Rebel Angels (Lady Lazarus)
by Michele Lang
Edited by James Frenkel
Cover Artist: David Palumbo
Review by Ellen Russell
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323194
Date: 12 March 2013 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Rebel Angels by Michelle Lang is the third book in the Lady Lazarus trilogy. Set in Eastern Europe during World War II, the series is about a Lazarus witch, Magdalena Lazarus, and her quest to stop Hitler. Magdalena's main power is her ability to return from the dead, like Lazarus from the Bible. However, she also has other powers, such as warding and attack spells. She is aided in her quest by her former employer, Count Bathory, an influential and powerful Hungarian vampire; her younger sister Gisele, who is haunted by visions of what will come to pass if Hitler is not stopped; her best friend, Eva, a spy who has infiltrated a pack of the werewolves who make up Hitler's SS vanguard; and her husband, Raziel, an angel who fell to earth to help her with her quest.
In this final book, Magdalena must find the sapphire of heaven, a stone created by angels which has the power to either end the world or save it. Magdalena must find this gem before the demon Asmodel, who is possessing Hitler and augmenting his powers, can locate it and use it to win the war and carry out his terrible, genocidal plans.
Lang has a wonderful gift for bringing characters to life. Although the Lazarus trilogy has many characters, they are memorable and easy to keep track of. The relationships between the characters and their interactions are also very believable and realistic. Magdalena is a likeable and very human heroine. Although she has magic powers, she is still afflicted with the doubts, guilt, and confusion of a regular person. Furthermore, she is not perfect. She is stubborn and she makes mistakes and bad choices. This makes her an extremely relatable and sympathetic main character.
Rebel Angels is, however, not a standalone book. Without having read the first two books, a reader would not understand what is going on. There are too many characters and events referenced from previous books without much context to enjoy this novel on its own. Furthermore, it is best to read all three within a reasonably short time frame. It had been a long time since I had read the first novel and I had forgotten some details from the second and third novels that reoccurred in this title, which became a bit confusing.
Finally, although I found the characters and the plot incredibly interesting and engaging, I found the ending to be somewhat lacking. Although this is definitely an alternate-world scenario, as evinced by the fact that there are witches, werewolves, and vampires, there are still a great many details that mirror our own history. The inclusion of characters like Winston Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, President Roosevelt, etc., made the story feel more like an alternate history. Thus, the ending seems too pat, and too perfect.
Although we all wish that we could erase certain events from history, it seems too easy to do so. It makes it feel a bit like a comic book in which the hero saves the day at the last second and ordinary citizens can live their lives none the wiser. With such a complicated heroine and involved plot, I expected something different, and messier, for the ending. It seems like the story is all tied up with a bow, when throughout the story it is shown that real life isn't like that -- it's messy and imperfect and the bad guys sometimes win. Thus, I felt a bit let down by the ending.
However, that being said, this trilogy is truly an excellent read: full of intrigue, a complex plot, and engaging characters. I highly recommend it.