Book Review: A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper

Posted August 1, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. TepperA Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy
Published by Bantam Spectra on September 1, 1993
Pages: 576
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


Atop a twisting, canyon-climbing road, a witch lurks in a fortress built strong to keep out dragons and ogres. In another part of the countryside, a young orphan is maturing into a beautiful woman in the enchanted village that is her home. Somewhere nearby, a young man is seeking adventure after running away from his family's small farm. Suddenly a strange and terrible prophecy sets off a chain of events that will bring these three together in the heroic, romantic, and thrilling tale of an age-old battle.

First in the Plague of Angels dystopian fantasy series set in a possible future Earth.

My Take
Damn, now I’m gonna have to go back and re-read The Waters Rising, 2, as I need to understand how Abasio fits in with what I learned in A Plague of Angels.

It’s the restless youth who runs off for adventure to the big city trope, only Tepper gives this a twist with the culture and world she creates and combines with the fairy tale character archetypes. In some ways, it reminds me of a kid’s version of Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man with its assortment of little kingdoms and the magic/technology of its inhabitants. Only Tepper’s underlying theme is one of our polluted world and lack of concern for its ability to sustain our depredations on it. Not to worry though, as there is little tension and the drama is primarily surface. Even the sad parts are glossed over.

It’s a study of human nature: the individual as well as the collective. It’s also a look at how being kind to others results in good things for people — and Griffins. And kindness is not often found in the city as the gangers’ treatment of women and what happens to Elrick-Ann can attest. Some of the past and current events in here are explained while others are better explained in The Waters Rising. The Artemisian approach to human nature certainly has a different approach to sex and relationships. Part of me has to wonder if they don’t have a good idea, if a bit too socialist for me.

Part of a deep laid plan, Orphan receives a good education in her village, preparing her for the realities of people and the world.

There are a couple of names that will give you a giggle, and it’s annoying. I know, why on earth would this annoy me when I enjoy laughing so much? What’s pissed me off was that I kept looking for more names Tepper could have played with, and she never came through. It was distracting. Of course, it’s always *eye roll* possible that I didn’t pick up on them…

In some ways, it’s almost a dream come true of an ultimate power that will cleanse the evil from our world.

”Men will not solve a problem unless they can find an ‘acceptable” solution, and there are no acceptable solutions for some problems.

Man believes what man wants to believe, and he always wants to believe the next time will be different.

If children are taught to ignore their minds and merely believe, grown men will never do otherwise.”

The Story
Life is calling and Abasio is eager to answer when he slips off the farm one early dawn, and the adventures begin almost immediately with travelers, truckers, orphans, and walkers.

It starts then, the walkers asking after toddlers with black hair. Then, as the years pass, a child, then a teen, then asking after a woman, for The Ellel wants to conquer the world and needs the Gaddir child.

Meanwhile, it’s meant to be as Abasio encounters the black-haired Orphan again and again.

They’ll need five champions…

The Characters
Abasio Cermit, a.k.a., Basio the Cat, a.k.a., Sonny Longaster, is a restless youth with a hunger for adventure that seems too easily satisfied. Thank god for his upbringing. Grandpa. Ma, Elisa, had her own adventure which she fled for home. Big Blue is Grandpa’s horse.

Orpn, er, I mean Orphan, is the archetype intended for one of the villages. When she leaves, she becomes Olly Longaster, honorary kin to Farmwife Suttle.

The city of Fantis
Whistler deals drugs and Sudden Stop has a weaponry store. The city is divided up into gangers; to survive, you must belong to Purple Star, Blue Shadows, Green Knives, or Renegades. Wally Skins is the chief of the Green. Nelda had been concubine to Big Chief Purple years ago, and now she manages a songhouse. Masher, Thrasher, and Crusher are Survivors, mercenaries available to whoever wishes to hire them.

Whisper-High, Dreamland, and Starlight are drugs.

Purple Star House
The purpose of women is to bear tots, to keep the House numbers up. Old Chief Purple has retired to a house on the Edge and has delegated his power to Soniff, a warlord, a regent for Old Chief Purple’s sole surviving son, Kerf, a.k.a., Young Purple Chief. Elrick-Ann was bought from the Cranked-Up gang for Young Kerf. TeClar and CummyNup Chingero are brothers become friends with Abasio, and they watch out for each other. Mama Chingero has told them to take care of him, to avoid the drugs and the songhouses. Crunch and Billibee are their younger brothers. Sybbis is the new concubine to Young Purple Chief; Posnia is her sister. They are of the Bloodrun Clan.

