gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Angel of Death, J Robert King

Angry Robot is rather evil. All they said was "What book would you like to review?" I said something – I forget what – then went about doing all the millions of things that need doing in the lead-up to Jewish New Year and to Conflux and to my own booklaunch. There was a 'collect this parcel' note in my letterbox yesterday. I couldn't get there in time, so I left it till today. Unbeknownst to me, this meant I had a full day more to do my various deadline-y stuff.

You've already guessed there was a book in that package. I love new books. I looked at it and carried it round a bit and then thought it might make a nice break before my evening's work. I had planned to read a chapter, wash my dishes, finish sorting my papers and then have an early night and then come back to it next week. That was two and a half hours ago.

The book is J Robert King's Angel of Death. I can't say a great deal about it, because the plot is so tight and twists in such interesting ways that almost any comment would include spoilers. I can say that really, you should not read it when you have deadlines. You will miss the deadlines. I was reading it with a migraine and the letters were dancing before my eyes and I still couldn't stop.

Angel of Death and Kaaron Warren's Slights are my best reads of the year. They're so different, too. What they have in common are infinite shades of darkness. Also that craftsmanship.

King has a very lean writing style. Deceptively clean. Every word counts. Even the beginning, which reads as fairly standard, has a bunch more in it than shows until things unravel. In fact, it was that opening that lured me in. I thought "This is the sort of novel that I can predict after 50 pages, so that's how much I'll read."

King turns a lot of current popular themes on their head. Or he eviscerates them. He plays with the suspense of a murder-based thriller and with ideas that appear in Supernatural and even with paranormal romance. In the end, his world is none of these, although it is internally consistent, driven at precisely the right pace. The only thing I could have wished for was a little more depth to Donna's character (the female protagonist) – occasionally she was simply following the plot around.

It begins with a thriller opening, except that somehow a minor Angel of Death (with carriage of deaths in the local region) is the point of view character. From him we learn who will die and the day on which they'll die. Then everything shifts and tightens. Suddenly, I was not in the middle of anything I had expected and I kept turning the page to find out what was happening next. Suddenly, there is no predictable thriller. The tension remains. So do the deadlines.

This is neither a comfort read nor a slow read. It's a fabulous book, but don't pick it up when you're supposed to be doing other things. It's after midnight and those dishes are still unwashed and those papers are still unsorted. I don't know whether to blame J Robert King for writing Angel of Death or Angry Robot for publishing the book.

PS It's not your imagination that Im reading Angry Robot books quite specifically at the moment. I've always wanted to follow a new imprint from its conception and I like Angry Robot's ideas, so I'm following them for a bit. I wasn't expecting to like their choices so very much, but I do. I would be much more silent if I hated the books purchased by the imprint, but I'd still be following.
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