BOOK REVIEW: THE GLORIOUS ANGELS / AUTHOR: JUSTINA ROBSON / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 19TH
The Glorious Angels is a sprawling novel set in the peaceful city of Glimshard. A place so unconcerned about the ongoing war that it functions like a utopian society where women are the natural leaders, and politics take second place to sex and intellectual development. At the heart of the novel is Professor Tralane Huntingore and her daughters, Minnabar and Isabeau. While the men train for war, focus on the pleasures of the body and soak themselves in politics, the women hold the societal webs together. They are leaders, engineers, professors and thinkers.
The first half of the novel is almost like a map of words. Not only world building but people building too. The language and imagination from Robson is so rich, it’s not until real drama kicks down the door almost halfway through that we realise not much has really happened. But when Minnabar is kidnaped by the warring city of Spire and Tralane sets off with the lionesque alien Karoo do we see why we were led so beautifully through the landscape of these people.
While The Glorious Angels is certainly a science fiction novel, it slips between genres of fantasy and social politics with ease. These boundary lines are never jarring or awkward; rather each stylistic twist feels organic.
In a story where magic is interchangeable with engineering and sexual politics with love, everything seems possible - even telepathy. It’s the talent of Robson’s imagination that makes everything fall into place with such ease. Robson also populates the novel with so many well drawn characters that fit within her ingenious hierarchy it’s a pleasure to meet each one. Even the sex scenes are elegant and serve to pull the reader deeper into the society the author envisages.
The Glorious Angels constantly touches on the importance of connections. Whether this is between genders, races, family, the past or even something greater. The archaeology for ancient technology that takes place through the novel could easily be read as a metaphor for these connections. Digging until we find how the past connects us to the present and leads us to our future.
The Glorious Angels is an outstanding piece of work that requires a lot from the reader. But what they receive in return is glorious indeed.