Tuesday, October 15, 2013

REVIEW: "Descent" by C.L. Romans (Virtual Book Tours Cafe)

"When Captain Fomor leads his unit of six angelic warriors to Earth in an attempt to escape the war in Heaven, not only do they unwittingly set into motion the age of legends, but they must face an inescapable evil that threatens to destroy them, the humans they fall in love with, and the Earth itself.

Creating a new life on antediluvian Earth is no where near as simple as Fomor’s team had hoped it would be. A tragedy occurs early in their sojourn that convinces the seven that they must avoid both humans and fallen angels. But when they unexpectedly meet with the Nephilim, a tribe of unusual humans with unknown origins, the results are unprecedented. However, falling in love with humans is the least of The Unit’s problems.

Mankind is busily descending into a maelstrom of violence and profane religion. The Fallen, angels transformed into demons by their rebellion, have regrouped and are using the tattered remnants of their power to prey upon humankind in horrific ways. Not only is a demon demanding human sacrifice in a nearby village, but the world is careening towards a global disaster that not even The Unit can stop."

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Brass Rag Press
Release Date: July 1, 2013

Cheri Roman is a writer, editor, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and friend, in whatever order works best in the moment. Most days you can find her on her blog, The Brass Rag, or working on the next novel in her fantasy series, Rephaim. Cheri lives with her husband and two Chihuahuas in St. Johns, Florida.

     When I was a child, the television show "Hercules" was just the coolest thing ever (not to mention that Kevin Sorbo is pretty hot as Hercules).  A dude with super huge muscles who rescued the underdogs from trouble and waged a battle against evil...and had a pretty hilarious sidekick?  I asked my dad once where Hercules came from.  After all, if every myth is borne from a kernel of truth, where was the truth in the Hercules myth?  My dad sighed and told me a story of angels coming to Earth, falling in love with human women, and creating the "ancient men of yore..."  But who were those angels?

In a nutshell...
     C.L. Roman has here created a wonderfully engaging, page-turning, and exciting work that should grace the real or virtual shelves of anyone bearing even a mere interest in angelic fiction.  The story itself is rather epic and flies readers along an exciting journey containing mystery, love, intrigue, and battle while characters struggle to determine the extent of loyalty, love, and remaining true to one's purpose.  Characters are loveable, gritty, real, determined, have unique voices (if you have read my blog long enough, you know this is super important to me!), and made me laugh and cringe at the appropriate moments.  The plot follows two sides of the story (good and evil, to put it super simplistically) and expertly entwines these sides in a complicated dance that leaves readers wanting more after the pages run out.  It will make you giggle.  It will make you sad.  It will make you think.

     I grant this book a 4 out of 5 rating!

Let's get down to it now...

The Good
The good about this book?  I guess I really can't just say "everything", can I?  When children give me those pesky one-word answers, I prompt them to rephrase themselves in the form of full sentences.  Here, dear reader, you shall get a few paragraphs.  :)

Imagine you are an angel. 

Imagine you have lived with your angelic family for eons. 

Now imagine there is a war in Heaven, some members of your family have rebelled against Abba, and you are faced with an impossible decision: kill members of your family in defense of Abba...or become one of the Fallen.

But what if there is an alternative?

...but that alternative may be worse than death...becoming a traitor?

This is essentially the scenario presented to the angelic unit whose Earthly journey we follow the beginnings of in this book.  C.L. Roman opens her work with a quote from a presenter at a fictional convention, and then actual verses from one of my absolutely favorite books; the Bible.  

"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they [were] fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, 'My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also [is] flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.' There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare [children] to them, the same [became] mighty men which [were] of old, men of renown."  (Genesis 6:1-4)

And you thought the Bible wasn't interesting (seriously, there is a talking donkey in the Old Testament - "Shrek" totally stole that idea from God).  :P

Anyways, my imagination has run wild with that passage before (hanky panky with an angel?!  What teen girl's imagination doesn't run wild with this image at some point?), and I am so glad that C.L. Romans pursued writing a book containing her imaginings about the same passage!

Captain Fomor presents those under his command with a choice: stay behind in Heaven and face being given an impossible order, or follow him to Earth, become traitors for not fighting beside Abba (even though doing so would mean killing brothers and sisters, however rebellious), and face an uncertain future. 

