My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s been a while since I wrote a review, I know. I suck. But the other day I saw lots of people commenting on the new Gabriel’s Inferno movie from Passionflix and was reminded that I never got around to reading the book. I don’t think I’ll watch the movie because the reviews weren’t that good and I don’t have a subscription to the service, however I’m glad I finally read it.
I think the main thing that stood out to me was the different writing style. This book was written in 2009 (I think), and by a man (which is a bit unusual in this genre). It definitely read differently and I liked the higher registry of the narration. Plus, having studied Dante for three years, I quite liked the subject matter overall.
The strong suit of this book, besides the more elevated than usual (at least genre-wise) writing style, was the slow build up and how gradually the characters’ dynamics changed. I always appreciate when main characters have lots of interactions to explore their relational dynamics and in this case, given the complexity of their power differential, it always kept me on my toes.
Additionally, I loved how the author managed to keep quite a lot of secrets from us, readers. At the end of book one, there are still many things left unsolved and that got me to immediately start the next book. I liked how throughout I was pondering how certain things could be, and what had happened to change this or that character so much, and who is the mysterious ex that hurt the heroine and so on.
Now onto the cons, because this book is not devoid of things that made me cringe a bit or think: oh, hell no. First of all, when the entire premise of the book was finally revealed at the end of the book, I was left a bit unsatisfied. I think in this case the “age” of this book showed, because that situation has been done by other authors I have read in more recent years, and handled with more mastery.
The other little issue I have is with the characters. Now, I didn’t hate anyone, and contrary to popular beliefs I actually quite liked grumpy, sometimes assholish Gabriel. Usually I’m not into his type of hero, but the depth the author gave his character made me see his bad reactions and asshole tendencies as part of his overall complex personality, rather than just a single trait defining his entire persona. So I was okay with him being so moody and mercurial and temperamental. I couldn’t always understand where he stood though, with his feelings for Julia, and that gave me a bit of whiplash.
Now onto Julia. She is, in my opinion, the character that struggled the most to come to life in this narration, because the author portrayed her in a way that most of the time was just not realistic. I don’t have any issues at all reading about meek, naive, studious and shy girls. I have been one for years and still am at times. But, Julia’s personality oftentimes made me wonder how she had reached her age in life. Like, seriously, how a person like that had lived through 20 something years of her life and gotten that far. Sometimes, she reads like a pre-pubescent kid, and I get to a certain point that it is all part of her “angelic” personality. This overly good person that “blossoms under kindness.” Still, the way certain things were brought to an extreme, like her being horrified by punk music, or barely not even accepting a guy’s phone number because “she would never pick a guy up in a club,” that’s where her character loses credibility.
That being said, I liked her interactions with Gabriel, and even though in real life I would never even recommend two such people getting together. Julia is a prude (with some sprinkling of slut-shaming because again this was written in 2009) whose idea of a relationship is probably holding hands forever in a quaint cottege while sipping tea from porcellaine teacups, while Gabriel is a passionate and carnal person who has idealized Julia as his saving angel.
I know this review took a turn into whine-land. But I want to point out that if you suspend your beliefs on the longevity of such a bond and enjoy the story as it unfolds, it is quite enjoyable and I like how it being a trilogy gives the readers the possibility to truly get to know the characters and how they develop over time.
I am now reading book two and my hopes are for Gabriel and Julia to understand where they stand with each other and give their relationship a go. I don’t have really an idea of how such relationship would look like, but I’m curious.