The guardian angel Zagzagel has had a difficult time reconciling the requirements of his job with his personal feelings for his charges. Through his diary entries (FORSAKEN, DENIAL, DESPERATE, LOST and BROKEN) his frustration has grown until it forced a showdown with none other than Big Papa himself
Now the fallout from that confrontation begins to settle, but nothing can prepare Zagzagel for the return of two faces from his past…and a complete surprise that will forever alter his future.
Loved is the sixth and final short story in The Zagzagel Diaries, a contemporary fantasy series that features the continuing story of “a day in the life” of the Angel of Wisdom, Zagzagel, and the trials and tribulations of his human wards as he attempts to save them from imminent tragedy and help them to find their way.
I awaited the release of Loved with much anticipation even though I was unsure as to the direction the author would take in this final diary entry, in particular following the events of Broken (Story 5) which ends in a cliffhanger. Loved surpassed my expectations, which were already quite high. It is as superbly written as the preceding five stories and provides for the only ending befitting this wonderful character and series.
As with all the stories in this series, Loved is written in the first person from the perspective of the angel Zagzagel. But the final entry deviates from the others in that it is focused exclusively on Zag’s story rather than on the plight of his human wards. Zag’s personal struggle with God’s rules and his conflicting feelings of doing what he must to save his humans, even though this often forces him to disobey orders from Above, is threaded throughout the series as are hints as to Zagzagel’s past. In Broken the conflict between the angel Zagzagel and Big Papa comes to a head as Zag once again disobeys God’s orders. In Loved, the aftermath of Zag’s showdown with God is told as he comes full circle with his past.
“As far back in my memories as I scrolled, I remember watching over you—some of you from the time you took your first breath, and I held some of your hands all the way to the grave. I was paid to watch, I admit, though, not in any way you might understand. Fulfilling my duties had earned me recognition at Big Papa’s feet. Performing my job well garnered His…well, to put it simply, I was paid in love.
Nothing thrilled me more than knowing I’d receive Papa’s blessing, and yet at the same time, each assignment He handed down made me despise being told what to do, how to do it, when and where, just a little bit more. From that revelation alongside my current actions, I should’ve noticed something was different, but I didn’t, and I continued, even when I found I wasn’t being paid to do so…”
Loved is beautifully written and textured, and once again Zag provides a rich and powerful narrative with descriptions that evoke strong and vivid images as he slowly comes to the realization and understanding of his new reality and its consequences. Even though the final diary entry is only eleven pages in length, Tyne slowly and skillfully unravels the mystery of Zag’s past and the circumstances of his present creating an air of anticipation for the reader until almost the final paragraph. Without diminishing the quality of the writing, whether narrative, characterization or dialogue, what resonated most with me after having read Loved are the messages of affirmation and hope – that we are all as we have been created to be, and that we are all loved. And just as Zagzagel knows and loves the humans he’s watched over from womb to tomb, Big Papa knows and loves his angel returning to him what he’s needed and longed for most.
This short story series has become a worldwide bestseller for Untreed Reads and after having read it I completely understand the reasons why. As I mentioned in my review of the preceding five stories earlier this year, the author has moved away from the familiar angel archetype in fantasy to create a truly unique character in Zag. And like many readers, I fell in love with this unconventional and complex angel – his intelligence, wit, compassion, his moments of impudence and above all his refusal to acquiesce. Equally, Tyne tackles the socially relevant issues of sexuality, gender-identity, self-acceptance and love vis-à-vis societal hatred and rejection and religious vilification with emotional integrity well nuancing the thematic complexities that arise in these issues. The ensuing underlying message that surfaces in Loved and indeed in the series as a whole is that mere tolerance is insufficient, that the aspiration must be an embrace of those we measure against ourselves as being different making this series a powerful, often moving and spiritually uplifting read.
According to the author Loved is the final installment in The Zagzagel Diaries and like many readers I will miss this character, but do look forward to revisiting the series periodically. I wish to thank Bryl R. Tyne for gifting us with Zagzagel. Loved and all the stories in this series are most highly recommended and should be read in sequence of publication.
The Zagzagel Diaries: Loved (Book 6) by Bryl R. Tyne is available at Untreed Reads.
The review of the preceding five stories in the series, The Zagzagel Diaries: Forsaken, Denial, Desperate, Lost and Broken can be found here.
NOTE: This review was orginally published online at Three Dollar Bill Reviews.