—a report by Lisa Brock
The Church family are really angels sent from Heaven to sleepy little Venus Cove, Georgia, to restore the town’s faith in God. The angel Bethany is only seventeen years old in angel years, and this is her first time on earth. Her brother, the archangel Gabriel (the same archangel who announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the first Christmas) and her sister Ivy (a seraphim), have been to earth many times, and are used to the ways of the human beings. Bethany’s inexperience and fiery compassion for the humans make her easily susceptible to the temptations of human life. She isn’t able to resist the pull she feels toward Xavier Woods, student body president of the school she attends and loved by all who meet him. She is more human than all the other angels, and her relationship with Xavier is a rare anomaly that Ivy and Gabriel and all the Host of Heaven are implored to accept. Bethany and Xavier’s love for each other is also one of the things that stands in the way of Jake Thorn and his goal: to have Bethany for himself. Jake (or Arakiel, his angel name) is a fallen angel, a demon, and one of the eight Originals who swore allegiance to Lucifer when he was cast out of heaven. As ruler of the Third Circle of Hell, he is one of the most influential demons there. His power is in question, however, when his obsession for Bethany leads him to do things that are vehemently unaccepted in Hell—like having compassion, loving, and showing kindness. Even though his virtuous displays are few and far between, they occur enough to make Lucifer wonder whether his brother has gone soft. Lucifer only intended to start a war, not a silly romance between an angel and a demon. He orders Bethany to be burned at the stake in front of an audience of demons and lost souls, but not even hellfire can destroy the young angel. She is put into a holding cell until Lucifer can decide what to do. All the while, Ivy, Gabriel, and Xavier are wracking their brains, trying to figure out how to save Bethany. The archangel Michael, one of Gabriel’s brothers, appears to them and tells them to go to Tennessee to find clues on how to open a portal into Hell. While there, they exorcise a demon from a young nun. Their purpose in going to Tennessee is revealed when they are able to force out of the demon the location of the nearest portal. Michael meets them at the entrance to the portal.
My favorite part of the book was when Michael appears at the location of the portal, on pages 394-398. They are in Broken Hill, Alabama, at the site of a dilapidated train station that shut down years ago after a train wreck.
“So what now?” Xavier asked. “Any idea what we’re looking for?”
“It could look like anything,” Gabriel said, bending down and holding his right palm above the earth. “But I think it’s embedded here in the tracks.”
“How do you know that?”
“The earth is always hotter above a portal into Hell.”
“That figures,” Xavier sighed. “All we gotta work out now is how to open it.”
“That’s the problem,” Ivy said. “Our combined power isn’t enough. We need back up.”
“Damn it.” Xavier kicked the ground with the toe of his boot, sending pebbles flying. “What was the point of coming here?”
“Michael wouldn’t have sent us on a wild goose chase,” Ivy murmured. “There must be something he wants us to do.”
“Or maybe he’s just a douche.”
“Indeed,” said a disembodied voice behind them.
They all spun around in time to see the archangel materialize before them, his towering form shadowing the train tracks. He looked exactly the same as the first time we’d seen him, fair-haired and glowing, his powerful limbs much larger than the size of an average human. His wings were retracted.
“Not again,” I heard Molly groan from the car and she put her head between her knees.
Gabriel and Michael acknowledged each other as equal warriors by bowing their heads in recognition. “We have followed your instructions, brother,” Gabriel said. “What is it you would have us do now?”
“I have come to offer you my help,” Michael replied. “I bring with me the most powerful weapon throughout Heaven and Hell. It can open a portal as easily as popping a cork.”
“Thanks for sharing that vital piece of information earlier,” Xavier muttered ill-humoredly.
“It was for me to decide when the time was right,” Michael said, fixing his eyes on Xavier. “The Covenant met to discuss this unforeseen predicament. Lucifer knows the power of the angel he holds hostage and he plans to use her to achieve his own ends.”
Michael’s words struck a chord with me. For him to know that, it meant that all this time I hadn’t been alone. Heaven had been watching all along. Did I dare to hope that all was not lost?
“How does he plan to do that? Bethany’s no puppet,” Ivy protested.
“That we cannot know,” said Michael. “But divine essence in the hands of any demon is dangerous. Lucifer’s aim is to bring about Armageddon—the final battle—and he hopes to use the angel to his advantage. The forces of Heaven must retaliate.”
“How exactly does Beth fit in?” Xavier asked.
“She’s a catalyst, if you like,” Michael explained. “The demons want to trigger a full-scale war, but we will not descend to their level. We will show them the might of Heaven without the need for bloodshed.”
“You were always going to help us, weren’t you?” Xavier said suddenly. “Why couldn’t you have done that right from the start?”
Michael inclined his head slightly. “When a child breaks a toy and his parents immediately buy him a new one, what lesson is learned?”
