Archangel's Kiss, by Nalini Singh

>> Sunday, November 28, 2010

TITLE: Archangel's Kiss
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Alternate version of our world, set mostly in the angels' refuge
TYPE: Fantasy romance
SERIES: 2nd in the Guild Hunters series

REASON FOR READING: I liked book 1, Angel's Blood.

WARNING: Do not read even the plot summary quoted below if you haven't read book 1. Big series spoilers ahead!

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her world of angelic rulers, vampiric servants, and the woman thrust into their darkly seductive world…

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed—an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn—but her fragile body needs time to heal before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, is used to being in control—even when it comes to the woman he considers his own. But Elena has never done well with authority…

They’ve barely begun to understand each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing—and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena…
At the end of Angel's Blood, Elena wakes after a year spent in a coma after being injured in the big climactic fight to stop the deranged archangel Uram. On awakening, she is shocked to realise that her lover, the archangel Raphael has changed her into an angel in order to save her life.

Archangel's Kiss picks up right after this, and it's mostly about Elena adapting. First and foremost, she needs to adapt to being an angel, living in an environment that's completely alien to her. She's now amongst beings who are well aware of her weakness as a new angel and are determined to take advantage of this as a way of getting to Raphael.

But Elena also needs to adapt to her relationship with Raphael. Although very intense, their time together before she was changed wasn't long, and Raphael isn't like any man. One of the things I liked the most about Angel's Blood was how Singh had created a character who was clearly not human. He has only just enough humanity to be able to love, so obviously, a relationship with him is never going to be straightforward for a very human woman.

Parallel to this there is also a plot involving someone killing people, clearly manouvering to become an archange, as well as Lijuan, the oldest archangel, inviting Elena and Raphael to a ball. There are rumours of Lijuan losing the last vestiges of any humanity, and playing with the limit between life and death, so Elena needs to be as strong as possible for this occasion.

There were many excellent things about this book. The world Singh has created is very original, intrincate, and extremely well imagined. The dynamics of the angels, the hunters, the vampires and the normal humans are fascinating. This world is vivid, too. I could just see the New York that was the setting of the first book, and this one takes place in the angels' private refuge. It's a very different background, but it felt just as real.

The relationship between her hero and heroine was just as original. It was all passion and conflict in the first book, but here they have a lot more quiet time, while Elena trains and gets stronger and they work together to investigate what on earth is going on at the refuge. We also learn quite a lot more about the past that made them who they are, and that was all quite dramatic. I knew Elena had some horrible stuff in her past, but Raphael gives her a run for her money. And yet, it wasn't a miseryfest, but rather an opportunity for them to grow closer.

So lots of objectively really good things, and yet, maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the fact that I never got too interested in the external plot, but it felt like for a long time, the story was coasting without really getting started. I found it all a bit hard to get into, even lost interest in some of Elena and Raphael's interactions for a while (especially the love scenes -I just couldn't work up an interest in them).

And also, I couldn't shake loose the feeling that this seems like a quite unpleasant life to live, always having to be alert to evil plots and plans around you, always having to be wary because the other archangels spend their entire lives engaged in power play. It must be truly exhausting. I had sort of the same feeling when I read the first in Shana Abe's Drakkon series, and that kept me from seeing the ending as a true HEA. It wasn't quite like that here, but still.

I will definitely try the next one, hoping to like it better.


NOTE ON THE UK COVER: I was interested to know that the UK publishers, Gollancz, include a sort of checklist at the back of their urban fiction releases (click on the image to enlarge), I guess to help out their readers find books that fit their mood. According to them, AK is romantic and sexy, but not gothic, action-packed or funny. And come to think of it, they are right!


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