Angelology – Danielle Trussoni

onceup8200 small The Once Upon a Time Challenge continues and I’m enjoying it immensely. The fifth book I’ve read for the challenge is Angelology and even though it’s over six hundred pages it was a pleasure to get myself lost in the story.

A young nun with an interesting family heirloom – a golden lyre pendant, an angel whose wings are marred by decay, a young man with ambition in his heart, and a secret that will bring them together and change their lives.
The story begins in the winter of 1945, when a group of angelologists find a most unusual body in a cave in the mountains of Bulgaria. It is an angel, perfectly preserved, as if he had just lain down to sleep moments ago. How that is possible is not explained right away but towards the end of the book the mystery is revealed.

Back in our days, we find out the story of Evangeline, a young girl growing up in Saint Rose Convent in New York. Her parents are dead, and she only has a lyre pendant and an old journal to remind her of them. She thinks her life will probably be spent among the nuns, but fate has other plans. In the convent library she finds mysterious letters, and when a young man named Verlaine comes to the convent and starts asking questions, things get interesting. Verlaine is working for Percival Grigori, heir to a famous angel family; Percival’s health is deteriorating and his once majestic wings are now reduced to stubs. He’s searching for a cure, a “celestial instrument” that is rumored to have the power to restore his magnificent wings back to their former glory. Celestine and Verlaine join forces, as it seems they have a common quest, but the discoveries they make threaten their lives and finally reveal the secret that Evangeline’s family had kept for a long time.


This book is a beautiful lesson in angel lore. Detailed descriptions of these magnificent creatures appear throughout the book, as the story of how they came to live among the mortals is explained. Mythology and religion are also mixed in the story, going back to the days when the sons of God noticed the beauty of the daughters of men and decided to take wives from them. This act results in punishment, as the fallen angels are cast into a deep cave, there to await the day of retribution. But they are trying to escape, and their descendants, the Nephilim, have grown powerful. Their influence is linked to major events in human history – the rise and fall of dynasties, the birth of science, the promotion of materialism, all this done to manipulate in order to control the people. The angelologists are their enemies, trained to protect the human race from falling prey to these ambitious creatures. It is a good versus evil battle, and the discovery of the famous celestial instrument could tip the balance.

The amount of research gone into the construction of this story must have been substantial. References include the myth of Orpheus, Noah’s story, the Sator-Rotas Latin palindrome (“a square used in angelology to signify that a pattern is present”) and various other biblical and mythological stories. I was impressed by the seamless way they were incorporated in the story, and captivated by the details.
I always find the names fascinating in a story and often wonder at their meaning – in this novel it’s quite obvious they are chosen to fit in with the theme: Evangeline, Angela, Celestine, Gabriella, Seraphina, Raphael.
Woven in this otherwise academic tale there’s also a great love story whose consequences reach deep across generations and gives the whole thing a more human flavor. My only issue was with the ending – it seems a little forced, as if nearing the grand finale the author wanted to make sure the reader is hooked into buying the sequel. Until then I had no idea this was just the first novel but my curiosity overcame this little annoyance and I would very much like to read what happens in the second volume called Angelopolis, although I suspect it’s not going to be as good as this one.

Some of my favorite passages:

Of course, they have also done a marvelous job of separating the intellectuals from the religious. They have made sure that humanity will not have another Newton or Copernicus, thinkers who revere both Science and God. Atheism was their greatest invention. Darwin’s work, despite the man’s extreme dependence upon religion, was twisted and propagated by them. The Nephilim have succeeded in making people believe that humanity is self generated, self-sufficient, free of the divine, sui generis. It is an illusion that makes our work much more difficult and their detection nearly impossible.


Addressing the creatures, his voice became commanding, as if speaking to animals. ‘Devils,’ he said.
This drove one of the male creatures from his lethargy. He wrapped his white fingers around the bars of the cage and pulled himself to full height. ‘Angel and devil,’ he said. ‘One is but a shade of the other.’


Their bodies were exceedingly lovely, so sensuous that a shock of longing passed through her. Yet even through the haze of her desire, Evangeline found that everything about them – from the way they stood to the immense span of their wings – struck her as monstrous.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Read in April, 2014

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16 Responses to Angelology – Danielle Trussoni

  1. I’ve had my eye on this book for… quite some time. I’m a little torn on learning that it has a sequel. I’d always pegged it for a single novel. Why do you think the sequel won’t be as good? Is there something in the way the ending of this one wraps up to make you suspect it?

    It does sound really good, though, and quite fascinating to read. It’ll no doubt be a while before I get to it, but I do hope to read it in future. I hope you’ll discover that the sequel is a lot better than you’re anticipating and will be thoroughly enjoyable!

