Serena’s Review: “Tread of Angels”

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Book: “Tread of Angels” by Rebecca Roanhorse

Publishing Info: Saga Press, November 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector.

When Mariel is accused of murdering a Virtue, the powerful Order of the Archangels that rule Goetia, Celeste must take on the role of Advocatus Diaboli (Devil’s Advocate) and defend her sister in the secretive courts of the Virtue. Celeste, aided by her ex-lover, Abraxas, who was once one of the rebels great generals, sets out to prove Mariel innocent. But powerful forces among the Virtues and the Elect mining barons don’t want Celeste prying into their business, and Mariel has secrets of her own. As Celeste is drawn deeper into the dark side of Goetia, she unravel a layer of lies and manipulation that may doom Mariel and puts her own immortal soul at risk, in this dark fantasy noir from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.

Review: I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by Rebecca Roanhorse. She’s one of those fantasy authors who seems to have a boundless imagination and the writing skills to properly bring those many ideas to the page in exciting, new ways. But, like many fantasy authors, she also writes a decent number of long books that require a good amount of time to get through. So, in the midst of a very busy fall full of tons of books that I wanted to get to I was relieved to see a novella heading my way.

In a society split into two sides after Heaven’s War, two sisters have tried to patch a life together for themselves. But while both are Fallen, those descended from the demons who lost the war, Celeste and Mariel grew up in very different circumstances. Celeste, largely able to pass as one of the priveleged Elect, grew up with her father in the city. Mariel was left behind, living in poverty with their mother. But now, as adults and together, they have worked to create a life for themselves, with Celeste determined to stand by the sister she feels she abandoned as a child. So when Mariel stands accused of a terrible crime, Celeste will do anything to prove her sister is innocent.

There was a lot to this novella. And that’s both a compliment and also my main complaint. On one hands, this felt like a very well-developed world, with a clear history and society. We only have glimpses here and there, but the concept of a war in heaven and the fallout that’s left behind with angels and demons is familiar enough to many readers that even without tons of details, it’s easy to understand what is going on and the dynamics at play. On the other hand, while I think the story itself works well, I did end the book feeling as if I still wanted more. More of that history. More of how this society works. More of the characters’ stories, especially their pasts that were only quickly skimmed over.

But what we do get is excellent. Celeste and Mariel were very interesting characters. Due to the nature of the story, Celeste’s is the story and character that we get more of, but through Celeste’s journey Mariel’s character becomes more and more intriguing as well, even if we don’t see her on page as much. There were a lot of excellent twists and turns to be found here. When I started the book, I quickly felt that I had a handle on what this story was going to be about, where the characters were headed and what the overall commentary and theme of the book would be. Obviously, I won’t spoil anything here, but this story turned out to be much more layered and complicated than I had initially imagined.

And while I loved these twists and turns, especially the way the story ended, this also contributed to my feeling of wanting more by the end. However, even typing that out now, I’m questioning myself. Was that feeling of wanting more due to the book or story actually lacking anything? Or was it in and of itself a commentary on storytelling, characters, and readers’ expectations? I’m not quite sure. It’s one of those cases where I think many readers will come to their own conclusions. One thing I can say with certainty is that, for as short as this book it, it really stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about it for several days after the fact. I definitely recommend it to general fantasy fans. It’s a nice short story that packs a punch with the limited page length it has.

Rating 8: Unexpected and interesting, I found myself both wishing for more but also, somehow, satisfied with this very same lack of satisfaction.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Tread of Angels” can be found on this Goodreads list:[ATY 2023] Western

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