“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri
Disclaimer –I went into the Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy with a few preconceived notions. The main one being “this started out of Twilight fan fiction, it’s sure to be lacking in depth and substance.” I should have known better. My grandmother always taught me: never judge a book by its fan fiction roots.
But I digress. I decided to give the novels a read because I was intrigued to see how the author integrated Dante’s The Divine Comedy into his work. Turns out he did so masterfully. But I just was not ready to admit that the story got to me. I even wrote a somewhat disparaging review of Gabriel’s Inferno on my blog. I never write negative reviews, which is telling.
As an aside, in effort to find my way out of reviewer’s limbo, that blog is now gone with the proverbial wind.
I thought I was fighting the good literary fight. But in truth, I was only waging war with my stubborn bookish self. Now after having read books two and three, I have to be honest. This trilogy charmed its way into my heart, breaking down all my preconceived notions. I’m crazy for this series and having a serious case of reviewer remorse. I must atone to the Literary Gods and set things right as I strive to find my way to The Mount of Joy.
Ok. Here goes. I was wrong! People, this doesn’t happen often; unless you consider often a heck of a lot. I misjudged Sylvain Reynard. The man, whoever he may be, is a master storyteller. His deft use language, his passion for literature and the arts come alive on the pages. His characterization of Gabriel and Julianne, the empathy he feels for them, is achingly beautiful. Not only did they come alive on the page. so did Dante and Beatrice. He masterfully wove one of the greatest literary works of the Western World into a modern day tale. He crafted a story that kept this cynic coming back for more. The story of the professor and Julianne is chock full of tasteful eroticism, purpose and intensity; a story of romantic love- but also love itself, its power, its limitations, and its consequences. The themes of forgiveness and redemption should strike a chord with us all.
I grew to love Gabriel and Julianne and all their quirks and fragility. At first I despised them, especially Julianne. I found her too docile, her wild eye innocence grated. There were times when I wanted to shake her. In truth her character hit very close to home — too close. I remember being the naive waif scared of my own shadow. However, I should have known that just like I blossomed and came into my own, so too would Julianne.
Sylvain Reynard, how could I have ever doubted you? Your style is dazzling. Your literary voice is haunting. You have created an original love story that will not soon be forgotten. Which brings us to the final installment of the series, Gabriel’s Redemption.
Gabriel’s Redemption is by far my favorite of the three novels. I didn’t want it to end. I’m truly going to miss these characters. In the final installment, we find our beloved hero and heroine settling into wedded bliss. However, as Shakespeare will attest: “the course of true love never runs smooth”. This is certainly the case with Gabriel and Julia. Their course is littered with ghosts from the past, jumping out and shouting “boo” at every corner. Then there are those pesky demons that reside in the mind, tempting and tormenting. On top of that, they have those normal issues that newlyweds must go through: learning to cohabit with another human being, debating if and when to start a family, etc.
Can Gabriel and Julianne put to rest the ghost from Christmas past? Will Satan get thee behind? Will a baby make three? Is museum’s sex all it’s cracked up to be? Does true love really conquer all? You’ll just have to read and find out.
“She was so Southern that she cried tears that came straight from the Mississippi, and she always smelled faintly of cottonwood and peaches.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells