REVIEW SUMMARY: A hilarious, whip-smart, gonzo story that feels like the author shoved Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential biography and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series into a blender and hit “puree”.
PROS: Awesome characters, fantastic new world, deliriously funny, exceptionally clever writing, completely bizarre, delightfully weird and totally fucked up in the absolute best way possible.
CONS: Some of the characters felt too similar, felt a little short.
BOTTOM LINE: A demented, violent, darkly funny new urban fantasy series about a catering company in New York City that serves some very unique foods to some very strange clients.
I loved this book. I completely and totally loved this book. It hit every single one of my buttons, like Matt Wallace was trying to button mash for a Mortal Kombat fatality with my soul. He succeeded and this book was like being bludgeoned over the head with my own spine. I loved every second of it! It had everything I could have hoped for and more. It was like an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen directed by David Cronenberg. I’ve never read anything like it before and I’m hungry for the next volume.
Envy of Angels takes place in New York City and involves a very special catering company called Sin du Jour which has a very… unique clientèle. There’s a secret back fridge full of every conceivable mystery and creature, just waiting to be made into a tasty hors d’oeuvre for the city’s supernatural set. The kitchen is staffed with half-insane cooks, mercenaries and shaman. Each character is quirky and twisted in some way and each one makes for compelling reading. A few of the staff were kind of lumped together but the major characters shine like rock stars under a spotlight. New chefs are greeted with a trial by knife fight and the dish of the day is angel.
The meat of the novel involves trying to get out of carving up a real live angel for a demon party. The cooks, led by a washed up celebrity chef named Byron “Bronko” Luck, need to find a way to fake the taste of angel and fast. If they fail, a whole convention room full of demons will tear them apart. The stakes are high and they get even higher when they realize angel tastes exactly like cheap chicken nuggets from a circus themed knock-off Popeye’s. What’s a chef under the gun supposed to do? If you said corporate espionage, you would be right!
Bronko sends a four person team of addled, loose cannon mercenaries he keeps on the pay roll to go get the recipe for the nuggets and they encounter something in the corporate headquarters so horrible and disgusting that you’ll never look at chicken the same way again. It reminded me a little of a certain Futurama episode, though I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you which because that’s a revelation you should read without any spoilers. Suffice to say, it’s incredible and sick and hilarious all at the same time.
Wallace is more grossly inventive than any author has any right to be. I constantly found myself giggling at just how crazy and deeply, deliciously wrong parts of the story were. The plot moves at a whiplash pace, there’s not a second of down time. Envy of Angels feels shorter than it is and I think that’s because of how fast the plot goes. It’s like being on a rollercoaster powered by jet fuel. If this novella was a main course it would be finely seasoned with black humor and served with a plate of something with eyes and six legs that’s still vaguely twitching. Do they give out Michelin stars for books?
The humor is sharp and the writing is top notch. Matt Wallace has done an excellent job with the first volume of his new series and I am ravenous for more. A sequel is coming in January so now is your chance to get in on this outrageous, inventive, weird, and demented series. It’s so good you’ll want to go back for seconds.