Angel of Destruction by Virgil Debique

Virgil Debique’s Angel of Destruction opens with a familiar premise: a tortured man with little memory of his past is hell bent on revenge against the one who is responsible for everything that went wrong in his life. But a layer of intrigue is added when we find out that the culprit is none other than an immortal Angel who lives in an unreachable cloud kingdom of not-quite-Heaven. How could a man, hunted across the kingdoms, with no friends and no family, hope to exact his vengeance against something so powerful?

We first meet Salabane, an assassin of the feared Men in White, as he interrogates a man named Aram, who is a Voice of the Angels. There are only a few men who are chosen to speak with the Angels, and these Voices live above the law. Salabane has tracked Aram to his secluded castle home on the floating city of Elysia and proceeds to question Aram to find out which Angel is responsible for Salabane’s shattered history. The story quickly ramps up the stakes from its opening chapters, as Salabane becomes a wanted man with a singular purpose, on the run from forces both human and supernatural. We are treated to flashbacks and other POVs along the way as we slowly learn enough information to piece together what really happened to Salabane, who is responsible, and why.

It’s never quite clear what the relationship is between mankind and the Angels, but we can guess that they are the sole religious presence in this world. These winged Angels are loved and revered as the sworn protectors and caretakers of mankind, and they uphold peace as they flit back and forth between their cloud kingdom and the world of man. Corruption amongst the Angels is rare and would prove near-impossible to expose, and this is partly why Salabane is forced to work alone. That isn’t to say that Salabane doesn’t have help along the way, but the odds are heavily stacked against Salabane’s success.

The strongest aspect of this story is the plotting. It is apparent that Debique has spent ample time mapping out the various characters and their fates, weaving the story’s many plot twists with a deft hand. The mysteries are eked out bit by bit, and it’s just enough to tantalize me into keeping the pages turning. We explore enchanted forests, a floating metropolis, depraved pleasure houses, battle arenas, and underground cities. It was also refreshing to read how in this story of revenge, most of the characters treated each other with deference and an abundance of politeness. Conversations were respectful as most characters seemed motivated towards doing good, which is how a world might truly exist when under the rule of a race of loving Angels. I was also surprised to discover how little violence there was in a story that places most of its focus on murderous revenge.

There were, however, quite a few parts of the story I didn’t like. First, there were no women of any agency in the story. We are barely introduced to any female characters without them serving as a plot point to motivate a male character’s actions. Although we do get glimpses into some female perspectives, they are all crying victims for the men to either save or utilize as a tool of vengeance. At no point did I feel that any female character had real depth to her. The closest character to approach this was Newt, an introvert who lives amongst the stacks of an underground library. Although we spent some time getting to know her, it was only through the lens of Salabane, and we never checked in on her unless Salabane’s story needed to be pushed farther along.

But the biggest culprit that is preventing me from giving this book a higher score is the severe lack of polish that this story desperately needs. There are multiple grammatical issues on every page, and that is not an exaggeration. Characters names are misspelled, sometimes within the same sentence. Many sentences are run-on or change tenses midway through. Other passages jam too many thoughts and errant commas in before ending the statement. There are even parenthetical author’s notes that were somehow left in, questioning if the same word or phrase should be used once again. It often destroyed any sense of immersion I was experiencing while reading this book. While there are various scenes that evoke warmth or danger, with some layered subtext hiding beneath the dialogue, this story is one or two strong edits away from being something I can fully recommend. Even the end of the story feels missing; I’m unsure if some pages were cut out, since it simply ends at the beginning of an important conversation. There was also one particularly important antagonist whose fate we never learned, so this story still feels like it is still in draft mode.

And yet Debique clearly has some talent behind the pen. The story he has created may not be the most original, but it is paced and plotted well, with interesting world-building and descriptive settings. It’s also apparent that Debique cares for even the most minor of characters, as the well-being of nearly the entire cast comes into play at some point. Despite many of the issues stated above, I do think Debique has the potential to create a more well-rounded, accomplished novel if given a bit more focus. If many of the editing problems could be fixed, with perhaps a bit more character work dedicated to the female cast, then this book could turn into something that I can recommend.

5/10 Interesting plot and setting, but problematic final result

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