Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Halo of the Damned by Dina Rae

The fallen angel Amaros has come down to Earth in the guise of the human Andel, working at the bidding of his master, Satan, he is recruiting more souls for his lord’s armies. And he’s perfectly placed to do so – as the head of several major advertising firms, he and his people have become a master of corrupting souls around the world, making him one of Satan’s most effective generals.

But there’s precious little gratitude in Hell, and Amaros’ mistakes have been noticed, in particular he has been siring children – nephilim – an activity strictly forbidden by both Heaven and Hell. Even worse, a branch of his descendants have gone further, through inbreeding and further summoning, concentrating angelic blood in their offspring in their own insular religion.

The prideful Amaros has been given his orders to return to Hell – but as Satan chafed under god’s rule, so too does Amaros under Satan’s.

And we have Joanna, newly released from prison for cocaine use, she’s starting to build her new life. But her first job out of prison puts her in Amaros’s company and any attempts for normality quickly fade as she and her sister Kim are faced with their own hidden family history, their grandmother’s agenda, what really killed their mother, Lydia – and the legacy she left behind. Along with Lydia’s lover, Sean, they piece together to puzzle of what exactly happened, what their family history truly is and the forces that are at stake.

This book is extremely dark and gritty. And I’ll warn for this from the very beginning. This isn’t a happy  angel story where a fallen angel finds a mortal woman and then falls in romantic true love and they have lots of sweet, joyful living. No, these are fallen angels. They’re evil, deadly creatures out to reap souls for Satan – or themselves. This means these books are grim, people die, people are eaten, people are raped, there are serial killers, incest and torturers. It’s grim and dark and leaves no shadow of a doubt that this is evil.

Which is, in some ways, refreshing. There was no romanticising of evil, no sympathising of it. We didn’t see the darkly tortured angsty creatures we’re so used to and we didn’t, in any way, make the evil murdering monsters seem sexy, even when they were sexually attractive. Even people who had fallen into Andel’s thrall fell there beause of his charisma and out of worship and greed after deliberate manipulation on his part – there  was none of the very typical “oh he’s so gorgeous so I’ll forget he was a serial killer” we’ve come to know and loathe

I can’t say it was a story with a lot of surprises. There were some twists – Tony was a twist and the exact nature of the scroll was a twist, but most of the story was heavily foreshadowed throughout (the author also has an interesting habit of briefly recapping what’s happened repeatedly, which really prevents any surprises since the plot’s very laid out from there). That didn’t mean the story was boring however, and while I could see the shape of what was coming, it was interesting to see how it developed especially since, while the plot wasn’t difficult to predict, the world and story was original.

The idea of vampire-like creatures being creations of the fallen angels was an interesting twist; I also really liked the real world consequences to the murders, especially with Marcus. In a lot of these stories we see vampires leaving a trail of bodies in their wake and it never seems to catch up with them. There are no police, no grieving loved ones, no manuhunt, no attempt to find the perpetrators of their crimes – but not here. One of the interesting side-plots of the book is Marcus’s increasingly inept attempts to try and escape from the trail of evidence he’s left behind.

After so many demonic forces used in fiction, I think I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve come across a demonic advertising industry (though it does make a lot of sense and really fit). How the advertising campaigns were designed and how extremely exploitative language and disturbing behaviour fit into the businesses practices as standard really stood out and meshed seamlessly with Andel’s own demonic nature. In fact, one of the powerful undertones is not so much the overt power of the fallen angels and their demonic vampires – but their insidious influence. The wealth and power Andel has, the power their followers have through their church, their reach and their immunity. And all of this becomes even more exciting and tense when that power begins to unravel, when the veil of secrecy begins to fade and all that insidious influence is shown to be so very hollow.

I also found it interesting to have the fallen angel rebel – against Satan. After all, if we have a group of fallen angels who rebelled through pride, then how willing are they going to be to follow a new master? The whole sets of rules and the treaty and the attempt to splinter away are all really new concepts. Similarly, the treatment and usage of nephilim is very different – and much darker than what we’ve seen before. And, while sinister breeding programmes are nothing new in the genre, there are a lot of new twists here with their attempt to produce a human who is as close to angelic as is possible to be.

I really do not like that the author chose to use a real religion for her bad guys. The Yazidi religion has existed among Kurdish people for millennia; to have a white, western person come in and use this faith as a front for actual, evil Satan worship (yes, the Yazidi worship Archangels, and yes, the chief angel is analogous with Lucifer – but no, the Yazidi theology does not point to any of the Seven Archangels – or their leader – as being evil) especially since the religion has been both rather ignorantly and simplistically branded as “devil worship” by westerners for a long time and since it has been persecuted often severely throughout history. Here we have an ancient Middle Eastern religion predominantly worshiped by oppressed Kurds (especially since it’s a rather insular religion) being taken and used as a religion practiced by white westerners to summon Satan, fallen angels, kill people, create vampires and rape children. That doesn’t sit well with me – make up a fake religion for this, or if you want to criticise a religion, do so for its actual flaws – but to quite literally demonise a religion in this way – especially a foreign, marginalised one – is problematic at best.

Inclusionwise, despite using a religion that is nearly entirely based in the Middle East, I can remember only 3 characters of colour (there may have been more, but if there were I can’t remember them) – a Black demon/vampire who dies (after appearing briefly, a Latina woman who appears in the opening scenes and dies and her mother, who grieves (and has a minimal role anyway).

