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Raphael by R.A. MacAvoy epic fantasy book reviewsRaphael by R.A. MacAvoy

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books, Damiano and Damiano’s Lute.

R.A. MacAvoy winds up her DAMIANO trilogy with Raphael, a book that focuses on the angel Raphael instead of Damiano, the young man who was the protagonist of the first two books. That’s because at the end of the previous book, Damiano’s Lute, Damiano died when he sacrificed himself for Gaspar’s sister. That deed was noble, I suppose, and perhaps MacAvoy is saying something about sacrifice and redemption in this religiously-inspired story, but it probably didn’t resonate much with readers since we don’t like Gaspar and don’t even know his sister. I was hoping to get a sense of the importance of Damiano’s sacrifice in this final book, Raphael, but that didn’t happen. There was no major change in Gaspar’s personality and we don’t even get to see his sister. I am not sure what Damiano’s sacrifice was for, or whether MacAvoy was trying to make any point at all.

What happens in this final book is that Raphael, Damiano’s patron angel, is attacked by his brother Satan. His wings are ripped off and his power is taken. Then he is given to Moorish slavers who sell Raphael to a man whose wife asks to have the fair-faced Raphael as her lady’s maid. They’ve been told (incorrectly) that Raphael is a eunuch. The man’s wife falls in love with Raphael, but the angel is in love with a woman who is a fellow slave. Meanwhile, Gaspar and Sara join up with the Black Dragon (from MacAvoy’s book Tea with the Black Dragon) to attack Satan and try to rescue Raphael. They also get some help from the deceased Damiano who has now become something like the patron angel that Raphael once was to him.

My condensed plot summary makes the book sound more exciting than it is, unfortunately. I struggled a bit to finish it. The pace is slow and hampered by MacAvoy’s lovely but sometimes overly sentimental prose. There was a little more humor in this novel than the previous one (and I really like MacAvoy’s sense of humor), there are a couple of touching scenes at the end, and I loved the philosophical Black Dragon (he was the best character in the entire trilogy, and now I want to read Tea with the Black Dragon). But these things weren’t enough to make me truly enjoy Raphael.

Nicholas Tecosky narrates the audio version of Raphael which is 9 hours long and produced by Audible Studios. I love Tecosky’s voice, but his pacing is sometimes plodding and I don’t think this book’s story could handle that. Unfortunately, the combination of MacAvoy’s story with Tecosky’s narration put me to sleep more than a couple of times.

Damiano — (1984) Publisher: Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Italian Renaissance this alternate history takes place in a world where real faith-based magic exists. Our hero is Damiano Dalstrego. He is a wizard’s son, an alchemist and the heir to dark magics. But he is also an innocent, a young scholar and musician befriended by the Archangel Raphael, who instructs him in the lute. To save his beloved city from war, Damiano leaves his cloistered life and sets out on a pilgrimage, seeking the aid of the powerful sorceress Saara as he must walk the narrow path between light and shadow, accompanied only by his talking dog. But his road is filled with betrayal, disillusionment and death, and Damiano is forced to confront his dark heritage, unleashing the hellish force of his awesome powers to protect those he loves.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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