new pseudonym heralds a change of direction of sorts, because the hero of this book is easily much nicer than the usual sociopaths favored by the author. Indeed, I'd hesitate to use "ruthless" like the back cover to describe our hero Raziel. But I'd go into more details later.

Raziel is the first book in a series called The Fallen. In this world, God has washed his hands off his creation and is apparently off somewhere doing who knows what - maybe writing urban fantasy romances under the name Ilona Andrews. The person left in charge is Uriel, who is ten times worse than the most bitter bureaucrat you can ever imagine. In this wonderful world, we have the Fallen - fallen angels made to hunger the taste of human blood - and their enemies, the Nephilim - fallen angels who were supposed to hunt the Fallen until they went astray after too many listens to the CDs by Evanescence. The Fallen and the Nephilim are at war, it's like West Side Story, minus the romance and the music but with ten times the angst.

The Fallen is in charge of escorting human souls to their just reward. So, one fine day, Allie Watson dies. In her life, Allie is an unreliable twit, always late for everything and lives beyond her means in the process, so frankly, her death is no big loss if you ask me. Raziel is close to escort her to her just desserts, but when Raziel realizes that Allie is going to hell for being such a cliché, he rescues her at the last minute, almost getting killed in the process. Eventually the two of them end up in Sheol, the land of the Fallen, and our love birds navel gaze and stare into each other eyes as Amy Lee wails in the background about blood tears dripping from one's eyes, and now and then they have sex too.

Meanwhile, the Nephilim rattles the cage now and then to remind me that they are around, supposedly threatening our Fallen darlings and their groupies, sequel baits pose like Adam Lambert in an attempt to advertise their upcoming books, and, as usual, female characters can die without repercussions since they have no sequel value but heaven forbids that anyone with a penis will die as we readers will be so heartbroken should we be deprived of the sequel.

The whole fallen angel with fangs thing is pretty interesting, and indeed, the setting is easily the most interesting aspect of this story where I am concerned. There is a desolate bleakness to the setting that is almost poetic in how blasphemous it can be, so much so that I choose to overlook much of the tired stereotyping of gender roles in this story. Still, you may be interested to know that the author does resort to overused gender stereotyping here: the males are the action-oriented folks while the females provide sex or nourishment, with the Source being a woman whose blood feeds all the Fallen boys who are without mates. Of all the sins that might have caused the Fallen to fall, clearly adherence to the patriarchy isn't one of them.

The strange thing about this story is how the plot revolving around the Nephilim and the Fallen fighting to win the Emo of the Year contest is how the main characters have so little to do with the plot. Then again, these two are so busy writing sad love poems on each other's navel. Poor Raziel. He has existed for so, so long... but he'd die if he mates again because, oh, the heartbreak will surely shatter his fragile mind. Allie, meanwhile, alternates between being a whiny chick-lit punchline and a petty teenager who won't be happy unless everything is about her. Their romance is told rather than shown, although this could be due to the alternating first person points of view that is used by the author alongside the more conventional third person point of view method.

To sum things up, I don't particularly find the romance compelling while the plot is tad too focused on the dainty navels of the easily brokenhearted for my liking. The setting is interesting, but it needs a faster-paced and more action-oriented plot to bring out its beautiful sacrilege. It needs more railing at God and less whining about not wanting to live forever - that song had been performed much better by Queen anyway. And really now, long-lived angelic vampires shouldn't resemble a teenage girl's woe-is-me journal entry that much, right?

Rating: 65


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