Ah, Kneupper. I love this series, I really do. I was so excited for this book, even if the warning signs were all there. And it didn’t suck, really. I had fun. This has always been a guilty pleasure of mine anyways.
But you nearly had it all, you bozo.
Way to blow it.
After the gang left Suriel’s creepy cult, Jana and Rhamiel are determined to hide it out until their baby, The Son (AKA actual jesus) is born. Then he can work his baby magic and save everyone (citation needed?). Trouble, though: Suriel is after them. Eccanus, as creepy as ever, is after them. The cherubim have summoned Satan, and he’s trying to infect the world. And is presumably after them also.
Oh no!!!! I wonder how this story will end? Could it possibly have a happy ending with such dramatic stakes?!?! (this is sarcasm)
The action is still weirdly well done, it’s easy to follow, dynamic, and often has good twists and turns. The pain is that there isn’t much stake, since we know we’re to get a happy ending. There was a risk of Jana or Rhamiel dying, I suppose, but I never once doubted they’d live. And of course, Jesus would live too.
I wanted the obvious formula twisted a little, but in the end most fights are observed. It takes the 50% mark for the plot to pick up, but the next 50% is more boring than the beginning. Lucifer is defeated too easily, and again, via a literal dues ex machina. Jana is very, very stupid and rash for someone ~8 months pregnant, and honestly with the stress she’s been in, probably that baby should’ve been toast.
Weirdly, this book was surprisingly less sexist (three+ major female characters!) and WAY MORE sexist (lots of lines about how men are warriors/brave/stoic, have even angels have majority male warriors…. uhh that never came up in last two books?) (uhhhh WHY would angels have human gender roles and norms again?) (also the lady charas, while nice, spend a LOT of time thinking about beauty, babies, love, housework, etc. even the leader/warriors)
I recently reread book one (the better half in The Perch, that is), and parts of two. And they were still bad with their lady characters, but I was smirking reading this. Kevin, you’re like, a middle aged man, right? Don’t you have a wife? Don’t you know women?
Side bar: there’s also no non-white characters that I can be sure of. Everyone is very pale. Also, while relationships aren’t his strong point anyways, there’s no mentions of anyone or anything gay either. Side bar over.
Man, this book got WAAAAAAY too jesus-y. I mean, yeah, the warning signs had been growing. but this book goes FULL ON the jesus train, and as a non-christian, that got preeeeetty grating.
I skipped ahead and read last page after a bit, and I got excited for a twist that never came. This book would have been 100% better if there was a big twist partway through that Jana’s baby WASN’T The Jesus. It was just a weird angel baby. And they needed to find salvation and forgiveness etc… not because of some saviour, just cause it’s the right thing to do.
I also got very excited because I thought she’d have a miscarriage and lose the baby. That’d be a big twist! Probably too sensitive for kevin ‘the worst writer of women’ kneupper to handle. But I would have loved something that devalued the obvious, literaly ‘dues ex machina’. Yeah, yeah. Jesus. He’s coming, he’ll save everyone, rad.
The stakes would have been crazy if we’d lost that thread. if jesus wasn’t actually coming, or was in fact lost. if they had to move forward on their own merits, not the promise of a god who, by all accounts, kinda sucks ass for letting this all happen.
(Really, the angel apocalypse is sick to read about, but horrible. and NOW, you send jesus back? C’mon @god. It’s been a hard couple of decades at this point) (I also spent a lot of time wondering what the hell was going on in Real Heaven, anyways. What were THEY up to?)
My point is, I’m cool with religious books. A little miffed, since this is a violent adult fantasy that hadn’t been sold as Christian Lit, but I love an exploration of religion and religious themes. The ideas of forgiveness and dedication and salvation are done fine here. The trick is dragging the Literal Jesus into it.
One, it’s cocky. That’s just a big move to make, bringing JC into this. Two, you don’t have it in you to do anything but let Jesus be born, we all know that. And three, once we realize Jesus can’t be harmed, the book loses a lot of tension. Jesus Baby, who tells Jana what to do from the womb at one point and can survive anything, will save the day. He can’t die, so Jana can’t die.
And four. This might come off as a vague anti-christian concept, sorry, but I don’t like the narrative this story presents at all re: Jesus. While characters do make an effort to try and be redeemed, a very christian thing to do, it’s still presented as something… well, for Jesus. Jesus will come along and forgive you, so it’s cool, just try and be chill until he’s born.
I’d much rather see characters be good and emulate the ideals of jesus without that literal god-baby coming along to check in on them in a few months. I’d much rather see good for the sake of good.
Also, it was dumb when Jana got to sense things from her belly and saved the day via an incredibly dumb thing. The lack of stakes versus Lucifer is mind-bogglingly hard to pull off. Congrats Kev.
SLAVERY IS BAD
These books do a good job of showing us a simple truth: slavery is bad! Jana used to be a slave, as were several other key characters throughout the series. They have long term psychological effects, such as Jana’s fear to speak up or have opinions. Her passive ness is a survival instinct. And while it isn’t shown, I’m sure they all have PTSD up the walls.
Cause being a slave is bad!
Rhamiel has a big reveal early on in the book: back when the angels first fell, he was the first to suggest enslaving them. He explains this was a way to keep them from being killed by the bored, savage angels, a way to keep them safe.
Jana is rightfully hurt when she first hears of this, and has a lot of emotions. But when he offers the full summary shown above, she forgives him, and the story moves on.
Radical point, though: slavery is very bad!! I guess keeping in with the jesus themes, forgiveness, etc. I don’t mind her forgiving him, honestly. There’s some sense to lesser of two evils. What I really wish though, is that the book would embrace the idea of grey morality.
Rhamiel can be accepted for what he did, but probably not forgiven. We know the ending is a happy one, having seen it. But living in the moment, is it really right to enslave a species to prevent their death? Even when the slaves are free in this book, they are weak, easily scared and frightened. There’s long term social and psychological effects to slavery (look at the USA now!) (the ending has humans and angels trying to live in peace, and that’s gonna be mad awks after the torture/slavery thing)
Maybe… the humans would have been better off dead? It’s nice to look now and say ‘no, it’s fine, one lives and rhamiel has a baby with her’, but knowing nothing, maybe leaving them alone would have been better. Letting the suffering end and letting the angels torture each other instead.
So I didn’t like Rhamiel actions being forgotten and forgiven like that.
SOAP OPERA CORNER
A common and true complaint of this book: there’s a lot more time spent on internal monologues and feelings. Jana and Rhamiel are a too much in love couple, and there’s a lot of moppiness and handwringing in this book that wasn’t in the last two. This book is also the longest in the series, and it didn’t need to be.
it was nice getting to the end of this series, it is a guilty pleasure fun sort of thing, but again. Terribly sexist, even if Kev’s been trying really hard this book. Increasingly jesus-y, and then this book gets way overboard.
Again. The stakes never worked because kevin kneupper didn’t have the balls to kill off jesus.