A Terrible Fall Of Angels (A Zaniel Havelock novel) by Laurel K. Hamilton (book review).

Angels are real. Guardian angels watch our backs and try to guide us to the safer paths. The higher orders sing amid the celestial spheres and sometimes whisper truths to those who can hear them. Those with the gift train at the College of Angels and learn to become Angels Speakers, the mortal channel for immortal voices. Zaniel Havelock gave his childhood to the College of Angels and their training. He is the only person to graduate from the College of Angels and walk away from the vocation and away from the only family he has ever known.

Now a police detective, Havelock still fights for good and to save people. Because angels aren’t the only things that are real. When a murder seems to be a case of demonic possession, Havelock is the best detective for the case. As he races to catch the killer before he can strike again, Havelock is also trying to outrun his own demons and not every race can be won.

Zaniel ‘Havoc’ Havelock. He’s a nice guy cop with a troubled marriage who’s turned his back on his past for unspecified personal reasons, even though he was top of the honours board. Now he fights the good fight for you and all of humanity as part of the Metaphysical Squad. This book is so hard to describe without falling into a terrible movie voiceover voice. Detective with the Metaphysical Coordination Unit.

Army veteran. Loving father and estranged husband, though they’re working on it. A man with a mysterious past that is coming to bite him on the behind. Give him a drinking problem and an iconic outfit and he’ll be ready for any kind of police drama. Havelock punches many notches on the stereotype card, enough to be familiar, but with enough nuance that he’s more archetype than true stereotype.

I liked reading about Zaniel but I also wanted to throw the book as he walked around being a ripped white guy who is so nice on some fundamental level everyone he meets thinks he’s flirting with them. Male? Female? Whether you’re waiting in line for coffee or a distracted trauma nurse, he’s there, unwittingly broadcasting ‘how you doing?’ like Joey from ‘Friends’ until he sees the reaction and tries to tone it down. Are we such a cynical world that random people being nice and looking us in the eye is flirtation? What makes this worse is the incel villain Havelock is set against screaming about the unfairness of the world where girls won’t have sex with him. It makes the incel seem even more wrong, but also sexualises kindness and the general liking of people in a slightly disturbing way.

‘A Terrible Fall Of Angels’ follows the same beats as ‘A Kiss Of Shadows,’ the first book in Hamilton’s ‘Meredith Gentry’ series, but without the onscreen sex. You can see a team forming up around Havelock and you just know he’ll have to go back to angel college to fight his childhood issues and uncover the conspiracy within. I expect subsequent books to continue following those familiar, easy to read, beats but it definitely feels like this series will be teasing flirtation against Meredith Gentry’s BDSM.

As she did with the vampires in ‘Anita Blake’ and the faeries in ‘Meredith Gentry’, Hamilton has built up another world of the supernatural sitting amongst our modern world. Much of the genre puts the fantastical hiding alongside our world. It’s the one of the things I enjoy about urban fantasy, the idea that there is something sitting right there beside the mundane reality of taxes and laundry. Hamilton’s worlds don’t hide the fantastic. They are our world where a quirk of fate or history has the supernatural weaving in amongst us.

The flaw in this world, for me, is the angels. I’m not a huge fan of angels in my fantasy. Too much catholic school perhaps but I like my fantastical creatures to be further away from my familiar. Luckily, there are things about the world Havelock wasn’t taught at school and I’m hoping that subsequent books will reveal more of the totem animals and broader spiritual world.

One thing jarred me. Shocked me even. Perhaps those raised on Starbucks and Keurig coffee pods might not see it, but I am a tea drinker. Those raised at the College of Angels are also tea drinkers. They grow up with it instead of coffee. Havelock has a teapot. He keeps a fresh tin of his best friend’s favourite oolong tea. In bags. That he steeps for ten minutes. To which he adds real cream and raw sugar. Oolong tea.

If you can get past that, ‘A Terrible Fall Of Angels’ is enjoyable. It isn’t a heavy read by any stretch and would be great for a trip now we’re allowed to have them again. If you have liked previous Laurel K. Hamilton’s books for more than just the sex scenes you will like this one. The world is nicely created and the characters are pleasant. If you like Seanan McGuire’s ‘Rosemary and Rue’ or ‘Incryptid’ series, or Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden Files’ this might be your next dose of urban fantasy.

LK Richardson

November 2021

(pub: Berkley, 2021. 400 page hardback. Price: $28.00 (US), $37.00 (CAN), £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-98480-446-4)

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