April 2024
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Review: The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Tad Williams

the dirty streets of heavenBobby Dollar – or the Angel Doloriel – helps guide souls to Heaven once they’ve passed on. It’s his job as an advocate to battle the minions of Hell in a courtroom for each soul’s afterlife, fighting to save as many souls as possible, even when they have to spend some time in Purgatory first. But when a soul disappears, right underneath his nose, without ever having appeared to himself or Hell’s advocate, and then keeps happening, normality is uprooted and both sides are in crisis. Dollar feels compelled to investigate, but as he gets closer to the truth, he finds himself accused of theft, chased by an ancient monster, and madly in lust with Hell’s most attractive demon.

Compared to Tad Williams’ epic fantasies, this book is a speedy, exciting read, a cross between a thriller and a detective novel with a whole lot of fantasy mixed in. The concepts behind the novel are actually quite epic in themselves; we get a full description of his version of Heaven and Hell, and Bobby frequently tries to describe what Heaven’s like (since he is an angel). He might be in an improvised courtroom, but he does in fact help determine the eternal fate of people, which is not a small-town job in the slightest.

As an angel, Bobby is naturally somewhat tougher than a normal human, even though he wears a human body; he can still be killed, but usually angels reincarnate in new bodies. He’s done it before, but it’s never a guarantee, which means he is relatively careful and does try not to get too badly beaten up in the pursuit of answers. It’s really common in practically all urban fantasy novels for the main character to not sleep and suffer severe injuries that would probably kill another character, so this little caveat is very handy.

I didn’t love this book as much as I’d hoped, unfortunately; compared to the pace of a normal urban fantasy, I actually found parts of it moved slowly, and there was a lot of description as the world was built. Bobby is a good character, with a snarky attitude, but I wasn’t really drawn into his feelings towards Casimira, the demon, or his attitude towards women in general. I felt as though the book had a huge amount of potential, but never really swept me up and carried me away as a good book should. I’m hoping that subsequent books in the series stop with so much description and make me feel more attached to the characters in general. It’s been known to happen and I certainly hope it happens here.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven would be a good choice for a reader who already enjoys Tad Williams’ work and is looking for something a little less like a doorstopper, but it’s not quite up there with some of the other fantastic urban fantasy series. It could be, but he’s not quite there yet.

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