Fallen Host, by Lyda Morehouse

fallen-host-by-lyda-morehouse coverGenre: Modern/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: NAL
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Book Review by Lisa DuMond

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When I called Morehouse’s debut novel Archangel Protocol a “wow” I had no idea what was awaiting me in the follow-up, Fallen Host; since there’s no such thing as “double wow,” I can only say holy sh–. No, that’s not quite right. The only proper response to Fallen Host is a resounding Hallelujah!

Back we go to the future world of Archangel Protocol where angels — arch and otherwise, demons, Gorgons, the LINKed, and the unLINKed move among us. Forget everything you thought you knew about labels, because they mean less than nothing here and placing your trust in a biblical good-guy archetype can get you killed faster than the death has time to register. Morehouse examines the psychology and sensibilities of religious mythology and moves things out of the dark vs light simplicity and into the shifting haze that is life here on Earth.

A new investigator steps in to fill the hollow Deidre McMannus’ flight left in the narrative; this time, it one of the Pope’s own Inquisitors. Emmaline McNaughten, American Catholic priest and international cop, has been given an assignment such as never heard before: determine if Page the A.I. has a soul. Simple enough…if one regularly unties Gordian knots while wearing sparring gloves. This is one case she’s supposed to bungle, but her employers, perhaps no one, knows her as well as they think. Tougher than the fires of hell is this woman.

And back from those very fires is the fascinating Morningstar, fallen angel number one, one of the most complex characters ever imagined. If you read Morehouse debut novel, you know not to expect Old Pitch with cloven hooves, horns, and an uncontrolled taste for sadism. This tarnished archangel is more an embittered, disowned child, wanting desperately to be coaxed back into the fold, to the parent he loves to the point of madness. If he gets involved in trouble while here among us, somehow it seems more humanity’s and his creator’s fault than any true evil nature on his part.

Emmaline and Morningstar are two raging wildfires that have to meet at some point, and that point is Page. Both want to discover if Mouse’s creation is the first A.I. with a certified soul. What each plans to do with that soul if they find it they aren’t saying. Too bad there is a regular caravan of parties after the very same thing; no one is too squeamish to let a minor matter like murder slow them down.

Fallen Host is bullet-train fast and at least as dangerous. “Soldiers” from all sides who get in the way end up a crimson smear on the page. Not even those who manage to grab on escape unscathed. It’s brutal, passionate, poignant, and thought-provoking — just the startling artistry we should expect from Morehouse.

And with every word Fallen Host evokes a hallelujah!

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