Alz's Reviews > Dies Irae

Dies Irae by Christine Fonseca
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Feb 06, 12

bookshelves: ya-mg, fantasy, crime-against-literature, angels
Read on February 05, 2012

This is a novella and therefore short. Nonetheless, I still expect character development, worldbuilding, thematic exploration, and a coherent plot.

About the only thing this novella has going for it is thematic exploration, and even that is only a surface skimming of the tired old Forbidden Love--there are ways to write a passionate tale and this is not it because we're never familiar enough with the characters to appreciate their love/suffering. Half the time Mikayel would be angsting about not doing his duty properly and in the next breath he'd be trying to schmooze on Demi despite her ineffectually saying, "Oh but we mustn't!" Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Basically they are in love and it is forbidden. That's all the romantic development you get. The way it plays out is cram-jammed bursting with melodramatic clichees and teenage angst and hormones--which in a more fleshed-out plot might have been gripping in a soap opera way. But this story is far too short and skeletal and takes itself far too seriously.

Azza could have been an interesting character struggling between angelic conceptions of ethics and morality, caught between duty and integrity, but ultimately he is merely a plot device and halfhearted (and rather halfwitted) antagonist.

Same goes for Mikayel. Struggle between duty and self--a great theme that is poorly played out because Mikayel's motivations and inherent angelic standing are never sufficiently explored. Heaven must have slim, slim pickings indeed for them to be placing such hopes on an emotionally unstable halfwit like Mikayel. In fact, all three of the main trio are plot-stupid and incredibly blind for being unable to see that two angels VS a horde of demons + the freaking devil himself = not so great an idea, not to mention several other things that occur throughout the story.

The ending also didn't make much sense to me. I'm not entirely sure what happened, for one thing, and for another I'm not really sure why--was this an evil plot? Was it a foolish accident? What???

Nor am I entirely sure what time period/setting this is supposed to be. The trio talks largely like normal contemporary teenagers, but the sketchy vague somewhere-in-the-Aegean-sea setting doesn't give any hints as to whether this is supposed to be Greece circa 300 AD or Greece 2012.

The angelic/demonic politics appear to play a large role in the plot but they are only ever vaguely hinted at until a couple of actual statements in the end, which left me confused. Why would Heaven agree to certain things RE: demons? Why exactly is it necessary to expose Mikayel AND his two friends to this weird Watcher trial, and to what end other than the vague generic "you must test yourself and conquer your emotions" bit? Do all angels have to undergo this trial? Am I supposed to care about Azryel, whom I don't know at all?

This novella either needed to be considerably longer and filled out or considerably tightened and trimmed and still filled out. The themes are good classic themes, but there's not enough world-building groundwork, character development, or exploration to do them justice. Nor is the plot anything original or gripping. Perhaps the actual novel will be long enough and fleshed out enough to be a worthwhile read.
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