SPOILER ALERT:  Those under Captain Fomor's command follow him to Earth and spend the next leg of their existential journey figuring out just what that means.  Did they truly leave the War behind?  What happens if Sabaoth (a.k.a. God) ever finds them?  Did "Lucky" (Satan) die during the battle?  What if humans discover their true identity?  What if members of the Fallen made it to Earth?

The one question they did not consider: what if they fall in love with humans?

Okay, now to get to actually analyzing the book (see, I got carried away by the story again...).  First, the characters are unique, distinct, and have their own personalities that practically leap from the pages and beg you to identify with them in some way.  They are superbly created, and expertly fashioned in such a way that their interactions make sense given the situations into which they are thrust.  Yay!  I have my favorite, of course.  : )

Setting?  Well, this takes place immediately before (and partially during) the great flood depicted in Genesis, a time when humans among the world were so decadent, base, and immoral that God wiped the slate clean and started again.  Don't get me started on whether or not the Flood covered the entire planet or just the Middle East...I'm letting theological scholars debate that one.  What matters here is that Romans wrote things in such a way that they just plain make sense given chronological events of certain natures.  Yeah, I'm being vague, but you should read the book to figure out what I mean.  That all being said, Romans did a wonderful job of setting the stage, and her writing is so good at drawing the setting that I could practically hear the birds noticeably not singing in trees around me as I sat next to Gant during his internal struggles...but there I go nearly ruining something again.

Plot?  Intricate.  Thrilling.  Engaging.  Kick-you-in-the-pants-if-you-dare-to-put-the-book-down-because-you-must-know-what-happens-next kind of plot.  Not something that has already been done a million times.  (If I write another fragment and try to pass it as a sentence, my brain is going to melt.)  Romans works with two sides of the story presented, and braids them together in such a way that they are melded together.  Despite point-of-view flipping between different individuals, things continue to make sense.  Loved it!

I could not peel myself out of this book for the life of me, and that is the mark of a good book!  

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
My nitpicks, despite the fact that I loved this book, are as follows:

First, the opening chapter is a little confusing.  Who is doing what?  Readers are thrown into a conversation about big, huge, important things that are happening with little time to orient to exactly what in the H E double toothpicks is going on and who is what side and just what the...

Second, some of the conversations are confusing regarding who is saying what.  Pronouns or "[this person] said" were lacking in a few areas and I had to double back and reread to figure out who was talking.  This is a problem.  

Third, the book ended.  :P  Yeah yeah yeah, all good things have to come to an end, but there were some HUGE plot points that were not wrapped up by the end of the book.  I totally get having a cliff hanger so that readers are actually persuaded to read the next book in a series, but there should not be too many danglers.  In my opinion, there were too many danglers here.

Okay, so my major nitpick is coming out of the fact that I hold a master's degree from a seminary (post-secondary education place where they teach people who are theologically inclined, pastors and the ilk) and I picked up a few things here and there that made me shake my head while reading Descent.  Namely this - near the beginning, Roman has a seraph (angel with six wings) flying thusly: two wings covering its face, two wings covering its feet, and two wings beating air.  Okay, this is what the Bible says:  

"Above him were seraphs, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying." (Isaiah 6:2). 

Nora, that matches.  What is your problem?  My problem is with a translation problem with Hebrew.
In the original Hebrew language that much of the Old Testament was written in, "feet" was often colloquial for *cough* um....*blush*...genitals.  Now, what makes more inherent sense?  That an angel would cover its face and feet while flying, or that it would cover its face and genital areas?  Don't even try to start arguing with me about whether or not angels have genitals - for the sake of this post, let's just say they do because Captain Fomor and his compatriots are clearly sexed.  (I think of the movie "Dogma" where an angel is revealed to have no genitals, and how freaked those around...it....were.)  I don't know what Romans' background in Hebrew is, but I assume that she has some because the last few pages of the book have various words in Hebrew presented in their original script (complete with translations).  Yet her angels still sometimes covered their feet while flying....unless Romans was using it colloquially as well...

