Audiobook Review: The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly

22 01 2013

The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly (Charlie Parker, Bk. 11)

Read by Jay Snyder

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Wrath of Angels was a dark and atmospheric ride deep into the mythology of John Connolly’s brilliant world. Those new to the series would do better to go to the beginning and experience the series in order, but for fans, The Wrath of Angels will thrill and chill you to the core.

Grade: B+

I always have a lot of trouble writing reviews for books in series. I think this is especially true for an author like John Connolly. John Connolly is one of my favorite authors, and for me, a new Charlie Parker novels is an event. Yet, the Charlie Parker series is also one of the hardest series to explain to those who aren’t familiar. To call is a Supernatural Thriller series isn’t quite right nor is calling it a crime fiction series. It is both, and it is neither. Connolly defies genres, shrugging them off and telling the stories he wants to tell. Sometimes it involves fallen angels, Hollowmen, and books made out of human flesh, while other times it’s about serial killers, assassins, sexual abuse and kidnappings. Sometimes it’s about all of the above.  The Charlie Parker series often reminds me of a well done TV series, like Fringe or the X-Files. There are episodes that stand on their own, that can be straight forward TV, and then there are episodes that fit into the mythology of the series. Sometimes, an episode is there fully for the mythology, and sometimes an episode is straight forward, but skirts the edges of the series mythology. There are a few books in this series that I would feel comfortable telling someone to pick up, without knowing the underlining issues of the series. I mean, on the surface, the character of Charlie Parker, a retired cop turned detective who has never really come to terms with brutal slaying of his wife and daughter at the hands of a twisted serial killer called The Traveling Man, is almost boilerplate Thriller Noir. Yet, then it get’s weird. For me, I love the weirdness. I love speculating on Charlie’s true nature. I love the blending of fallen angels, voodoo curses, and a strange serial killer called The Collector with his own moral code. For me, it’s a hot mess of awesomeness, yet, to thrust another person into the mess would leave them treading water in the midst of a hurricane. Except when it doesn’t. So, if you are new to the Charlie Parker series, The Wrath of Angels would throw you into the deep end without a single swimming lesson. If you are a lover of this world, this may be the one you have been waiting for.

There is an area deep in the woods of Northern Maine where no one goes, and on the rare instances someone wonders there, they don’t return. There lives a force ancient and old, and a girl who is not quite a girl. Yet, when a plane holding its own type of evil, as well as information that people and other entities would kill for, crashes in these woods, forces both worldly and otherwise will lead detective Charlie Parker and his friends there, with evil on their trail. One of the beautiful things about a Charlie Parker novel is that it is never about what it is about. Any synopsis written will only give you a small glimpse of one of the stories contained in its pages. Here, the story is about a plane crash, yet, it isn’t. Instead the plane crash is the catalyst to bring a many of the elements of past Charlie Parker novels together, and send them on a perilous journey. In many ways The Wrath of Angels is the novel that John Connelly has been setting up for a while. It’s a darker more atmospheric tale than usual, which is saying a lot for a writer like Connolly who permeates his prose with an ominous sense of dread. As a comprehensive tale, The Wrath of Angels may not be as strong as some of his more straight forward works. Here Connolly plays the edges, creating more of a mood piece, tying up some ends, and creating new threads for his characters. It’s a beautiful piece of series writing that could come off as unfocused and distracting to any reader not already immersed into this tale. Yet, for fans of Charlie Parker, it’s a dark look at what the past has set up and the future holds for our hero. More than any other work in this series, it gives us insights into the anomaly of Charlie Parker. Yet, it’s not all dark and mood and gloom, like usual, there is plenty of humor to lighten the mood. Charlie Parker’s cohorts Louis and Angel, despite their brutality, bring a sort of levity to the novel. Connelly knows right when to add a bit of light in his dark world, adding a particularly funny, yet poignant moment where Charlie, Louis and Angel join Charlie’s young daughter for ice cream. It’s these small moments that are the saving grace of Connelly’s dark world. The Wrath of Angels was a dark and atmospheric ride deep into the mythology of John Connolly’s brilliant world. Those new to the series would do better to go to the beginning and experience the series in order, but for fans, The Wrath of Angels will thrill and chill you to the core.

I have talked a lot about my issues with the narration of the Charlie Parker series. For the American versions of this series, there has been a horrible lack of consistency among the narration. This series has been narrated by Titus Welliver, Jay O’Sanders, Holter Graham, and George Guidall. The Last novel was almost the last straw for me with co-narration by George Guidall and Tony Lord, which was simply horrid and almost ruined the book for me. What frustrates me even more is that this series has been consistently narrated by Jeff Harding in the UK but in order to get these versions you either have to have a friend across the pond who is willing to obtain them for you or resort to illegalities. To be perfectly honest, if I had seen Tony Lord’s name attached to The Wrath of Angels, I would have gone with the print version. Yet, Jay Snyder was cast. I was a bit hesitant about Snyder as a narrator. Snyder is sort of a blockbuster narrator, with a big professional voice suited to big professional productions. Snyder doesn’t bring a lot of nuance to his reading, which is something that I think these novels need. So, to be perfectly honest, my initial barometer for any Charlie Parker narrator is how he handles Angel. Angel is the personality of this novel, and if a narrator doesn’t realize this, than he doesn’t get these characters. At first, I hated Jay Snyder’s Angel. He sounded just like Charlie and Louis. Yet, as the novel progresses, Snyder got better with his interpretation of Angel. This actually bothered me. I just wondered how prepared he was for this novel. It was like, about halfway through he realized that Angel was a larger than life character, and slowly began to reflect that in his reading. Snyder’s reading wasn’t bad. In fact, technically it’s good. Just, it lacked the flavor of a Charlie Parker novel. You didn’t have Charlie Parker or any other the New England Characters with any sort of regional accent. You couldn’t hear Louis southern roots or Angel’s New York. It was a good solid reading that could have been so much more. I’ll be the first to admit, I am very hard to please with this series. I was happy with O’ Sanders, Harding and even Holter Graham. Yet, with each change I became grumpier. I though if you changed the narrator, it should be for the better, not just for expediency. The Wrath of Angels was much better narrated than The Burning Soul, but it still isn’t the perfect Charlie Parker audiobook experience I have been hoping for.

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One response

5 02 2015
ty

Man you are so right about the narrators. All I knew was Jeff Harding and then I got a copy of The White Road and it was a voice I didn’t recognize and I tried to deal with it. Then when it came to Angels voice it was almost latin?? I’m going to stop and try to find a Harding version because its driving me batshit…Great review!

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