Robina Williams,
(Twilight Times, 2003)

In Jerome & the Seraph, Robina Williams introduced readers to a rather nice friary, a somewhat dead friar named Jerome, a potentially interesting afterlife and a deeply annoying supernatural cat, Quant. She brings them all back, intact and amplified, for Angelos, but quickly leaves the old friary through unexamined time travel for a tour of ancient and mythological Rome, or Greece, or Crete.

Quant leads the undead Jerome through a strange mishmash version of ancient and mythological Rome for half the book. As supernatural tutor and guide, Quant is wholly unsympathetic. He scolds undead Friar Jerome for being afraid of the monstrous Minotaur as part of a ham-fisted lesson in tolerance. But then he sneers at Jerome's expression of sympathy for the sacrificed Athenian youths, who are very much killed and eaten. He never explains why Jerome must feel sympathy for the monster but is forbidden from feeling it for humans, nor why they must spend paragraphs arguing over whether Jerome should refer to Crete as "ancient" or "now." These random moral codes make Quant seem capricious and possibly evil rather than holy and mysterious.

Jerome doesn't do much more than Quant to earn reader sympathy. He gawks at the random displays of mythology, accepts Quant's disapproving remarks and generally allows himself to be the complete idiot necessary for Quant's pronouncements to sound anything but ludicrous. With no growth happening between or within the characters, and the ancient world reduced to a horrible muddle of mythological cliches, Jerome's adventures become an unwelcome interruption to the more gripping mundane drama of the friary.

The split between the story of Quant and the story of the friary is almost complete; if not for a forced cameo, the two would have nothing to do with each other. That would be a relief, because the life of the friars is busy enough. Though Williams spends little time with them, the friars in Angelos are appointed a new leader, suffer various crises of faith, minister to their flock and each other, and explore religion through art, food and nature. Not a bit of their adventures feel forced, except when they too are temporarily forced to spend paragraphs wondering about the majesty and wonder of Quant.

Angelos is half of what is trying to be a very good book, held captive to the whim of a cat and the personal development of a slow-witted saint. If Robina Williams ever finds the nerve to tell her supernatural tour guides farewell, she may yet go to some wonderful destinations.

by Sarah Meador
9 September 2006

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