Book Review: Janet Dutcher’s Samuel and the Soldiers of Heaven

samBut I want to know what is going to happen next.

This was my mantra while reading through this 131-page story, the first foray into fiction for Rhode Island native Janet Dutcher. I had trouble making it through at times, but I was incredibly curious to see where Dutcher was going with this and how the story would get to the ending I basically knew was coming.

In Samuel and the Soldiers of Heaven, the human race is failing and God sent his team of research angels (or Soldiers of Heaven, as they are known) to determine who is worthy of a positive Judgment Day. It is here that they meet David, an average guy who just happens to have the ability to see the demons that are hiding in human form. This uncanny ability leads Jowell, the lead soldier, to speak with God directly about these developments, hoping that he allows them to eliminate the demons and give the human race a chance to prove their worth and good nature. God agrees to this, with the condition of Jowell taking Samuel, a young angel, to Earth with him. No real reason for this is given, but it’s not smart to question God to his face.

Saul is the son of the devil (of course) and has caught wind that the Soldiers of Heaven are on to his demons with the help of a human. He befriends Endora, a poor medium who was living in her shop, promising her his riches if she would help him. Overwhelmed with the possibility of an extravagant lifestyle, Endora agrees and researches spells that will take away the heavenly powers the Soldiers of Heaven possess.

It’s pretty obvious where this ends up. There are a few surprises (especially how Samuel is used, which I still don’t quite understand), but most of them took me away from the actual story. I finished the story with a feeling of unease and disappointment, but somehow wanted more.

Though this story kept my interest, I found myself cringing on more than one occasion. The writing was full of clichéd situations and subplots that seemed to have no legs, disappearing into nothing while getting in the way of the main plot. Dutcher tried to fit a lot of little pieces and arcs into a short space, and it doesn’t quite work. This is mostly due to her not expanding on these ideas that somewhat had potential, but took up maybe a page or two total. She also adds new ideas seemingly out of nowhere. This left me slightly confused, though it wasn’t hard to catch back up.

I am torn as to how I feel about this book. On one hand, this reads like a rough draft in a fiction writing course, screaming for notes that could vastly improve the story and give direction. On the other hand, I was intrigued. I cared for all of the characters and wanted to see how things would turn out. It’s a simple read that could set up some interesting discussions, especially for those with a penchant for religion.

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