Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Review: The Sounding - Carrie Salo

Form: paperback, 478 pages
Genre: supernatural thriller
Target audience: adults
Review by Anachronist

Synopsis (from Amazon.com):
In the Book of Revelation, a man named John has a prophetic dream. He dreams of the final prophecies that will come to pass - and the seven archangels that guard them. Each angel waits to sound their trumpet at God's appointed time, preparing humanity to fight and win the final battle. 2,000 years later, Father Chris Mognahan is a member of the Hetairia Melchizedek, a secret society within the Catholic Church that studies Biblical omens. The society asks Chris to investigate an unusually grotesque crime - a murder on a college campus where the killer's hand literally burned off the victim's face. While the killing seems isolated at first, the society ties the murder to the final Biblical prophecy and a terrifying omen that the order of the prophecies is about to be disrupted. The final battle is coming too soon - long before humanity is prepared to win it. Suddenly, Chris finds himself fighting against time and hell to keep the prophecies in order and stop an early Armageddon. He is joined by a band of unlikely allies, and together they find themselves in Rome above the Vatican Necropolis - the city of the dead - where the future is revealed to them in ancient texts. They are not alone, however; an evil as old as time itself hunts them. As they travel across continents on their mission, the demonic force follows relentlessly, waiting in every shadowed corner, and every dark place. As Armageddon descends, Father Chris finds that his only hope lies in a young woman within the group who has a secret gift - and their belief that God Himself may have sent her to keep the final angelic trumpet from sounding out the early end of the Earth.

What I liked:
I must admit this novel surprised me nicely several times. I must admit it – I started to read it with a very negative feelings. First I thought it was something in the style of Dan Brown (insert an expletive of your choice). The more I read the more I was delighted to be wrong. Then I thought it was veering too much toward paranormal romance and I was wrong again – there is some romance, it is rather paranormal but don’t expect testosterone-filled heavily muscled, devastatingly handsome he-angels strutting around with their wings, making girls swoon (or, in a version for boys, angelic super-model girls with perfect proportion and fantastic hair dancing semi-nude in the moonlight. Or whatever such creatures usually do). A wrong book.

Its first huge asset was a number of very likeable, three-dimensional characters, some of them with a great sense of humour. First of all we have Elise Moore who is an angel, Remiel, but also a normal 19-year-old college student, working part time in a bar, fancying boys and men, swearing and having fun. She has some paranormal gifts but she must learn how to use it and it is not always easy. What’s more, when she is attacked she doesn’t wait for rescue, she doesn’t pray, she defends herself, hurting or even killing. That’s my angel - I have a soft spot for such heroines. Especially that she has pangs of conscience later. 

Then there are several Catholic priests: Father Chris, Father Alan and a mute visionary monk called Francis. All of them are not exactly like your average image of a Catholic priest and take it from a girl born and bred in a Catholic country. They are more like normal people: they can fall in love (not spoiling, nuh-huh), they can sin, they are angry with the Vatican’s bureaucracy and red tape (from time to time, not overly so) even though they love their God and are good Christians. The main baddie (called the Other, a demonic entity of a kind) was simply delightful - so similar to our she-angel in some aspects that I gasped with joy more than one time. He also understood her the best (and my heart was dancing – that’s my demon!). In other words these characters made this book a very interesting read. Taking into account the fact that it is Ms. Salo’s debut novel – chapeau bas! This lady knows her craft!

Then there is Vatican and its mysterious churches like palaces and palaces like labyrinths and labyrinths serving as catacombs. It could be really felt that the author was there, saw that all and most probably bought a t-shirt or two, maybe even one similar to a habit ;). It was very entertaining and well-written.

Finally the plot - it was good, original, full of suspense, even riveting from time to time, with the right emphasis in all proper places and a great final – no mean feat, many good novels have been ruined for me by a weak/improbable ending. Now a warning for those readers who must have their HEA no matter what. This book might make you cry. Seriously. I didn’t cry but if I weren’t one hard-as-nails daughter of a chienne (pardon my French) I would have cried for sure. There’s a HEA of a kind but not what you expect. It is a bit heart-wrenching.

My last remark: don’t worry if you don’t know the Bible or the Catholic church. Everything is explained nice and easy. Sometimes too easy – but it is a matter for my other section.

