Viv is on day release from jail to attend the funeral of the thug she thinks is her father, when a stranger offers to reunite her with the mother Viv thought dead. Desperate to find the only person who’s ever loved her, Viv agrees, and is wrenched through a rift into the male angel fold of Ezam. The stranger is an angel and her father, and that makes Viv a half angel or daimon.
Her father, the powerful Archae Kald, appoints his handsome protégé Thrisdane, a lower order angel, to train Viv for the difficult journey through the rifts to her mother. But life in Ezam is perilous. There are angels who believe daimon are abominations that must be destroyed.
Thris is unlike the violent men Viv has known. He strives to keep her safe but life on the streets has made Viv untrusting. She’s also crippled by guilt over the accident that landed her in jail.
Nor is Viv what she seems. Her name, Violet Iris Vacia, hints at a deeper mystery that, as her latent angel traits emerge and Thris’s desire for her grows, brings terrible risks. Disaster follows disaster until Viv ends up alone in a terrifying fold of beastmen. And as they slowly close in, she fears that being part-divine, might not be enough to save her.
I was interested in the differences between being human and divine, and wondered just how blurred the line was. I knew the hero would be a young woman of mixed human-angel parentage who searched for her mother. I also knew she'd search for her mother with the aid of an angel guide. As a pantser, I didn't know much else, but as I wrote, a very strong character emerged called Viv, or Violet Iris Vacia. She was Australian, 18 years old, from an abusive background, and in jail.
I intended to focus on Viv and Thris (her angel guide), but I wanted an angel as complex emotionally as Viv. Historically angels were depicted as glorious, wise, and beautiful, or evil and fallen, and more recently, as sexy and hot. Viv's most obvious quest is to find her mother, but it's also to heal from the violence she's endured. Thris's most obvious quest is to ascend through the hierarchy and then transcend Ezam, the quest of all angels, but I wondered what else he needed to do. Simplistically, ascending and transcending, should be the result of good deeds, but what constitutes 'good' deeds, I wondered, and are they still 'good' deeds when motivated by evil?
I decided these questions were better explored through the quests of more than one angel so introduced Ky and Ash. Their friendship is bound by having appeared in Ezam simultaneously, and as the story unfolds, this fact becomes highly significant.
The Secondary World
Angel Blood starts off briefly in our world of Moonsun, then moves onto in Ezam which, as an angel world, I wanted to be as beautiful as the angels. The Dendrinai is a forest of silver and bronze trees with leaves that tinkle in the breeze; the sky cycles between umber, peach and orange; giant shards of crystal glitter amongst the trees to test angels, and immense twisted mountains of red, white, green, and blue (the Helixai), funnel winds down through their hollow cores to make beautiful music. Ezam is highly symmetrical, for angels equate symmetry with harmony, which they prize. Thus, the shining Dendrinai is circled by the Hollow Hills, and these in turn by the Thorny Mountains. Set an equal distance between the four Helixai, are four lakes, the same exquisite turquoise as the Principae (angels who have transcended to Crystal Fold and who are in the last stage of transcendence where angels still manifest physically).
Crystal Fold is a world of glittering silver grass, pale amethyst skies, and ice-like, translucent 'fairy castles', coloured turquoise by the presence of the Principae's light-filled turquoise bodies.
Viv briefly visits Sun Fold (full of tiny, gem-like birds; pools of gold, oily 'water'; and two suns) and, when she and Thris transit, the first fold they go to is Hearth Fold. This is a fold similar to a pre-industrial version of Moonsun (our world), but one with sentient flowers. Danger forces Viv and Thris to take the next available rift out, which takes the to Moth Fold.
Moth Fold is known to Ezam's angels because its enormous moths follow its twin moons into the sky to create a dazzling, aqua display reminiscent of the Principae's glorious colour. This contrasts with Moth Fold's dun-coloured landscape and sepia coloured sky. The moths in their pupae or grub form, exude a bitter odour that, like all bitter, sour and acrid odours, is highly destructive to angels.
Following the events in Moth Fold, a rift throws Viv and Thris into different folds. Thris ends up in Sand Fold (which Viv later visits). Sand Fold is like an immense desert, which is benign until the wind blows, then sandstorms obliterate all life. Viv is thrown into Beast Fold, which is a jungle landscape with mountains that soar above the canopy. Its main life-form consists of cat-creatures, which combine human and panther elements. When Thris tries to retrieve her, he is torn apart by one of these creatures.
I didn't write Book 1, Angel Blood to music, but London Grammar - If you wait (title track) has the right emotional feel for Viv's struggle and her longing for Thris, and for that special 'other'.
Ezam is home to male angels only. Many readers will notice that Ezam is an anagram of maze. A maze is a puzzle which relies on rational thought to solve, as walkers in a maze must navigate to its centre and back again by deducing which routes remain unblocked. The male angels who reside in Ezam, encapsulate traditionally gendered male attributes of logic and competitiveness. Younger angels (Dane) prove themselves in trials of physical strength, more senior angels through debates, and all angels pursue rigorous self-discipline to suppress emotions they deem to be base: fear, jealousy, hatred, anger, lust. They believe these emotions inhibit ascension and transcendence, and yet it becomes apparent that some senior angels on the brink of transcendence (Archaes Kald and Dejon) still manifest jealousy, anger, and hatred.
Ezam is a highly symmetrical fold (world) and angels harmonise regularly to keep their bodies in alignment, that is, as symmetrical as possible. While Ezam's order and predictability are disturbed by Viv's arrival, there is already an implicit threat of upheaval in the presence of Ash, and in the trinity of angels that appeared together. While angels manifest in a range of colours, there is only ever one blue angel at any given time, and angel threesomes are unusual.
Ezam's certainties do not extend into the Rynth, which is an uncountable collection of folds (worlds) which include our world (Moonsun), and the male angels' world (Ezam) among others. Readers will notice that Rynth is drawn from word/idea of the labyrinth. While the words maze and labyrinth are often used interchangeably, a labyrinth is actually a meditative walk, more of a journey into the heart and spirit, than a series of obstacles to be overcome. As such, it's more likely to be gendered female.
Book 1 in the Angel Caste series, Angel Blood, establishes a world with systems of ascendance and transcendence that seem clear and predictable, but also suggests that, by leaving Kald and Dejon 'stuck' on the edge of transcendence, these systems might not be enough for certain angels. Viv's arrival means Thris (as her guide), and Ky (as Thris's Shadow) must venture into the Rynth's unknown, to be tested in ways unguessed at. The third in the trinity, the blue angel Ash, is tested within the Blue Helixai and later by the other Helixai. While his friends Thris and Ky journey outwards into the Rynth to explore their spirits and psyches, Ash's journey is more obviously an inner journey, where he delves into his own, and Ezam's hidden depths.