See, that nitpick is not something that I expect anyone to pick up on unless they have a background in ancient Hebrew, so it is neither here nor there.  If you have some spare time, though, you may find it interesting to read Ruth 3 now knowing that "feet" often meant genitals.  Ruth uncovering Boaz's "feet" has a slightly different meaning than often first assumed.  ;) 

“You must choose now.”
Captain Fomor’s quiet voice echoed against stone walls. He stood facing Second Lieutenants Gant and Phaella in the long, stone hall of the unit’s barracks. Floor to ceiling windows were spaced along the hallway to admit a pale, wavering light. Dormers at the top of each casement were open to admit fresh air and the sweet scent of the gardens outside. Opposite the windows, spaced widely along the wall, were doors that he knew opened onto meeting rooms and domiciles, and, at the far end, a set of double doors that led to the dining hall.
Outside, the faint sounds of battle drew minutely closer through the flickering light. Gant raked strong fingers through his black curls and turned hazel eyes to assess Phaella’s reaction. They were a matched pair, even calling each other “brother” and “sister,” though there was not, could not be, any such blood tie between them. In truth, their relationship was more like that of siblings than co-workers or fellow soldiers. Created at the same time, they might have been cast from the same mold with similar abilities and talents. Even their thought patterns matched more often than not.
Both sported a compact, athletic build and olive skin. Black, curly hair topped attractive, long nosed faces with strong jaw lines and dark, expressive eyes. The resemblance didn’t stop with the physical. The pair possessed a keen intelligence and were as loyal and steadfast as dogs but with a fierceness in battle that bore greater resemblance to the wolves Sabaoth had created than to those companion helpers of human kind. It pained Fomor to require them to make this choice.
“What you ask is not easy Captain Fomor.” Phaella avoided her captain’s eyes by keeping her own on the floor as she toyed with her long, black braid. After a moment she looked at him, “Sabaoth has not even called us yet.”
“Sister,” Gant reached out to put a gentle hand on her arm. “Would it be better to wait until He summons us into battle, and disobey Him?”
Phaella’s breath sucked in, her dark eyes widening as she shook her head.
Gant turned back to his captain. “What of Sena?”
“Lieutenant Sena waits for us below,” Fomor replied. “She, Volot and Jotun have chosen not to fight in this war.” An explosion, perhaps two hundred cubits outside the corridor, rocked the trio and sent smoke drifting into the wide hall. Fomor ignored the interruption, merely brushing a few strands of black hair out of his eyes before continuing. “Adahna went ahead to find a sheltered area where we can settle in for…” he stopped. It was hard to admit, even to himself, that he didn’t know how long they would need to shelter on Earth. “She asked me to remind you that we are all children of the same maker. It is not right for siblings to kill one another.”
Trouble clouded Phaella’s gaze. “Still, to disobey…”
For the first time Fomor’s pale skin reddened slightly and his voice held a cold edge. “We cannot disobey an order that has not been given. This is the point Phaella. To leave before it is given.”
A trumpet sounded outside, followed by another detonation, closer this time, and the air became dense with smoke.
“Decide quickly, or the call will come, and it will be too late.” Fomor spun on his heel, the fastenings on his boots glinting in the dim light, and shifted, disappearing in a flash of green sparks.
Phaella and Gant stared at one another, misery shared, but not lessened. How did one choose between abandoning Sabaoth and fighting, perhaps killing, fellow angels? It was as if a father were asking his children to fight one another; an impossible choice.
In the end Gant reached out his hand, “I cannot leave Sena.”
Phaella’s smile was dim, but determined. She gripped his fingers with her own, “And I will not leave you, brother.” A third blast struck the hall, raining bits of marble and dust down upon the siblings until the dark blue of their tunics looked gray.
“Well then, sister, time to move?” Gant forced a grin and the two stepped together into the fog shrouded corridors of the Shift. Light and sound from the hall they left behind was cut off as suddenly and effectively as a slammed door. Cold pressed against their skin through the fluid dark, while frigid gray fog probed their faces, pressed against lips and eyes, clinging and trailing behind as they moved through what seemed to be an endless, black expanse.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review! I always love your breakdowns. You should really hold a class on how to do a review :) WOOT! Thank you for hosting.