What I didn’t like:
Some minor info dumps appear in the text – not very bothersome and even partially understandable (try to explain the history of the mankind from the Bible to a lay man in five sentences, or the history of Vatican) but still noticeable. It was not my major problem, though.

My major problem was that sometimes, just sometimes, some blatant factual errors slipped in. Like for example when one of the savant priests, Alan, says that Eve was the first Jewish woman (p.176). Hello? Jewish? How come? There was no such a thing as nationality at the beginning and even much later, right? Eve was just a woman as Adam was just a man or I am missing something?

Then our Bible scholar says that Bathsheba was the downfall of the Jewish king David and the death of their firstborn son interrupted the royal bloodline of kings. It made me truly mad – let me explain why. I promise it will be nerdy and longish but interesting :p

Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a very beautiful woman. King David saw her from his balcony while she was bathing in her private garden. I suppose he was at the peak of his male menopause – anyway he coveted her rather badly. A king has its rights – Bathsheba was brought to the royal palace asap and she was impregnated by the happy king while her hubby fought for David abroad. In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army, hoping that he would go to bed with Bathsheba to…er…cover things up nicely.  Uriah, however, was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service which said that they had to refrain from carnal pleasures and sleeping under their own roof. Stupid, honorable, unimaginative knight. The desperate king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed in the front lines of the battle and then betrayed - left to the hands of the enemy. David had Uriah himself carry the message which was also his death warrant (the same trick was repeated by Shakespeare in Hamlet later). After Uriah’s murder, David made Bathsheba his wife.

David's action was displeasing to the Lord and, even though the king confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance, Bathsheba's child by David was struck with a severe illness and died a few days after birth. The king accepted it as his punishment; mind you, according to the law he was supposed to die himself as he committed both adultery and murder. Kings have it easier, no matter what.

Now tell me, was Bathsheba in your opinion really a downfall  of David or was it rather his own lust? 
When it comes to the infant, punished for the sin of his father – it was neither the first nor the only son of David at that time so his death, although sad, couldn’t interrupt the whole bloodline. David, like many Eastern kings, had a lot of wives and concubines; some of them bore him sons years before he met Bathsheba (let me quote here the names of just two older princes alive: Absalom and Adonijah). Even a mediocre Bible scholar would know that much.

Final verdict:
A nice supernatural thriller with several great twists and turns and an original gallery of characters. For a debut – a great book, but I hope the author will try to omit factual errors in the future. Nevertheless I would like to read her other books (when she writes them of course)!

17 comments:

  1. Sounds like one I would enjoy, even if it's not perfect.

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  2. Thanks for hosting me again, Blodeuedd!

    Carol, the book is really worth reading despite its flaws.

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  3. It's a pleasure having you over as always Ana :)

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  4. This is not normally the type of book I'd pick up, but it's always interesting to me to see how religion plays into the supernatural/paranormal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ana.

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  5. Great review! The book does sound interesting.

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  6. Fantastic review. It sounds like you were able to enjoy it despite the errors.

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  7. "if I weren’t one hard-as-nails daughter of a chienne (pardon my French) I would have cried for sure." - Learning more and more about you - who knew your sweet facade was a cover? :)

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  8. This does sound like an interesting read, even if there were a few slip ups. Adding it to my wishlist!

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  9. Thanks for all the comments!

    @Carrie - it does!

    @Missie - the religion factor is not overdone here so it was really interesting indeed!

    @Dana - thanks!

    @naida - I did enjoy it, you're perfectly right!

    @StephanieD - shshshshsh...don't tell anyone. Cats are like that - very nice, sweet, warm and fluffy until you piss them off... ;)

    @Chris - no, it is the middle of the week. Why?

    @A Buckeye Girl - a wise decision!

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  10. Awesome review Ana, thank you! I just dislike religion in books so much, otherwise I would love to read this one. The main characters sound so good. But priests, I can't like priests.

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  11. It's just been that kind of crazy week...

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  12. mhmmm sounds like an interesting read. I keep thinking about the Adam and Eve and Jewish thing. *thinks* Anyways, great review...of course. ^.^

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  13. So not for me but I enjoyed your in-depth look at this book.

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  14. I don't think this would be the book for me but I am glad that he was able to weave a tale into this history (even if it was inaccurate at times) :) :) :)

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