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    Review of ARCHANGEL by Sharon Shinn

    Ace, 1997

    In months, the angel Gabriel is scheduled for promotion to archangel. From him will spring the great mass that preserves the entire planet from the wrath of Jovah--or rather, from him and his wife. Which presents a problem because Gabriel has no wife. Finally, he seeks the prophet and gets a very clear answer--he is to marry Rachel. Finding Rachel is a challenge though as the farming village where she was born has been completely destroyed and the nomadic tribe that rescued her was eliminated by slavers.

    Rachel has been enslaved by the rich of Semorrah but a chance meeting with a young bride brings her hope. The bride, Mary, promises to have her freed and to pay her lots of money to be her maid. That life is dashed from her when Gabriel, one of the angels performing at the wedding, recognizes Rachel, seizes her, and declares that she must be his wife.

    Rachel's bitterness, her fear that anything she loves will be dashed from her, and her fear of angels and heights clash with Gabriel's arrogant certainty, his belief that his way is the only right way, and his impatience at anything that obstructs him. Small misunderstandings explode into conflict, and disagreements remain unresolved as the two battle for some sense that they are in control of their own lives.

    The present archangel, Raphael, is not happy with the upcoming change in leadership. Wanting to retain control, he has come to doubt the existance of the very god that justifies the angels in the first place. He'll do anything to prevent the mass, to stop Gabriel from finally replacing him. And playing on the conflict between the future archangel and his wife is an easy job for an archangel with no morals to fear.

    Author Sharon Shinn (see more reviews of fantasy by Shinn) is at her strongest when she concentrates on the magic of music and the angels who sustain the world with their contined praise of Jovah. For me, the conflict between Rachel and Gabriel too often became bickering--distracting me from the story and reducing my connection with the characters. Then too, both Gabriel and Rachel were a little too perfect in their earnest desires to do good for the poor and downtrodden. Even a little sympathy for the complexities of the world they propose to revolutionize, a little doubt about their own certainties, would have strengthened the story.

    Despite some problems, Shinn writes a strong and compelling story set in a fascinating world.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 2/07/06

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