Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan – Review
With Blood and Feathers, Lou Morgan has delivered a witty debut novel that not only entertains but manages deftly to explore the nature of good and evil along the way. It follows Alice, who comes home one day to find herself unexpectedly mixed up with a bunch of angels—that’s right, the guys with wings who fight Lucifer and his band of fallen, most vividly portrayed, methinks, by Gustave Doré. But, unlike Doré’s classic representations, these angels don’t wear white flowing robes and blow long thin trumpets. They wear hoodies (some of them, anyway; some wear suits and ties, others jeans), drink from hip-flasks, and wield guns. Kind of like Milton meets The Matrix, with a bit of Dante thrown in for good measure.
Alice is related to this angelic host in ways she never imagined, and spends much of her time in hiding being slowly drip-fed information about who her long-lost mother was, who she herself is, and what powers she has. (I won’t say anything about those powers other than that, even though they’re basic, they’re pretty damn cool.) Not much happens otherwise in the first half of the book, except for a few close escapes from Lucifer’s soldiers, so it can feel at times like the story isn’t going anywhere too quickly. But the info Alice gets is info we as readers want (and it’s mesmerizing stuff, to boot), so the pages rarely feel heavy. They turn rapidly enough to keep you going, especially since Morgan has given her main character such a healthy dose of smart-ass that the dialogue fizzles with wit.
The last half of the novel is where the real action takes place. I wish Doré were alive today, because I’d love to see his depictions of the battle of angels Morgan has crafted. (Perhaps a graphic novel might be forthcoming?) Here, also, is where our loyalties begin to waver. What’s going on, and who does Alice side with? As I said earlier, Morgan manages to explore the fine line between the bad good guy and the good bad guy, and we’re not left with any easy answers at the novel’s conclusion. I’d want neither Lucifer nor the Archangel Michael as my manager, so to speak. And I don’t think Alice would, either. Problem is, she’s stuck with these guys.
If I had any reservation, it was that, in a novel that demands we accept angels and Lucifer as real, no attempt is made to show how that reality relates to the likes of Hinduism, Buddhism, Norse mythology, or any other religion or myth cycle outside Christianity. For a while, it seemed there was some suggestion of a connection with Ancient Greece, in that an entity named Charon inhabits Hell. But I was left confused by this minor character, as all the other names, such as Xaphan and A’lbiel, refer to the standard Judeo-Christian angels. Since Morgan does such a skilled job of having all her characters dance the line between good and evil, I’m convinced she could have handled placing this paradigm in the context of World Religion as a whole also.
But this is a minor point, one that probably bothers me only, and which does nothing to detract from a story containing humor, excitement, action and wonder. I see that the sequel, Rebellion, is out in July. I look forward to it. Watch for its review on this site.