Angels and demons are commonly thought to be the two sides of the ethereal coin forever battling each other at the direction of higher powers. In her debut novel, “Angelology,” however, Danielle Trussoni introduces us to a third strain of the otherworldly, the hybrid Nephilim. Formed from the union of angels and humans, the Nephilim first appear in Genesis 6: “The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives … [and] whenever The sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.” The Nephilim survived the Flood by sneaking onto Noah’s ark and set about infiltrating every level of human power.
Centuries later, the Nephilim live among humanity and are on the search for a cure to a mysterious illness endured by many of their greatest. Against this backdrop, secret correspondence between a former mother superior and Abigail Rockefeller bring together Trussoni’s heroes a young nun named Evangeline and Verlaine, an art historian. Together they begin to unravel the ages-old mystery of angelologists, a secret society dedicated to the eradication of all Nephilim.
While Trussoni’s narrative weaves biblical, historical and mythological threads into an entertaining and engaging whole a few moments bring the reader out of the world she has so carefully crafted. A flashback designed to illustrate the brutality of the Nephilim is a small moment of unnecessarily graphic gore that is out of place in the novel as a whole. Another flashback provides a clue to Evangeline’s ancestry so obvious that when it is revealed with a dramatic flourish 200 pages no one is surprised.
Though it’s impossible not to group this in with the recent spate of Dan Brown-inspired thrillers that redefine something “we thought we knew,” Trussoni’s novel is better than most. It’s a good read for those with more than a passing interest in biblical spirituality or history, but goes too far afield from established belief for strict adherents.