The Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pages: 222

Series: Earthbound Angels, Book 1

Genres: Fantasy; Urban Fantasy; Paranormal; Angels & Demons; Mythology

Publication date: March 20, 2013

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Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel. But there are some problems that even the best advice can’t solve. Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid – he sold his soul to a demon to save his sister’s life. Yet his heart remains pure.

Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others and she can’t bare to see another good man damned while it’s within her power to prevent it. In order to negotiate his contract, Carrie must travel the depths of hall and parley with the demons that control pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she’s willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.

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We’d had what passed for a lunch rush – two whole tables occupied at once – and I was clearing off the tables when I heard the words that were going to change my life: “I’m here to see the Oracle.”

Chapter One

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I stumbled upon this read while looking at one of Corrigan’s other reads, and I absolutely felly in love with the cover. Not only is the cover fantastic, but I’ve always been drawn to stories about oracles and the different planes of existence. In this case, the mortal realm and the hell realm where the demons reside – my terms, the book just calls this being alive and in Hell. 

Even further than that, I’ve always been interested in tales about fallen angels and how the war between Lucifer and God impacted them. While the same characters always play a role – they were, after all, the angels that fought on the opposing sides in the way – I enjoyed the way that Corrigan dealt with them all. I loved the different personalities. Like Bedlam not always trying to cause chaos but always being the chaos that he stands for. Or Gabriel being so pure of heart that he makes Michael – right hand of God – feel inferior at times.

Carrie’s own story took center stage over the story I thought this book was going to tell – the tale of Sebastian and how Carrie was going to travel to Hell in order to save his soul. Don’t get me wrong, the synopsis wasn’t lying when it said that Sebastian’s request for help would be the driving force in Carrie’s life. But I expected more of an epic quest into Hell than what we’re given. Instead, the story is filled with flashbacks into Carrie’s long life and the events that led her to be the person she is.

Although it took me a while to be okay with the lack of an epic hellscape adventure like I was expecting, I ended up enjoying Carrie’s story much more than I think I would have had this story been exactly what I was expecting. Jumping between timelines isn’t always something I follow too well, but Corrigan did an amazing job at it. It not only helped make Carrie’s decisions make sense, but it also made her willingness to change her behaviour for one good soul that much more impactful. I can’t wait to dive back into this story and see when Carrie and her friends take the world.

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*Spoilers ahead*

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He rolled onto his side to stare at me. “You can tell things about me, right? You know someone better than they know themselves after looking at them once.”

I nodded.

“Then why can’t you tell me whether being a demon makes me evil?”

“I don’t know that being a demon makes you evil. Demons and angels look pretty much the same to me, at least in your true form. Sometimes, I can tell from your minds because demons tend to be so full of hate and desire to destroy. But I see that level of difference among humans too, and they’re all still human. As far as I can tell, demons are angels who aren’t allowed in Heaven, and while being kicked out of your home may have a profound effect on your psyche, it’s unlikely to change your essence. I’ve been kicked out of many places that I call home, and I am pretty sure that I’m still human.”

Chapter Two

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For all intents and purposes, I will be referring to Cain as Carrie for this review. It just makes it easier for my brain. Heck even the characters in the story tend to to refer to Carrie as the name they were introduced to her with. Whether Khet, Cassia, or even Cain. Her name has changed numerous times so it’s got to be hard to remember what to call her. Thank you for baring with me.

I love that Carrie’s best friends are a chaos demon and the purest angel there is. Gabriel and Bedlam might not get along the best, but they’re obviously willing to put up with each other for Carrie’s sake. The fact that Carrie worries that neither of them need her as much as she needs them – even though she can hear their thoughts and feel their feelings – is such a human emotion. It’s refreshing to see that even with an immortal lifespan Carrie hasn’t lost her humanity.

Bedlam needs Carrie as his anchor, to help him feel like he belongs somewhere. He doesn’t belong in Heaven because he can’t stand to watch the one he loves being with someone else, and he can’t stand Hell because he doesn’t want to be bad. Sure he might be pure chaos, but he tries to do good deeds. He’s just misguided a lot.

And poor Gabriel. Carrie is hopelessly in love with him and his pure heart but thinks that he doesn’t feel the same way about her. I personally think he does have feelings for her and that’s why he’s been on Earth for so long. Sure he felt like he was doing more good on Earth than up in Heaven, but I truly believe that he stuck around as long as he did without even visiting Heaven because of Carrie. Like the book says, an angel can never not be in love with someone once they’re in love with them. Which is why I think it’s got to be so hard for Gabriel to be back in Heaven – a place he knows that Carrie will never be able to go. So again: Poor Gabriel.

It must be hard for her, knowing that most relationships she makes will only be around for a limited amount of time. Heck, even the kinship that she felt with Sebastian was short lived. She risked her own immortal soul to save his, and yet any connection she felt to him was lost. He’ll get to grow old and have a full life, probably never thinking about Carrie again. Certainly not thanking her for what she did for him – he’ll never know that she gave up her immortal soul so that he might have a good life.

Like I mentioned briefly in the spoiler free section, I truly thought that Sebastian would play a larger role in the story than he did. I expected him to be more than just the catalyst that got Carrie to actually care about a soul that was given to an archdemon. However, I slowly turned to love the way that the story was being told.

I loved getting to experience Carrie’s first interactions with people as she ran into the in her quest. It’s clear that she’s grown up since first meeting the angels and demons shortly after her village was ravaged by Lucifer. Mephistopheles bested Carrie the first time she met him – and got the clues to taking souls out of bodies to create contracts with humans – but she was able to hold her own against him this time. Lilith offered her a spot in her harpies when the first met, and this time Carrie was the one being hunted. Michael is filled with so much contempt for Carrie that it’s palpable. Heck, he’s even told the angels that they’re to have nothing to do with her.

While there’s so much more that I could talk about, the final thing that I want to touch on is the reveal that Carrie is actually Cain.

First, I don’t know how I never saw that coming. She was alive for years, destined to be the only human to walk the Earth. Every name she chose for herself started with a hard C/K sound. Her story started with the death of people around her (though not her brother), and two of the elders of her village were called Adam and Eve. I know it’s been years since I’ve been to Catholic school and studying the bible, but I really should have seen more of the similarities that were there! Honestly, one of the best reveals I’ve read in a while.

It makes sense why Cassie was so protective over her real name. Who would want to be tied to such a tragedy? To a history that’s been told since you were alive, albeit twisted into something else as the years progressed? Plus, names have power. Sure she wasn’t the one that chose to make a deal with the Devil, but she’s still the one that has to live with the consequences of her elders’ actions. Forever.

I can’t wait to see where the story goes and what Carrie will have to face next. I look forward to Gabriel coming back into her life and seeing what it is Keziel was trying to warn him about. I hope that Carrie’s soul is finally released and that Michael removes his mark from her, allowing her to finally make it to Heaven. (Though I also hope that Bedlam is able to stay with her… I’m conflicted here.) Elizabeth Corrigan, you have me hooked good.

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