Rebel Angels brings to a close the Lady Lazarus trilogy by Michele Lang. Set in an alternate universe, Lang has recast Hitler’s movement across Europe in the guise of machinations between Heaven and Earth. The demon, Asmodel, inhabits Hitler and only Jewish witch Magda Lazurus has the power to stop him. As always, however, power comes with a price and sacrifice.
In this final volume, Magda has returned from the dead once more to fight the Nazis. Her sister, Gisele, has had a vision and together, Magda and her husband, the fallen angel Raziel, must journey to the Caucasus looking for the Heaven Sapphire, the weapon they will need to halt Asmodel’s plans and destroy Hitler. They are not the only ones looking for the sapphire, however, and like all weapons, it’s a dangerous tool.
Fans of the series will be both satisfied and surprised by the conclusion. Those new to the world would be best advised to start with book one, Lady Lazarus, in order to fully appreciate the story, characters and their relationships. Lang does do a fair job of catching the casual participant up on events. Magda’s personality is clear from the first page, as is her drive and the sad, slow ebb of her humanity. She can seem impersonal without attendant history, however.
Overall, the trilogy is an interesting blend of real world history and fantasy and provides a different take on oft-told story. The author has recreated a Europe that is both familiar and not. Magda’s world is inhabited with vampires, werewolves, demons, witches – the list of other-worldly denizens is exhaustive – and the echo of war is reflected by those communities as they also jostle for power and dominance.
I did struggle with the first hundred pages. The characters all knew where they had to go and what they had to do and yet it took half the book for them to achieve that first goal. It was a trying journey, to be sure, with several distractions for Magda and Raziel. To me it felt a little as if Lang was padding the front. In addition, Magda’s death (again) and resurrection near the beginning of the novel, while convenient, stretched believability for me. As a character she began to feel too invincible and powerful. She can whisper a few words and rise from the dead, cast another spell and heal the fatal wound. Each death does take a toll, but the immediacy of the transition from one state to the other felt too easy. That her husband seems to barely flinch…well, maybe things are different in a supernatural world. Unfolding events to manage to strip away the feeling of complacency, but I did get the sense Lang was as relieved as Magda to see the end.
Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.