Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse is an adult fantasy standalone novella that will be published November 15th. I was excited to get my hands on this one as I loved Black Sun and its sequel and I really wanted to try something else by Roanhorse. Her writing definitely lived up to my expectations although I didn’t love this story.
Celeste, a card sharp with a penchant for trouble, takes on the role of advocatus diaboli, to defend her sister Mariel, accused of murdering a Virtue, a member of the ruling class in the mining town of Goetia, in a new world of dark fantasy.
High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.
Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector.
When Mariel is accused of murdering a Virtue, the powerful Order of the Archangels that rule Goetia, Celeste must take on the role of Advocatus Diaboli (Devil’s Advocate) and defend her sister in the secretive courts of the Virtue. Celeste, aided by her ex-lover, Abraxas, who was once one of the rebels great generals, sets out to prove Mariel innocent. But powerful forces among the Virtues and the Elect mining barons don’t want Celeste prying into their business, and Mariel has secrets of her own. As Celeste is drawn deeper into the dark side of Goetia, she unravel a layer of lies and manipulation that may doom Mariel and puts her own immortal soul at risk, in this dark fantasy noir from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.
I have some definitely mixed feeling on this and I’m not surprised to see that early reviews are mixed as well. I really enjoyed Roanhorse’s writing as I have with her other books and despite this book being just over 200 pages, she manages a lot of world building an plot. However, I never really got invested.
Celeste is a passable main character and I always like a sibling dynamic but because the story starts off right away, you never get to see the two together or get to know Celeste before the story is well under way. I had a hard time really routing for these characters that I didn’t really know prior to their run in with the Virtues. The blurb refers to Celeste as a card sharp but aside from the first few pages, that is never explored and she doesn’t have the personality I expect from that description (she’s no Ferius Parfax).
I also was not expecting this book to lean so heavily into the religious themes. I realized from the blurb and title that there were angels and demons and such but it was much more prominent than I expected and being someone who doesn’t know my religious stories well, I kept thinking this was a retelling and that I was missing something. It had that feeling of trying to use an existing story to fit more into a small book. I still have no idea if it did but it made me feel out of the loop and even more disconnected from the story.
The world itself was pretty cool but I wished there had been more on the technology side of it and less on the Virtues/Fallen piece. The glimpses into the workshop and hints at mining has me intrigued and that was never fully explored.
I was ultimately at deciding between 3 and 4 stars and the ending made me settle on 3. I kind of liked the ending but it was in no way satisfying.
* I received a free ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. *