Oracle of Philadelphia – Earthbound Angels #1 – Elizabeth Corrigan
Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel. But there are some problems that even the best advice can’t solve.
Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid. He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister’s life, but his heart remains pure.
Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.
In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.
An unconventional book, that definitely needs an open mind when read by anyone that is really religious. Fortunately, I am not, so the whole concept of this book was rather fun for me and quite new and original, since I’ve never read anything like it before.
Carrie was born millennia ago with a gift. She can ‘read’ other people’s minds and sense their feelings. The village elders wanted to exploit her talent and made a deal with Lucifer to gift her immortality, so their village would always have an advantage over all the others. But Lucifer is not one to just give and not ask anything in return. He takes the souls of 10 villagers to let them be imprisoned in the Abyss for eternity. Among the victims is Carrie’s husband and even a little baby. Naturally Carrie has always carried that burden on her shoulders and even now, in the 21st Century, the memory haunts her still. She now owns a diner in Philadelphia, where she tries to live a quiet live with her best friend and fallen angel/demon Bedlam. But then Sebastian is sent her way. He has sold his soul to the demon Azrael in order to save his sister’s life and the time when Azrael will come and claim his soul is drawing nearer. At first reluctant to get involved with this tricky business, Carrie soon realizes that Sebastian doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in Hell and decides to help him. But in order to do that she has to find Azrael in Hell and that is harder than expected.
The first halve of the book is where we get to know Carrie, her gift and ‘curse’ and her best friends the demon Bedlam and the Archangel Gabriel. We go back in time to experience key points in Carrie’s life, like the first time she met Bedlam or Gabriel, or her first encounter with the Archangel Michael. It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Michael is definitely not her best friend. We also get to know more about her own past, how she came to live forever and what it has cost her. In between those flashbacks we always switch back to the present day, where the storyline involving Sebastian is introduced and slowly begins to develop.
Throughout the second half of the book, the main focus is on Carrie visiting Hell again and again in search of the Archdemon Azrael. Thing is, she doesn’t know where she is, as she can just sense the presence of all the Archdemon’s without knowing which one is which. So she visits one at a time, hoping every time that she will encounter Azrael. Unfortunately she has to go through most of the others before she finds the one she’s looking for. These encouters were mostly fun to read, every one another challenge to get out again, asking a bigger toll of Carrie every time. It was also fun to read the flashbacks to the first time she had encountered every demon in the past. The pacing in this half of the book was extremely fast, a bit too much so maybe after a slower first half. Especially the ending felt a bit rushed to me, everything resolving quite quickly.
As for the characters, only Bedlam really stuck with me after finishing the book. He was quirky, fun, chaotic and deeply emotional and I really clicked with him. With Carrie not so much. I could understand her motivations and the paths she chose, but as a person I could never really make a connection with her. I liked her best when she was in conversation with Bedlam, which I credit Bedlam for. Gabriel also couldn’t touch me, although he was described quite good. I don’t know if this is something personal or not, but for me the overall characters could have been a bit more fleshed out.
The writing itself was really good, no remarks there. The book read very fluently and enjoyed the writing style very much.
A book with its minor points, but with a very interesting story that puts every biblical tale you’ve learned in school or anywhere else on its head. It’s a very bold book, with an intriguing concept that ultimately definitely delivered.
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