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The Seraph Contingency: Anael's Tale
by Jennifer Fales
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Reviewed by: Celina Cuadro

The Seraph Contingency: Anael's Tale is an intelligent, high-adventure romp through underworld and paradise legends packaged in funny, modern dialogue. This is my first Jennifer Fales novel and I had a blast reading it - quirky, witty, with a solid backing of good plot and researched mythos. The endearing characters, the intrigue that generated delectable hints, and the plot twists with the backing of various legends made a very engaging read that held my attention yet kept the mood light and hilarious.

The seraphim Anael had a mind that did not bask in the celestial homogeneity of heaven. But when she snuck out the Pearly Gates and wandered over to the Purgatory dive bar Re-Pete's out of curiosity, she had no idea she would get her wings sawn off, go even slightly more insane from the torture, and meet a troop of the oddest demons, demi-gods, immortals, and humans imaginable (even for an insane seraphim) - with every meeting not entirely by chance. Through her resilient nature and her changing powers, she set a chain of events that affected all of the denizens of Hell, played Cupid for some deserving couples, and eventually gifted her with an ever-changing, challenging puzzle for her insane angelic mind.

There are a few things a reader would need to know when starting Ms. Fales' tale: the supernatural beings found in the story are treated with an irreverence to their mythic canon, geared towards crafting a good story. If you are the type of reader who thinks all angel lore is sacrosanct, or conversely, that all satanic lore should be treated with reverence and respect for the consequences, please check your soapbox at the door around the same time you suspend disbelief. If like myself you just like a good story and are not offended by dipping into legends to jazz up a tale, dive in - there was plenty of that to enjoy from the get-go. Another thing worth considering is that Ms. Fales did not stint on violent or disturbing images, so if you are a reader queasy about them, know that if you brace yourself and endure, you will eventually discover that they were employed to enhance the story, not upset you. Having none of these qualms myself, I happily dove into the tangled mess Anael found herself in and thoroughly enjoyed the tale from the minute I met the Lapsed Saint to the mention of cyborgs in Hell.

It was that intelligent irreverence that appealed to me the most - that different legends were combined in new ways for the sake of a good story rather than just to be controversial. The plot was worthy of an issue from Neil Gaiman's Sandman - Hades, initial occupant of Hell, placed contingencies in the contract he gave Lucifer when he vacated it. Then the old guard of the netherworlds - a descendant of the Three Fates, Charron, and a very much transformed Persephone and River Styx - team up with a number of demons to bring Lucifer's downfall using another former angel. Brilliant! Unlike Sandman's more intense, surreal tone however, this tale read more like a fusion of Robert Asprin's Myth series and Pierce Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality - with a little bit of Gaiman-Pratchett's Good Omens thrown in for good measure. There was enough snarkiness and dialogue battles worthy of Asprin's style, but the fiendish plot twists and reveals were certainly similar to the devilish twists found in the Immortality series. For readers not familiar with any of the other works mentioned, know that Jennifer Fale's The Seraph Contingency: Anael's Tale was a quirky, intelligent adventure that I highly recommend - and I hope she makes plans to write about those possible cyborgs in Hell, since I'm pretty much hooked and am hoping for more!

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