"Do you believe in Angels and Daemons? It doesn't really matter, because they believe in you"…..
Reading first-time published novels can occasionally be a tricky business - they can occasionally be excellent, sometimes often reasonable, but even more often be instantly forgetful (and that is being distinctly kind). However, It has been my pleasure in my last couple of book reviews to read two very different, but equally excellent first-time novels with (Starblood, by Camilla Voiez and Siberian Hellhole, by Michael Mulvihill).
So after answering the urgent request of the Grand Master and Generalisimo of UKHorrorScene for someone to review a brand new debut Horror Fantasy then I was pretty certain that my luck would have run out on this third occasion. After all, my weekend has gone as good as it could possibly get with England winning again in the cricket against Australia and then finding a forgotten bottle of rather expensive wine languishing in a kitchen cupboard - surely there there had to be a sting in the week's tail? There had been no more information than that the story was a horror fantasy and it was the writer's debut novel - not much to go on really.
So after opting for a proper copy of a book I eagerly unwrapped it and onto the table place the book 'The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie' by Jamie Brindle. As a consequence of opting for the paper edition I had given myself less time to read & then review it ……. In other words, if it was bad then the pain wouldn't last as long.
So, in the long anticipated and still imagined words of Bellatrix Lestrange after a night of Wizardry and Witch shenanigans - " Well, how was it for you, Stuart?"
In all genuine honesty, The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie is quite simply a triumph.
It is not my intention to give away many details of the plot. I don't hate many people in life, but people who divulge book details, or even worse, people who skip to the end of a book to read the final few pages should be taken out and shot at dawn. So consequently, i will endeavour to relay as much as I can about the story without hopefully giving too much away
The story essentially deals with a timeless battle between the Angels and daemons for the possession of human souls, ALL human souls. It is a war between the immortals fought not with weapons of destruction, because direct Intevention is not allowed. Instead we are moved, influenced, tempted with the merest of whispered suggestion in a person's ear, a barely noticed nudge on one's will.
The fact that much of humanity no longer believes in heaven or hell, god and the devil or Angles and deamons is inconsequential. In fact it is playing right into the hands of the immortals - because it makes their job all that easier, they are everywhere and they are fighting over you.
The plot moves from the Angel's realm, the Gardens of Avalon where the grass is green and the sun always shines to the Deamon realm of Daemonhearth where pain, damnation and darkness stretches for infinity. And in-between there is the planet Earth, with it's cites of endless possibilities for battling over our souls.
So what about the character from the title, Nathalie? Well she is a powerful, beautiful Angel and her task is to make sure she stops evil being committed. The problem is that the realm hierarchies believe in the utmost importance that humans should be given as much free will as possible - direct intervention is frowned upon……And that is frustrating for Nathalie, very frustrating.
The Deamons too are bound by the same rules, they cannot intervene directly…..but they can tempt. The finely tailored and flawlessly handsome Jason, once an Angel but now fallen to become a deadly daemon is set on one particular target of his own, tempting one individual who should definitely NOT be tempted...
The story is a wonderful rich tapestry of Sin, temptation and the notion of whether we actually have, or need free will. It examines thoughts that all of us have had at one time - if we could stop evil taking shape before it happens, just how far would we go? If we choose to commit murder to stop murder, or even just to think about committing a sinful act in itself but which in turn could stop increased pain and death……does that make us just as bad, or worse.? And just because we stop someone murdering simply by the merest act of suggestion, does the fact that they wanted to in the first place mean that in their soul is damned?
The characters of The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie are wonderfully drawn and layered. The complexities and contradictions in Nathalie and Jason are delightfully described and the cast of 'supporting' characters are given plenty of room to breath and eve love - though not always in ways that we expect. The fact that not some may not be quite as they seem keeps you guessing right to the end, there is no black and white here.
Sometimes...the best things are done by the worst people and the worst things done by the best of us.
The are a couple of negatives, though I would hardly call them complaints, more accurately they could be described merely as minor quibbles. The main one being that the story occasionally travels a little too fast with a couple of the episodes feeling ever so slightly rushed - the introduction of Nathalie's first 'understudys' Blake and Laura being a case in point. The underworld of Daemonhearth could have benefited from a more detailed description of the realm. Moreover, the relationship between Nathalie and Jason, which is the cornerstone of the narrative is merely hinted at. I would have loved to have read a more detailed back story of their relationship. The last two points to make up some elements of a future novel perhaps Mr Brindle?
However, as I mentioned these are but minor quibbles about a story that had me transfixed from the very first chapter to the heart-stopping finale. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who has even the most tenuous affection for Fantasy. For those of us that love fantasy with a true and unrelenting passion, then this will not disappoint. In fact it may even reaffirm those who may have become jaded and somewhat disillusioned with fantasy and horror in this post-Twilight sparkly world that we inhabit.
To those out there who poo poo the idea of anything fantasy or horror related, then I suggest you read The fall of the Angel Nathalie - it may just change your mind.
About the Author Jamie Brindle
"Jamie was brought up by loving ex-hippy parents who sold boomerangs for a living and had a hedge maze in their back garden. He was home-educated until the age of fourteen, before being eased gently into the idea that the world, by and large, expects you to get up earlier than is really civilised for the majority of your life.
Jamie trained as a biochemist at the University of Sussex. Following graduation, he realised he would find this deeply boring, and after a brief sojourn working in a school for deaf children (which he enjoyed much more than his home-educated prejudices had led him to believe), he studied medicine at the University of Warwick. He now works as a junior doctor, and writes speculative fiction mainly as a way to ground himself after long shifts in the bizarre fantasy world of the NHS."
Overall rating 9/10
You can buy The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie HERE at Amazon