Wendy Waters (Goodreads Author)
Dustin Rielly‘s review
Nov 11, 2022
Read 2 times
The devil takes centre stage in Wendy Waters PARADIS INFERNO, the authors sequel to CATCH THE MOON, MARY. Descending from the sky over the English Channel, the disembodied Cherub takes a human form, and sweeps through modern day Europe on a quest for the one thing riches cannot buy – creativity. Aesthetically evoking Anne Rice, and with themes reminiscent of THE PARIS LIBRARY, in PARADIS INFERNO Wendy Waters tackles some big issues – heaven, hell, redemption, complex characters, issues of modern society and human connection as a bulwark against evil. Does it work? Yes – the author admirably links the levels of complexity into a seamless, engaging narrative.
Once on Earth, Satan takes the name Stanas Vedil, and the ruler of hell is soon living in his accustomed wealth and luxury, socializing with the elites, and interfering in the lives of mortals in pursuit of nefarious ends. His stream of consciousness, still reflecting his previous visit to Earth in a period roughly from the Renaissance to the Reformation, and burdened with age old conflicts and grudges, creates a compelling juxtaposition with his modern-day machinations via smart phones and night-club acquisitions.
When the devil becomes aware that Mary Ferranti (the protagonist of the previous book), a mortal whose music and creativity captivated the world years earlier, will play again in a concert to be held in an ancient Roman amphitheatre in France, he is determined to learn – and steal – the secret of her genius by any means necessary. Through a series of covert interactions, the devil ingratiates himself with Mary’s family; her son Rigel who is the son of the angel Gabriel, and Rigel’s wife Samantha. The targets of Satan’s manipulation are given hints about his true identity, such as protests against his Paradis Inferno nightclubs, which raises tension about whether they will guess who he really is before it’s too late.
The author handles the complex grand narratives of Satan’s character – age old celestial conflicts, his captivating insights into contemporary social issues, his new personal human connections and manipulations, and most interestingly, his inner torment generated by the conflict between his numerous selfish flaws and his desire for redemption – in a way that engages the reader on a number of levels. His formidable intellect is at war with his capacity for enlightenment, sabotaging his every moment; he finds solace from his aloof, emotional dislocation by seeking connection with a house rodent, and his honesty in these encounters is captivating. His moral corruption, which battles with his desperate need for growth and connection, is portrayed compellingly in lines such as, ’Why make the universe when you can buy it?’ But it’s his own blindness to his self-constructed prison that really engages, and the author handles this superbly with great insight into human nature, humanizing the epic scope.
Philosophical and moral explorations are balanced with the lively interactions and dialogue of Mary’s family, and these scenes flesh-out the dramatic situation and provide relief from the devil’s escapades; I got lost in these extended dialogues sometimes – with who slept where, or left who and why, but was always pulled back in. It may help if you’ve read the previous book, although it’s not necessary as the story stands on its own. The author’s prose shines, elegantly complementing and simplifying the deeper, complex themes.
This is the devil’s story – and he successfully seduces the reader, gradually pulling you into his conflicted, epic world. Will he steal Mary’s soul, as he intends? Or will he change and finally achieve a redemptive arc? What kept me engaged was the authenticity of the devil’s conflict, which had me turning the pages toward his ultimate confrontation with Mary. I highly recommend this book.