Marlando Marosivic is the last of the Glamangels, a near-extinct race of angels whose power stems not from their ability to heal or fly, but from their beauty. The last of his race were exterminated by the Fuglangels, led by Turpista Foetidangelus, and now Marlando must hide among the Mediocrangels and humans of Evangelis. But hiding for a Glamangel has never been easy. Sooner or later, someone realizes you’re beautiful and outs you to everyone else.
That’s not to say that Marlando doesn’t love the extra attention. In fact, he relishes in it. But Marlando has a secret, something Turpista and her league of Fuglangel assassins would do anything to prevent coming true. Something buried deep in his stomach that could bring back the Glamangels once more to light the world of Evangelis in beauty.
Envy is strangely bare-breasted about its messages. Reminiscent of I Am Number Four and the upcoming Tara Banks vehicle, Modelland, Ward’s novel explores the consequences of being special in a world hell bent against it. Rippling with eye-catching imagery and well-defined character elements, the novel does what fantasies of this kind do best: provide a template on which readers can transplant their hopes and desires, albeit in a more realistic fashion than Twilight by Stephanie Meyer or Ward’s previous romantic fantasies, The Composition Book and The Prince of Strides.
But characterization, sadly, is where Envy has many problems. Yes, Marlando is sympathetic and a perfect character the audience can insert themselves into, but that also means that Marlando is an empty suit (an odd statement when you consider that Ward’s angels only wear faded Levi’s boot cut jeans). Marlando, thus, spends the novel running from Turpista and the Fuglangel assassins, but does little to affect his situation or explain to Jill McNamara, Nadine Candlewick, Abigail Rumphness, or Ralindo Nagawaktaro (his would-be girlfriends who appear every thirtieth page, roughly, throughout the novel) about his situation. Instead, he keeps his internal conflicts secret, presenting a cookie-cutter exterior to those who “know” him. He doesn’t ask them for help. He doesn’t mourn for them when Turpista cuts up their faces to make them in the likeness of the Fuglangels. He doesn’t even bother to change his pants when they are splattered with blood. Rather, Marlando keeps his finely-chiseled facade in check, moving from place to place while his “girlfriends” are turned into 2s and 3s (Abigail, sadly, is turned into a 1 in what may be the most brutal de-beautifying scene ever conceived; Tara Banks would be terrified).
That’s not to say that Envy doesn’t have anything to enjoy. Ward’s handling of imagery serves to keep the narrative clear and direct. Likewise, Marlando is a sympathetic character, despite being quite obviously someone we’ve seen before. You can’t help feeling sorry for him, especially when you consider the rules he must follow by being a Glamangel. After all, it’s difficult to hide yourself from your enemies if you aren’t allowed to wear shirts, both because angels don’t do that and because the only size Marlando could wear would make him look like he had met a large man at a bar and spent the night in that man’s bed. But the rules seem somewhat artificial and superficial. If he’s the last of his kind, but also part of a narrow range of angelic forms, then why does he need to stick to the rules of character? I don’t know, and neither does Marlando.
Envy may not be for everyone, but it’s beautiful. That, I imagine, will keep a lot of you ladies interested (or not). I, for one, will steer clear. Well-defined narrative tropes and so on are hardly up my alley…
(A Book by its Cover is our weekly column in which we review a book based solely on the cover, without any other knowledge of what it is about. Any similarities in our review to the book are purely coincidental and proof that we are awesome)