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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wrath Of Angels by John Connolly (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official John Connolly Website 
Order “The Wrath Of Angels” HERE 
Read Chapter One HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Lovers” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Whisperers” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Burning Soul” 
Why You Should Read John Connolly (A Fantasy Literature feature)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: John Connolly earned a B.A. in English from Trinity College and a M.A. in Journalism from Dublin City University. His bibliography includes the long-running Charlie Parker thriller series, which began with the Shamus Award-winning Every Dead Thing, The Book of Lost Things fantasy novel, various short stories, and YA fiction—The Gates and The Infernals. He is also a regular contributor to The Irish Times and currently lives in Dublin, Ireland.

OFFICIAL BLURB: In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of an aeroplane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time. What the wreckage conceals is more important than money: it is power. Hidden in the plane is a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the Devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those who believe that it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.

The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and the serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter. 

But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets. Someone has survived the crash. Some thing has survived the crash. And it is waiting . . .

CLASSIFICATION: John Connolly's novels combine the noir quality of thrillers with the mystical aspect of supernatural fiction, to create a sub-genre of their own.

FORMAT/INFO: The Wrath Of Angels is 480 pages long divided over five parts and fifty-four chapters. Like its preceding volume there is no prologue or epilogue. Narration is in the first-person via Charlie Parker and in the third-person via Barbara Kelly, Darina Flores, Harlan Vetters, Paul Scollay, Grady Vetters, Thomas Eldritch, the Collector and a few others. Like the previous books, the narrative alternates each chapter between Parker and the rest of the cast. The Wrath Of Angels is the eleventh volume of this series and while it can be read as a standalone novel, it would be a better idea to read it after The Black Angel if not the preceding ten volumes, to enjoy the overall series arc.

January 1, 2013 marked the North American Hardcover publication of The Wrath Of Angels via Atria Books (see cover below). The UK edition was published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 30, 2012.

ANALYSIS: For longtime readers of the blog, it will come as no surprise when I reiterate how much I am enthralled by John Connolly’s writing style and prose. John is a master at writing supernatural mystery thrillers but with the last few years he has diversified his books and become even more enthralling. I’m always amazed as to how he has grown the mythology in his Charlie Parker series, firstly by exploring the past in “The Lovers” then with the varied milieu in the “The Whisperers” as well as “The Black Angel”. The last book “The Burning Soul” while a very entertaining one didn’t quite follow the footsteps of its immediate predecessors but hearkened back to the first four books. John had spoken about this book when I met him last year and had described it as the sort-of-sequel to The Black Angel, which I believe is the epitome of the series so far.

The Wrath Of Angels begins with an abandoned plane that is lost in the forests of Maine. Marielle Vetters and Ernie Scollay approach Charlie Parker with a request to find this missing plane that might have some money as well a list on it. The problem with that list is that it has the names of people dealing in Faustian favors that might doom them or perhaps might be their path to redemption. Barbara Kelly is a person with limited time and yearns for something that might not exactly be in her reach. Rabbi Epstein and his Yiddish henchmen are still quietly going about their task of capturing the otherworldly killers and lastly throwing his lot in this complicated mix is the Collector and his legal acquaintances. As you can guess with this overview that there are several plot threads that make up the mosaic of this tale. This story is a complicated one as Parker finds out in regards to the list, noting is ever sure and his so-called allies might not be so friendly after all.

Mainly this book is a terrific return to the heyday antics of the earlier books that I loved and also further enlightens the readers on the mythological aspect of this series. Firstly while the main thread is a simple mystery, the other story threads make up for the complexity of the story. This book is as much about Charlie as it is about the Collector and his earthly origins. We get a look into his family life of sorts and get to know his lineage. There’s also a return of one of John Connolly’s creepiest creations and for many fans it will be simply great to get reacquainted with this infernal character. This story is the literary sequel to The Black Angel and deals a lot with the events and themes introduced in that book. For me this was a major reason for my higher-than-ever expectations from this book and this book delivers resoundingly with truly terrific revelations about the metaphysical beings and structure of the world.

Some truths are revealed and some mysterious facets are clarified. This book is an excellent payoff for those readers waiting for a reveal in regards to the secrets of the world. For the characters present in the book, John has weaved the theme of redemption in almost all the character arcs. Beginning with Charlie, then going onto Angel, Louis, the Collector and including all the antagonists as well. All characters strive to achieve their preferred goals however not all of them succeed. This book also deals with a character death and it was totally out of the left field. I feel this volume marks a pivotal point in the series as the series arc is getting bleaker and from now on I must say no character is truly safe. I think Charlie might be around till the very last however he might not make it in the end.

Lastly the best point about the book is its atmosphere that is presented by the author; he transforms Maine from its isolated, woody landscape into a land that is almost mystical to the point of overtaking Stephen King as Maine’s magical transformer. His vivid description of Maine forestland is both creepy and enticing to the mystery fan. I believe at the end of his Charlie Parker series, the state of Maine might rival fabled Atlantis in regards to its magical legends and local oddities. Its safe to say that John Connolly’s Maine is something that all of us can’t stop exploring via the books even though we might not personally want to go there.

In regards to drawback of the book, this is a series with this book being the eleventh volume and so there’s no direct resolution in sight but with John at the helm, the journey is still as fresh as the first book. Some readers of course might not find this book to be all that lucrative and this will be entirely subjective. For me this book held no regrets or dissatisfaction, it kept me captivated throughout and wowed me with all its revelations. Expanding the mythos of the series considerably and also by the death of one of my favorite ancillary characters, The Wrath Of Angels marks itself as a high point of the Charlie Parker series.

CONCLUSION: John Connolly delivers and does so with panache, the next Charlie Parker book will be a while from now as John refreshes his literary muscles by writing about other stories that fascinate him. With that in mind, this volume is a perfect stopping point for series readers until we come back to this spectrally fraught Maine and the eternally tormented Charlie Parker.


Unknown said...

Great review! I agree with your assumption that no character is really safe going forward. It looks like it's all downhill for Parker and his buddies.

The Reader said...

Thank you for your kind words Brandon and yes there are several factors mentioned in the book that make it seem that things will definitely be going down hill for Angel, Louis and Charlie.


Greg said...

but but but I waited two years for this one how am I supposed to wait again for another.....sigh oh well Charlies worth it.

Great review Mihir.

I am curious if more titles will contain the word angel in them as both stories involving Brightwell and the Fallen did.

The Reader said...

Thank you for your kind words Greg, I hope the wait won't be two years. I'll try to seek some clarification from John on this.

John had also mentioned that the next few books will haver longer titles but I don't know if they will have the word "angel" in them.



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