Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
As a partial relict of the Caledonian diaspora of the early nineteenth century I found this tale a tad patronising. I have heard all the tales of the supernatural talents attributed to Highland folk which on examination appear to be ruses shrewdly employed as self-protection against the unpleasant denizens of the alien slums to which these gentle people were consigned by their acquisitive landlords. Now it would seem that Lisanne Valente has devised a drollery based on these self-same contrived conceits. What is more, this is the first book in a projected trilogy.
Whilst I am all for the liberty of the artist to express their ideas and visions, I do sometimes find myself on occasion provoked by a demon wishing to revoke a particular artistic licence. In this I accept I am wholly wrong, but suffice it to say this book caused me immense difficulties in both cultural and theological perspectives. Under such conditions the question of `quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ or `who watches the watchers themselves’ becomes immediately apparent so I crawl whimpering back under my blanket, victim of my own principles.
In medieval theology angels were known as The Watchers, agents of the divine who monitored human events and would on occasion intervene to the greater good. Nothing wrong with that at all, only in this tale angels are largely masculine and partial to a bit of leg-over or rather in this context `haughmagandie’. We even have an angel named Kakabel whose name taken in a Gaelic context is just plain unfortunate.
The story is that of the Park family who having invented whisky, were recruited by the angels to become Mist Dreamers, a spiritual entity grounded in humanity who can move through the veil between heaven and earth watching events, to prevent another war breaking out twixt Heaven and Hell. The Chisholm branch of the Park clan have somehow escaped registration in Heaven as Mist Dreamers, so wander around through the mists in a wholly unstructured and dangerous way. Now Lauren, who as a child was an unexpectedly precocious Mist Dreamer has now grown to full adulthood thus inspiring the title: Lauren –The Awakening.
The structure of Heaven and Hell as described is dependent upon an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno so time is invested in describing the five levels of Heaven and the five tiers of Hell. There is also a warren of caves, no doubt off to the left, called the Cavernis Inferni in which fallen angels conspire. The employment of a spectrum in angel-hood becomes quite interesting around the subject of fallen angels who are not quite demons and vice-versa. This has all the ingredients for a potentially ripping tale of its own but is sadly confused by the inclusion of the Mist Dreamers, from wherever they might originate.
In the early stages of the novel Lauren and her parents relocate from Orlando, Florida to Edinburgh. The purpose this removal plays in the story is unclear, but no doubt there is a significant contrast between Edinburgh and Florida. The greater part of the scene is set in Edinburgh and in the posher parts to boot, which did nothing to ease my irritation, but an entertaining description of a branch of Pret a Manger in Hanover Street, Edinburgh, contrasting its wonderful smells with a hot summer day in Orlando, helped to ease my feelings.
As the tale develops it becomes apparent that there is a traitor seeking to destroy the veil between the two worlds thereby seeking to reignite the war between the angels and demons. This nearly succeeds as a demon army tramps out of Hell at Glencoe of all places to be duly slaughtered by warrior angels. I suppose it might have been worse, it could have been Prestonpans!
This book is well written and moves along although too much time is wasted on grandiose descriptions and overlong conversation pieces. A tighter style would have made the tale far more exciting. I know angels have a following out there so some will be pleased with this book. I am just sorry it did not work for me.