When we reach GBLT people we’ve got some severe homophobia going on. The Yazidis are frequently shown as evil because of their rape of women and of children. Similarly, Father Sardinelli turns against the Catholic church because of the immortality he saw – including the sexual abuse of boys. All of this fits the extreme grim-dark of the story – but these characters list consensual male sexuality in exactly the same way. Raping children on the altar is bad – and so is having consensual sex with another man on the same altar (and let’s throw in a speech about homosexuals hating all churches). In the same breath of condemning the child abuse he saw at the Catholic church, Sardinelli also condemns male seminary students he saw sneaking off together. He’s actually listing 3 things that drove him from the church: child abuse, child abuse, consensual gay sex – presented equally while the person talking to him nods and agrees on how horrendous it all is. Throw in wonderful phrases like “meekly submitted to sodomy” and Professor Dinda leaving Yazidis because he WOULDN’T “meekly submit to sodomy” and it’s a hot mess.

Looking at the women in the book is also unpleasant. For a start, a lot of them are victims – now this is a book that is very grim and very dark and there are a lot of male victims as well – but only Joanna, Kim and Maria (and their evil mother) reach the end without being victims. And the very premise of these books is based on using women as (often incestuous) breeding factories, that’s why Lydia left the church, it’s why we see a 14 year old being raped, it’s a foundation of female victimisation.

And Joanna and Kim both annoy me as being completely lacking in any kind of active participation in the story. Joanna just drifts into the job, works for Andel and, when she learns the dark truth, goes home and hides. She reacts when attacks with special shiny toys, but she doesn’t do anything. Same goes for Kim – they have this mystery about their mother and all these unanswered questions but they don’t pursue them. They invite the family around to question them – but don’t bother and just kick them out instead. She goes to the university, but doesn’t follow up any of the research. She spends most of her time following Maria, her 6 year old daughter around. In fact, all of the digging of this book is done by Sean and Maria – who points everything out to Kim, who has all the ideas, who has all the knowledge and, when all else fails, has a magical connection to her grandma Lydia. In terms of active participation in the mystery, Kim and Joanna not only take a second place to most of the men, but also to a 6 year old child.

The only thing you can rely on Kim and Joanna to do is panic or get wasted. No wonder Maria is used to doing the thinking, quite often she’s the only sober one in the room (now if only she could drive, she could take the keys off Aunty Joanna).

Which moves me to the next issue – Joanna has just been released from prison for cocaine possession – she’s a drug addict and an alcoholic. And she doesn’t just fall off the wagon, she’s laid nigh in sensible in the grass at the side of the road while the wagon disappears into the distance. And there’s no consequences – her AA sponsor, her parole officer, her family – she’s barely even impaired by the drugs and booze anyway and by the end of the book, she seems to be completely cured anyway. Her description says she’s a recovering addict, her actions do not.

Beyond social justice fails, the writing is also a problem, mainly the dialogue. The people in this book didn’t speak to each other, they made speeches to each other. Really, awkward, unnatural, clunking speeches.  I just have to quote a passage. For context, Juliet is Catalina’s co-worker and Lourdes is her mother – Catalina has gone missing. This is their first meeting:

“Hello, excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear Catalina’s name. I’m Juliet Jacobsen. We worked on several ads together before she left the agency. Are you a relative? You look alike.” Juliet held out her hand for a formal handshake.

“I’m her mother, Lourdes Rojas. Juliet, I’ve heard so much about you. Catalina thought of you as her mentor. She was enamoured by your creativity and business savvy. And so ecstatic about working here. I just can’t believe that she would up and quite,” Lourdes sobbed.

This is the dialogue throughout the book and it’s pretty painful to read

There were some characters who didn’t add anything to the plot – like Marcus – but they did add a great deal to the ongoing dark theme of the book, the extra evil, the extra grittiness, the vileness of characters like this and their activity added to the world setting – so even though they’re plot extraneous, they still added some of the background. I think that was one thing the book excelled at – creating this dark and powerful setting, establishing the tone of grim evil and cruelty throughout the book.

In general, I found the plot compelling and dark and the world interesting and very gritty, very grim and very powerful. It is involved, and well presented. It has a lot going for it – but the writing, characters and social justice issues combine to really drag what could have been an excellent, dark story very far down. It’s a shame, it had a lot more potential than was realised.


Book Title: Halo of the Damned
Author: Dina Rae
Series: Book 1
Genre: Dark, Horror, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
Publisher: Eternal Press
Pages: 291
Words: 89,000

Book Description:

"A chain of advertising agencies, a new breed of humans, and a fallen angel to worship…

Andel Talistokov is known for his slick advertising agencies across the globe. He is a fallen angel that uses advertising as a weapon for Satan's work. His growing power emboldens him to break several of Hell’s Commandments. Furious with his arrogance, Satan commands him to return to Hell after finding his own replacement. Yezidism, an ancient angel worshiping religion, quietly expands throughout the West. Armaros appears as a guest of honor during their ceremonies. He mates with young women to produce nephilim, a mixed race of humans and angels. They are alone and unprepared for their supernatural power. Joanna Easterhouse, a recovering drug addict, steps out of prison shortly after her mother's fatal accident. She and her sister, Kim, unravel their mother's secretive past. Intrigued, they learn their bloodline is part of a celestial legacy. Both worlds collide. Halo of the Damned is a horrifying tale that weaves research together with suspenseful twists and turns."

Purchase Links:

Eternal Press:

About the Author:
Dina Rae is a new author here to stay.  As a former teacher, she brings an academic element to her work.  Her two novels, Halo of the Damned and The Last Degree, weave research and suspense throughout the plots. 

Dina lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs outside of Chicago.  She is a Christian, an avid tennis player, movie buff, and self-proclaimed expert on several conspiracy theories.  When she is not writing, she is reading novels from her favorite authors Dan Brown, Anne Rice, Brad Thor, Jim Marrs, Alex Jones, C.C. Finlay, and Preston & Childs.

Find Dina Rae at:



Twitter: @HalooftheDamned

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