“Beth is not a toy,” Xavier began hotly, but Gabriel put a restraining hand on his shoulder.
“Do not interrupt an angel of the Lord.”
“Heaven can always intervene,” Michael continued. “But He chooses the appropriate time. We are merely his messengers. If our Father righted every wrong in the world, nobody would learn from their mistakes. We reward faith and loyalty and you have demonstrated both. Besides, your journey is not over. Heaven has plans for you.”
“Plans for me?” Xavier repeated, but Michael only fixed him with his powerful glare.
“Let’s not ruin the surprise.”
It was a shock to hear what Michael had to say. He ran with the big guns in the Kingdom and I had doubted my rescue was high up on his agenda. But it seemed that Lucifer was playing a more dangerous game than I’d realized. Michael seemed to think we were on the brink of war and that Heaven needed to reaffirm its dominance. I still had no idea how he planned to break through the portal, but he seemed confident in his abilities.
“The portal?” Ivy gently reminded him, anxious not to lose any more time. “We are here for a reason.”
“Very well,” Michael said, and from beneath his flowing robes he withdrew an object so bright and glorious that Xavier had to turn his face away.
The long flaming sword pulsed in Michael’s hand ready to do his bidding. It burned blue at the edges and looked almost too elegant for its purpose of destruction. Along the golden hilt were etched letters in a language no human could possibly understand. The letters seemed to ripple and glow with a soft blue light. The sword was alive—as if it were blessed with a spirit of its own.
“The Sword of Michael,” said Gabriel in a strangely reverential tone I’d never heard him use before. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.”
“It actually exists?” Xavier asked.
“It’s more than you know,” Gabriel replied. “Michael has gone up against them before.”
Xavier thought for a moment. “Of course,” he said finally. “It’s in Revelation. ‘And there was war in Heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.’ The dragon was Lucifer, right?”
“Correct,” Gabriel replied. “Michael was the one who cast him into Hell at our Father’s command.”
“Good job,” Xavier said and Michael raised an eyebrow. I smiled at how informal his manner was compared to my siblings’. “And you reckon you can bust back in?”
“Let’s see, shall we?” was all Michael said.
He drew himself up to his full height in the middle of the tracks. The sword in his hand vibrated so loudly it caused the nearby birds to take flight. “Hey, man,” Xavier called out, sounding uncomfortable. “Sorry for calling you a douche. My bad.”
Michael nodded delicately to indicate there were no hard feelings. He raised the sword above his head so the sunlight poured off its silver surface in streams.
“In the name of God I command you…”
His voice started off booming and then began to peter out. I was fading away, back to my Hades. I tried to linger. I needed desperately to stay and see whether Michael’s sword would unlock the portal. But the jarring sound of a hotel phone ringing tugged me mercilessly back to my body.
—excerpted from “Hades”, by Alexandra Adornetto
The story is finally resolved when Michael’s sword opens the portal, and Ivy, Gabriel and Xavier get into Hell. Every second in Hell drains Ivy and Gabriel’s powers away, but Gabriel has borrowed Michael’s sword to slay Jake Thorn. They stay long enough to make sure he is dead. Quickly, they depart, before their powers are even more severely depleted. Beth is overjoyed to finally be leaving Hell behind, but she does take a moment to say good-bye to Jake. “I wanted to feel anger, but I felt only pity for him. He died as he had lived, alone and without ever having known love.” (“Hades”, Alexandra Adornetto).
The story of Bethany’s time in Hades was well plotted out and well delivered. Even though this was a fictional account of the battles between Heaven and Hell, it did make me re-examine the theory that everything happens for a reason. Michael said, “Heaven can always intervene, but He chooses the appropriate time….If our Father righted every wrong in the world, nobody would learn from their mistakes.” This struck me as true, and as the answer to the question, “Why isn’t God doing something?” Everything happens in His good time. This is also illustrated when Michael asks Xavier, “When a child breaks a toy and his parents immediately buy him a new one, what lesson is learned?” Among other things, this book helped me to remember that life is all about lessons and learning from your mistakes, and not expecting everything to work out just because somebody else is able to solve your problems. It is definitely a good read for anyone looking for a wholesome young adult book among the endless options of vampire/werewolf novels.
One thing that struck me about this series is how young Alexandra Adornetto is. She was only a teen when she started writing “Halo” and her imagination, insight, and way with words prevails throughout the books in this trilogy. Her debut novel was published in 2010, and was on the New York Times bestseller list only a week after it got published. Adornetto is from Melbourne, Australia, but is currently going to college in the United States. It all goes to show that teens writing for teens is the best way to make an impact. Alexandra and her trilogy deserve every bit of praise and credit being given. I certainly give “Hades” five stars and two thumbs up!