Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Angel Requiem by Jaime Samms

Summary Review:
Not your usual m/m romance, but a delicious, almost lyrical allegory on the power of love.

The Blurb:
In a world without hope that kills what it can’t understand, a solitary priest who has lost all he ever loved may be the last man to still believe in Angels. In the end, his belief may be all that can safeguard the fate of two Angel lovers—and restore his own faith in the power of love.

The Review:
In a not-so-distant future, humanity has lapsed from faith, which rendered the angels pointless.  Now they’re wandering aimlessly among the humans who have turned to hunt and kill those they have once worshipped. In an unnamed wintery city, a lone priest guards his old church and its cemetery in which his brother was buried ten years ago . The priest has lost everything – his brother to the drugs, his lover to a murder, his purpose in life to the lack of faith. The only thing that’s left to him is a hidden power of healing which he doesn’t dare to make use of; and yet he can barely restrain it: whenever he touches the ground, it breaks into greenery and flowers. The voices of the dead sing to him in his mind and lead him to the murder of yet another angel, but he just watches him die and adds the bullet which killed the angel to his growing pile of mementos, as he has done for years.
One day the priest meets a pair of angels who are lovers – Michael, a warrior angel, and beautiful, delicate Gabriel. Watching them, witnessing their tender affection, stirs something in the priest’s frozen soul.  He finds himself longing desperately for what those two have.  They even seem to be offering something, but the priest is too far gone in his hopelessness and sends them away. A while later, though, Gabriel returns to him, beaten bloody an dying. When Gabriel tells him about the attack which might have cost Michael’s life, too, the priest realizes he can’t hide any longer.  He has to finally let loose his power, not for himself, but for the sake of those two, in order to save them and their love – even if this may cost his own life.
Over most of the story the lone priest remains nameless. We look at the world through his eyes and thoughts. Since he’s mostly living inside his head, we don’t learn much about the world in itself, but more about the way the priest sees it, which makes for an emotional, if at times disconcerting experience.  There is almost no worldbuilding; with a few dry words the author depicts a world that is disturbingly familiar and yet just distant enough from our own to be fictional.  Also, there is almost no backstory (which is partly due to the format, of course); for example, we never learn why the priest is so afraid of using his power in the first place, or how he came to hear the voices of the dead all the time.  Many things are not explained, they just happen. The reader follows their course together with the priest, reacting rather than willingly influencing them until the need to decide forges ahead and becomes unavoidable.  The overall effect is not confusing, as one might think it would be, but very intense, bordering on poetic. The motive of love, faith and hope pervades the entire story, embodied beautifully by a little girl in a red coat who, to the nameless priest, eventually turns into a promise for a possible better future.
The “purists”  among us may want to give this a pass, though, since there is no sex at all, it is barely hinted at by the end, almost as an afterthought. Even the actual romance takes a backseat to the allegory.  But those who are willing to veer outside the familiar tracks are in for a treat with this fine, spirited little piece of prose. I enjoyed it greatly and hope to get to read more by this author in the future.

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