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Of Love and Evil: The Songs of the Seraphim, Book Two Paperback – January 10, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
In Rice's slim second Songs of the Seraphim novel (after Angel Time), the angel Malchiah whisks ex-contract killer Toby O'Dare back to 16th-century Rome, where Toby must save Vitale de Leone, a young Jewish physician who's been implicated in the poisoning of his gentile master and accused of bringing a poltergeist-like dybbuk into the household. Toby resolves both problems efficiently, but tragedy ensues, shaking his faith and leaving him vulnerable to powers of evil lying in wait to exploit his weakness. Toby's life back in modern times also grows complicated with the sudden appearance of an ex-lover and the son he never knew, neither of whom he can share his angelic interventions with. Though the plot is surprisingly similar to that of its predecessor, Rice's fans will easily succumb to the charm of her lapidary prose and a cliffhanger ending that sets up the next book in the series. 200,000 first printing. (Dec.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Toby O’Dare, the assassin who started on the path to redemption in Angel Time (2009), continues his quest for salvation. He has just learned that he’s the father of a 10-year-old boy and is nervously awaiting the arrival of his former lover, Liona, and their son at the Mission Inn in California. He longs to be a part of the boy’s life and to rekindle his relationship with Liona, but he is summoned on another time-traveling errand of mercy by the angel Malchiah. This time Toby is transported to fifteenth-century Rome to respond to the prayer of a Jewish physician named Vitale, whose best friend and patient, Niccolò, has clearly been poisoned. Given the city’s virulent anti-Semitism, Vitale is at risk if the real culprit isn’t discovered. In addition to helping Vitale save Niccolò, Toby must discover the origins of an angry spirit that is haunting the house Vitale lives in. Toby is surprised by the dangers he faces in a story shaped by Catholic doctrine. Readers who enjoy Rice’s larger-than-life tales and elegant writing will find much to appreciate here, and the cliff-hanger ending will leave fans eager for the next installment. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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O'Dare travels to Rome during time of the loss of power of the Medici in Florence (Savonarola) and during Jewish persecution in Rome. He is sent to discover what is causing a dybbuk (spirit) to continue to haunt a house and a particular family. I think I am dissatisfied with this particular novel set in this particular time period because I am comparing it to the works of Sarah Dunant, especially The Birth of Venus, and there is just no comparison. Of course, Ms. Rice did research on the time period and even a particular event in Rome, but the scholarly results are just not woven as magically and as deeply as with Ms. Dunant's efforts. Not that much time seems to have passed between the first book in the angel series, Angel Time, and this one, and perhaps not enough time was given for the next deadline, but I am a little disappointed in this effort. I still have not read any of Ms. Rice's vampire books, just her angel-themed ones and her Christ-themed ones after her return to Catholicism a few years ago.
A little before Of Love and Evil was published, Ms. Rice's subsequent leaving of Christianity and organized religion was in the news. If you follow her on Facebook, you know how interactive she is with her followers and how she posts current events and asks provocative questions about a number of issues. I really enjoy the discourse she encourages. Her postings are usually either informative or controversial and I appreciate her accessibility to the "people of the page." This regular discourse and dialect might be another reason I am somewhat disappointed in Of Love and Evil. I just did not care about the characters in Rome that she introduced. The threads of this tale just were not interwoven to the extent to get me emotionally involved. I did enjoy the continued story of Toby and his personal redemption from assassin to angel assistant, but his story is only one aspect of this short novel. Ms. Rice does create another dilemma in O'Dare's continuing drama, and I will read the next one.
I will recommend this book as a quick and easy read, but did not enjoy this effort as much as I had hoped or as much as the four previous books of Ms. Rice's that I have read.
Her newest entry to the "Songs of the Seraphim," series does not deviate from the established, proven formula of her other novels. This is not a form of criticism. In actuality, her formula of enticing prose, first-person perspectives of a reclusive individual, and rich historical settings elevates her books to a very high level of quality. This year alone, I have read an estimated ten or twelve Anne Rice books, alongside a slew of college-required reads. Her books leave an imprint of great intrigue that cannot be divested. Instead, the reader only craves for the next installment in one of her many series or does research on some of the intriguing historical, spiritual, or philosophical questions raised in her books.
Anne Rice's inquisitive self has always been the strength of her novels. Every novel of hers is mostly centered around some difficult spiritual question that she herself has been wrestling with. "Of Love and Evil," raises an interesting dilemna that is pivotal to our faith. Now, that we have equipped ourselves with this new Christian perspective, What determines something as a good or evil act? More importantly, could a loving act that we believe reflects the spirit of Christ be a definably evil act?
Readers are transported to Renaissance Italy to become involved with a mystery that involves a Jewish physician wrongly being convicted for supposedly poisoning their trusted, Catholic patient. Anne Rice uses this perplexing mystery to immerse the reader into this picturesque world with ease. Using Toby O'Dare as the curious soul with a spiritual dilemna, the reader's full psyche becomes attached to this main perspective. Again, these troubled, reclusive souls of Anne Rice's books work wonderfully because they essentially reflect universal themes of spiritual struggle. All of us equally,with some variance,feel spiritually bankrupt at times in our life even when we have a solid relationship with God. Similarly with the Jesus novels, spiritual struggles are not exempted from the characters even when their faith appears to be perfected.
Whether you are a Christian or not, this novel should appeal widely to any readers that thirsts for an exciting mystery story that contains human characters with realistic flaws. More importantly, the spiritual struggles of these characters are equally faced by all individuals of differing faith backgrounds. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and agnostics alike ponder the question of our purpose for existence. Even when our beliefs appear externally solidified. We still disbelieve the beliefs we thought we had conceived. At the time of reading this novel, I struggled greatly with the question of: "What if my supposed belief in God is worthless after I become nonexistent when I die ?
Meaning, after I die, the whole notion of having a conscious self will become a useless ideal. If there really is nothing after our deaths then "What really is the use of striving to morally perfect ourselves?" There would be no benefits or compensation for acting benevolently towards other humans. Because, in the short frame of our human lives, we'll only be partially experiencing the wonders of a morally-superb life filled with love. We'll only have glimpses of a perfected world where our pain and struggling truly works as a cause that will bring about an effect in the form of an afterlife which informs us that our endeavors are not completely useless. Toby O'Dare chooses to undertake the risk of facing the possibility of a meaningless existence because the other solution involves having a belief that our inclination to love is an accidental , purposeless desire. Having a God be our endpoint serves not as an escape from the pain of the reality of nothingness. It strengthens the truth that our love, our dreams, and our desires are not manufactured by a soulless machine. Internally, there exists a soul that powers this insatiable desire for transcendence. When we peer at art or are overwhelmed by the ineffable beauty of rich, symphonic music, we are having otherworldly experiences that inform our need for a God. Anne Rice books mimic that same effect. Every time, I read her books; I sense the poverty of my soul and realize the many abstract qualities or mysteries of our world that prove to us that this universe requires a God.
I read all of the Vampire series and the historic research was great.......but I am glad that she has found her faith in the Catholic religion once again as many people lose their faith and never find it again.