Review: Cherubim (Angeli Book II)

Back in January I reviewed Angeli: The Pirate, the Angel & the Irishman, and mentioned that I would review the next installment when it arrived. Which it has, and author Amy Vansant kindly sent me a free copy in exchange for a review, so I’ll be posting a slightly modified version of this to Amazon and Goodreads as well.

Cherubim continues the story of Sentinel Anne Bonny, her boss (and sometime lover) the Archangel Michael, and her former (currently incorporeal) lover, and fellow Sentinel, Con. Angeli ended with Anne somewhere in Virginia, and Michael and Con in South Carolina, having captured the rebellious and unstable Archangel Seth. Cherubim begins a few months on from this, with Anne and Michael back at work hunting Perfidia, and Con watching over Seth, who he believes is the key to regaining his full form.

The story gets off to a cracking start as a new and unknown player, Rathe (even he isn’t sure if it’s pronounced wraith or wrath) shows up, and Seth manages to trick Con and escape. We then follow both Rathe, as he tries to figure out his purpose, and begins recruiting Sentinels of his own, and the Angeli-Sentinel team, as they track Rathe (who they believe to be a Cherubim) and try to discover why the Cherubim have started appearing at all. Seth also continues to intervene, once again pursuing his own agenda.

I won’t spoil the final third of the book, but I will say that the set up for the reveal at the end was masterful – subverting my expectations, yet fulfilling the promise of an earlier conversation I’d half forgotten. While offering a resolution for the immediate conflict, Cherubim leaves the fate of several key players unknown, paving the way for the next installment, due in early 2016.

I thought that Cherubim took up the threads of the previous story well. Some plot points, such as Eris’ fate, and Con’s body being restored, are resolved, while others are clearly longer term arcs. Very few new characters are introduced, which I liked, because it gave the existing characters room to grow, and meant that those new characters could be fully realised. The central mystery of who sent the Angeli and why, continues to be explored, but we are drip-fed the information and left to put pieces together for ourselves. The fact that Rathe knows very little helps both that central mystery, and also any new readers; while I can’t imagine why anyone would start with Cherubim rather than the first novel, Rathe’s ignorance of the world allows the author to explain concepts like Perfidia and the creation of the Sentinels, without slowing things down with backstory.

Tyannah was also an interesting character, because she’s the first Sentinel who seems to draw on mainstream considerations of good and evil when accepting the job. Her soul-searching about who to trust and work with is a nice counterpoint to the more opportunistic take on the benefits of the lifestyle espoused by other Sentinels. I also like that she got to take action, and build on the choices she’d made.

Anne felt less central to this book, as the story followed multiple viewpoints, and it feels like she spent most of her time being beaten up and tortured. While Anne is an established badass, and has the healing factor to take a few hits, it began to feel like things were happening to her so that other people were pushed into action. While I think that it’s ok for heroes to ask for help, it still made me feel a little uncomfortable that other people’s growth was coming at the expense of violence toward a woman.

I also struggle with the love triangle aspect of the Angeli novels, probably because I don’t really understand the appeal of Michael. I think Anne and Michael broke up, but I’m not really sure, and she might be with Con but they haven’t really talked about it – all of which felt like a bit of a distraction from the main story. The intense jealousy that all female angels apparently feel toward Anne over Michael also seems kind of unnecessary. It perpetuates the trope of all women in fiction being bitchy and fighting over men, plus, again, I don’t really get why Michael is worth fighting for. I should say that the romance stuff only takes up a small part of the story though, and I’m not a romance fan, so other readers may enjoy that aspect.

The Angeli series continues to be a fresh and interesting take on the supernatural, and one that invites the reader to engage with the story rather than passively absorb information. I thoroughly enjoyed Cherubim, and will enjoy speculating on what Amy Vansant has in store for Anne and friends while I wait for the next installment.