Wise Rocks Farm
Farmwife Originee Suttle runs the farm as her husband travels most of the time. She’s a neighbor of Abasio’s grandfather. Seelie is one of her children. Widow Upton and her son, Simile, are related but bad news. Wilfer Ponde is the dyer in Whiterby who takes Olly on as an apprentice.

The archetypal villages hold…
People who don’t fit are placed in isolated villages: Heros, Bastards, Princesses, Oracles, Poets, Fools, Orphans, Drowned Women, Princes, Virgins, Milkmaids, Misers, Martyrs, Gluttons, Painters, Spinster Sisters, Conspirators, Sycophants, Idiots, Peddlers, Babies, Students, Young Lovers, Brides, Ingenues, Pirates, Suicides, Heroines, Authors, Artist’s Mistresses, Wet Nurses, Huntsmen, and Mysterious Strangers.

In our Orphan’s village, there was a Drowned Woman, an Oracle, a Bastard, a Fool, a Hero, and a Burned Man. Herkimer-Lurkimer is the old man who brought Orphan to the village.

Artemisia, the Land of the Sages
Artemisia is where Wide Mountain Mother rules over a conglomeration of different Indian tribes including the Diné. Their purpose is to keep people and nature in balance while respecting the land and its creatures. Black Owl is an emissary. Arakny is the librarian in Wide Mountain Mother’s confidence. Abasio spends some time with Tall Elk and Night Raven. The Mankind Management Group decides “where and how many”. Lithel is a gate guard.

The Place of Power
In the Place of Power, there is the original family, the Gaddi, and four families who arrived later: Ellel, Ander, Mitty, and Berkli. The four have been compiling information about the world. The people who live here who are not of the families are called Domers and are servants to the families. Dever is the chief engineer on the space shuttle project. Bossik Finch is Qualary’s brother.

The Gaddi, Throne House
Hungagor (why does Hungagor call Abasio great-grandson while elsewhere Grandpa recalls her as his wife, Honey?) and Werra were two of the Gaddi branches. Now only old Seoca, a.k.a., Your Wisdom, is left. Nimwes is Seoca’s favorite helper. Tom Fuelry is a scientist, but a layman.

The Ellel
Think of her as the Wicked Witch archetype: Quince Ellel, a.k.a., Madame Domer, who took over after her father, Jark III, disappeared on his travels. Qualary Finch is her primary, unwilling, servant.

The Ander
Fashimir is conspiring with Quince. The Ander are way too concerned with aesthetics. Forsmooth appears to the The Ander. There’s also Aunt Bivina.

The Berkli
Jobo Berkli is the head of his house, the thinkers.

The Mitty
Osvald Mitty is The Mitty. His house is fascinated by technology.

Organizations dedicated to salvation
The Sisters to Trees are an organization intent on reforesting the world. Farmwife Chyne plans to join them. The Animal Masters are concerned with the fauna. Guardians of Earth stop erosion and clean up pollutants. The Northern Lights run ozone plants. The Sea Shepherds govern fisheries. And I’ve already mentioned the Artemisians.

Seems the old stories are true when Coyote and Bear appear. I love how they mess with the Wide Mountain people, lol. Barefoot Golly is one of the truckers with some good advice for a young man. The Edge is the only part of this world where any vestiges of our world still survive. It’s walled and their high tech protects it from the rest. Walkers are shiny figures who burn nuclear, leaving destruction in their wake, and fear in the minds they come near. IDDI are immune deficiency diseases.

The Cover
The cover is a pastel collage of the landscapes in Tepper’s world with a misty valley, an arched bridge, a stone castle, and a dragon flying overhead in the sunset of this world. A vertical column down the center third forms a red-violet banner to hold the author’s name and the title on either side of a framed graphic of Abasio and Ol on Big Blue as they flee the ogres.

The title is what others believe, that A Plague of Angels may hold the ultimate sway over this world while the virus these “angels” have unleashed is a plague.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


2 responses to “Book Review: A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper

  1. I love dystopian fantasy done right, so I was pretty much on board before the review LOL, but I love that it feels like a study of human nature, that’s deep! I will be checking this out. Thanks for the great review Kathy :0

  2. ladystorm

    You’re welcome, Berls! I must confess to a prejudice for Sheri Tepper…everything of hers I’ve read so far has been brilliantly written with a nice sense of exploring humanity.

Leave a Reply