Book Review: Envy of Angels
My preference for self-contained stories over sprawling 18 volume epics is probably well documented in these reviews by now. I like for the books I read to have a point and to come to that point within a decade or so of me starting to read them. I don’t feel like that is an unreasonable expectation, although there are a few fantasy authors I am sure would disagree. So when I am presented with the first book in a series of 12 books I am naturally cautious.
The Sin Du Jour novellas are not what I had been dreading, Matt Wallace makes no attempt to create a complete and self-contained plot arc in each book, content instead with creating a self-contained episodic series that is more akin to a television series than a regular novel’s blockbuster movie. Which is a very good thing. Television has been absolutely killing film over the last few years for exactly the same reasons that these novellas are great, there is the satisfaction of a resolved story, the satisfaction of the gradually building arc and the supreme satisfaction of gradually learning more and more about the characters that you have only seen in passing from the beginning of the series. The format which originally concerned me is actually a great boon to these books.
The first book, Envy of Angels, is all that I have time to dive into today but there is a consistency across the whole series in both quality and style that I came to appreciate. There is a hint of script rather than prose in the rapid fire present tense that Wallace has chosen which just further cements the television connection but it works absolutely perfectly for the story that he is choosing to tell.
Sin Du Jour revolves around the titular catering agency as it fulfils its purpose serving out appropriate meals at events involving the hidden world of the supernatural. We come into the story with their cushy government contract already secured and a pair of new chefs joining the line serve as out point of view introduction. The crises begin to arise as these new chefs blunder into the supernatural world that Sin Du Jour is forced to navigate and reach a peak when the company is asked to slaughter and cook an angel for demons to feast on.
There is a wonderfully casual attitude towards the supernatural elements of this urban fantasy story, genies and demons are treated with very little respect by the narrative while the correct method of preparing a pineapple is treated as life or death. Part of this is the slightly twisted sense of humour that runs through the whole story but just as much is about treating the business of cooking with all of the due respect that it deserves. It is always gratifying to read a book that captures not only the minutiae that only considerable research will teach you about a profession, but also the genuine feel of that profession and the people who devote their lives to it.
Envy of Angels may feature demons, zombies, giant chickens and magic, but the heart of the story is in the kitchen, just where it belongs.