Angel Time by Anne Rice

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Angel Time by Anne Rice

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Becky Hazlett
Reviewed by Becky Hazlett
Summary: This is an average to disappointing, short book from the Vampire Chronicler, Anne Rice, about a young contract killer who finds God again. It's a definite move away from her trademark gothic horror…more's the pity.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 288 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 978-0701178147

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Toby O'Dare is an extremely efficient hit man with a passion for music, history and playing his beloved lute. He's also something of a lost soul having turned his back on God many years ago. One day while on a 'job' he is visited by an Angel who offers him a chance at redemption. Toby agrees to become the Angel's human instrument and help save lives rather than take them. He is sent on an assignment to help a Jewish couple accused of murder in 13th Century England.

I have read most of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and one I particularly enjoyed was Memnoch the Devil, a fictional, alternative take on the relationship between God, the Devil and Humanity (with the vampire Lestat thrown in). Memnoch stands out because of its impressive breadth and vision; Rice is not afraid to tackle the big issues and her interpretation of Christianity is inspired and thought-provoking. I had hoped to find similar qualities in Angel Time but sadly this novel lacks the originality of the older one.

The (oh so important) opening chapters of the novel are not very engaging; they are narrated by Toby in the first person but despite this intimacy I did not feel any kind of identification with the character. It appears Toby is still fascinated by the faith which he abandoned (he frequents a chapel) and his rambling musings about God and his current occupation are hard to follow. It's quite nicely written in a way and almost poetic but Angel Time is descriptive to the point of tedium. There are long detailed descriptions of hotel and chapel interiors and many of the specialist terms Rice uses may not be familiar to everyone. Even the descriptions of his unusual profession, which you'd think would be quite exciting, seem devoid of any interesting or dramatic points. The trouble is Toby does not have enough of a personality, he is a self-confessed nobody. I found it very easy to put the book down and I didn't rush to pick it up again, reading it was something of a chore.

For a few chapters, the Angel takes over the narration and tells us the story of Toby's past and how he became who he is. This is the best part of the novel by far as it fleshes out the character and it is the only time I actually cared about him. Young Toby endures unbelievable hardship which may be a bit contrived but still moved me.

We get to the body of the novel during Toby's assignment. The plot is informed by the historical context of Jews in 13th Century England. Again, it's a bit rambling. The narration is fairly simplistic which is probably why I didn't feel any of the dramatic tension I think I was supposed to. It seems like a parable except that there is no discernable deeper meaning. It is also twee and sentimental; Toby is irritatingly contrite! Oh and did I mentioned the word boring?

Angel Time is odd, disjointed and unfortunately not up to Rice's usual standards. I think it is lacking a horror element to make it all work and bring it to another level, otherwise the religious aspect becomes boring and trite. It's a one dimensional story. Perhaps The Devil is just a more interesting subject as is the case in Paradise Lost. Angel Time did not thrill me.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you would like to read an original and very compelling novel dealing with God and redemption, I would highly recommend The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.

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