    • Delia says:

      I had the same experience, Lynn, always thought it was a standalone novel but as I got to the last pages, the pace of the story felt a bit rushed and the open ending left me suspicious. When I looked it up on, there it was, Angelopolis, the second book. I’ve no idea how many there are or if this is the last one, I guess I’ll have to read it to find out.
      The book in itself is great, I recommend it, especially if you’re fascinated by myths and religion as I am.

      I’m always suspicious of sequels, especially when I only find out at the end. It feels a bit sneaky but then I guess this is what happens when you don’t do your research (like I did, or rather, didn’t). Some books are really great on their own and this one would have been perfect in itself. I don’t mind all that much, though.
      I hope you enjoy it, I would very much like to read your review.

      • I don’t know… This is the first time I’ve heard of it not being a stand-alone book and it’s been on my radar since it first came out…

        It really does feel sneaky, though, I agree with that. I’ll be happily reading along until I get to the climax of the story and then the book goes “Surprise! You need to go out and buy another book to see how it ends”. GAH.

        I love myths! I’m slightly less fond of religion in fiction, but that’s because it’s usually done in a way that doesn’t really agree with me. I’ll be looking forward to giving this one a try sometime. ^_^

        • Delia says:

          It’s not that drastic, the story feels completed because it answers all the major questions, it’s just at the end that it branches out, but it doesn’t feel like you have to buy the second book to find out the outcome. You can just read this one and be done with it.
          I’m curious to see what’s going to happen with one of the characters and that’s the main reason I want to read the next volume. Angelopolis, a city of angels, that sounds intriguing.

          • I just have to jump in to say I wholeheartedly agree on the frustration of finding an inconclusive ending, setting up a sequel, in a book I thought was stand-alone. I have been known to stay up late because I really want to get to a conclusion…only to find out too late that there isn’t one! Though this may be a genuine flaw of writing…even with a sequel, each installment ought to manage a satisfying ending *for that book.*

  2. The plot does indeed sound interesting and engaging. the entire story of the he Nephilim is very intriguing. I recall an episode of the old X – Files that concerned them that was extremely chilling.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I didn’t know much about angels and this book was a nice surprise because it goes into depth and explains their role in mankind’s evolution – I found that fascinating. It’s very well done, feels almost like a thriller, never boring, always something exciting coming up.
      I loved the X-Files, that was a great series.

  3. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! This looks like a very interesting book. It is fascinating that the book blends mythology and religion and the author has done a lot of research to make it authentic. Thanks for sharing your favourite passages. I enjoyed reading them.

    • Delia says:

      Thanks, Vishy, I enjoyed it a lot. I love the way both myth and religion were incorporated into the story. This reminds me of the movie “Noah”, with Russell Crowe. That was very well done as well.

  4. Priya says:

    I had no idea there was such a thing as ‘angelology.’ But this does sound fascinating, especially how you’ve said it’s linked to our history. Though the size is kind of daunting, I’ll add the book to my TBR pile. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      I didn’t know either, but it was fun to read about it. It’s well paced, so the size is not a problem – I felt the same way before starting on it but soon I found myself lost in the story.
      I hope you get to read it.

  5. Delia says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I can’t really say that this book doesn’t answer all the major questions raised by the story. Imagine you’re reading Snow White and you come to the ending when the wedding takes place and everybody’s found their happily ever after, but in the last two pages you also find out Snow White is pregnant. Now, is the story finished? It is, in a way, but you’re also curious to see what happens with the baby. Or maybe you’re not. Either way, the ending of this book feels like that. It can be complete in itself, but there’s a little detail that tells you the story is not completely over.

    That being said, I just discovered that the book I’m reading now, “Dreams and Shadows” by Robert Cargill is the first volume in a series. I’m beginning to be a little annoyed. I shouldn’t buy books before checking on first.

  6. TBM says:

    I haven’t heard of this one, but it does sound intriguing. And yes, i wonder how much research went into this project. I’d never know when to stop researching and when to start writing.

    • Delia says:

      I imagine it’s not an easy task, researching and incorporating the information into the story. She must know a great deal about angels now. 🙂

  7. Lynn says:

    I don’t know why but I was always in two minds with this book. I was torn between liking it and, well, not! There were parts that were intriguing and I liked the writing style but I just remember a feeling of overall discontentment and I can’t really remember why. I was desperate to buy it and purchased it in hardback but didn’t even keep the copy. I certainly hadn’t realised there was a second as it felt like it had finished to me. Aside from which, I’m not sure I’d pick up another – maybe I would out of curiosity – but, I’m inclined to think not.
    You seemed to enjoy it though – and I think from reviews a lot of people seemed to do so. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it at the time of reading.
    Lynn 😀

    • Delia says:

      Hi Lynn,
      Sometimes it can be like this, to have mixed feelings about a book; I find that is true especially when I have high expectations for it.
      Perhaps it wasn’t the right time for you to pick this up, like you said, who knows…
      I did enjoy it but there was something about the ending which made me suspect a sequel – there certainly isn’t anything else in the book to suggest that.

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