Modesitt, Jr.'s story is a unique take on angels, the Devil, and Heaven. The main character, Lucian deNoir (ostensibly the Devil), is called to heaven to work a spell of attraction. Because he is the only fully fallen angel, the only one to have willfully embraced darkness,he is the only one that can create this spell, which is required to, wait for it, encourage other angels to move into the new villas past the Elysian Gardens in order to maintain "ecological an aesthetic balance." So, basically, Real Estate.
The fact that Heaven in Modesitt, Jr.'s story works more like a modern city than God's paradise is, quite surprisingly, actually one of the smallest deviations from a traditional view of Heaven and Hell. In his cosmology, other angels are able to fall, and be redeemed. They seem to have a free will of their own, and act a lot like human beings. They also seem capable of sex and desire, which is a switch from the more traditional sexless servants of God. Oh, yes, and God. That brings me to the biggest change. In Modesitt, Jr.'s story, God is called the Maid, and, apparently, takes the form of a woman. Like God in most stories, the Maid herself doesn't actually appear in the story, but she is always referred to in the feminine sense, and she has priestesses instead of priests, in a obvious flip from Catholic traditions.
The overall effect of these changes is a distancing of the story from it's Judeo-Christian inspirations. Now, I hope that this is in an effort to allow readers to empathize with the character of Lucian (who, incidentally, is well fleshed out and nuanced). However, the cynic in me can't help but wonder if it was in an effort on Modesitt, Jr.'s part to create some plausible deniability for himself in the future. A way to say "see, that's clearly not the Judeo-Christian Heaven, so you can't give me slack for taking liberties with the details." Now, maybe Modesitt, Jr. felt that it was necessary to create a fantasy Heaven as a setting to the story in order to free him up to tell the story he wanted to tell. And maybe that is true. I, however, don't think it was entirely necessary. Sometimes I even found the effect to be a little jarring, as terms or names would be just slightly different from what you'd expect.
Despite this one complaint, I really did enjoy this story. It has great pacing,
wonderful imagery, and, as I mentioned earlier, the character of Lucian is brilliantly compelling. Overall, definitely worth the read.