Angels' Blood, by Nalini Singh

>> Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TITLE: Angels' Blood (excerpt)
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

COPYRIGHT: 2009 (out next Tuesday)
PAGES: 368

SETTING: Alternate reality New York
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
SERIES: 1st full novel in the Guild Hunter series (there's an exclusive e-novella called Angels' Pawn which just came out yesterday, which introduces the series).

REASON FOR READING: Nalini Singh is one of my favourite authors. If she's writing it, I'm reading it. And as much as I love the Psy/Changeling series, I was very intrigued by the idea of a different one.

USA Today bestselling author Nalini Singh introduces a world of beauty and bloodlust, where angels hold sway over vampires…

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she's the best—but she doesn't know if she's good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, only one thing is clear—failure is not an option...even if the task is impossible.

Because this time, it's not a wayward vamp she has to track. It's an archangel gone bad.

The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other…and pull her to the razor's edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn't destroy her, succumbing to Raphael's seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break…
Ok, so what is this book? Is it a vampire book, as I've seen many other readers speculate (hope or fear, although fear seems to be running ahead)? Nope, not exactly. This is a world that includes vampires, and although I dont know what the next books will be about, I expect some of them will be the protagonists in upcoming installments. However, the heroine and hero of Angels Blood are a human and an angel.

Elena Deveraux is a vampire hunter. In this alternate world, angels pretty much run things, and one of their powers is to make humans into vampires, giving them immortality (as well as some cool powers of their own). In exchange for the conversion, the newly made vampires commit to serving their sires for a century.

If they decide to renege on their deal and pull a runner, thats where Elena and her fellow hunters come in. Hunters have especially powerful senses that allow them to track vampires. This is dangerous, highly prized work, and hunters have organised themselves into a Guild, which takes care of them and makes arrangements for their jobs.

Elena is one of the best hunters out there, and this (unfortunately, as she sees it) brings her to the attention of the archangel who's in charge of New York. Raphael has a choice job for her, one so hard and terrifyingly dangerous that Elena doubts she will survive it. It's not a mere vampire she has to hunt down this time, but another archangel, one who has gone blood-mad and has embarked on an orgy of slaughter and destruction. And even if she survives the hunt, Elena is sure she won't survive her increasingly intimate relationship with the very, very scary Raphael.

You think that sounds melodramatic and exaggerated? It's not. Raphael truly is scary, even cruel. The thing is, you see, at the beginning of the book, he's not human. His brain doesn't work in the same way as humans' do. Elena just knows that he won't have mercy on anyone who defies him or fails him or represents a danger for his kind, and she's right.

But... his attraction for Elena humanises him. As much as I loved Elena, it was Raphaels character arc that fascinated me the most, basically because he goes so far. I was engrossed by the way he slowly started feeling things that were alien to him and found himself making choices he never would have made, seeing things in a different light. It was a wholly believable, gradual process, and enriched the romance enormously.

And speaking of the romance... (yeah, like I was going to skip that!). As strong and powerful as Raphael is, this is a romance among equals. Elena is more than a match for him, even physically, once she finds a way to bring herself closer to his level. Her refusal to let herself be steamrolled by Raphael seems suicidal sometimes, but then, she's already accepted that she probably won't get out of her mission alive. Plus, she's not feisty with her defiance. No stupid foot-stomping from Elena, not at all. She's just mentally strong, even with her vulnerabilities, and has too much respect for herself to let even an archangel make her into a plaything.

The tone of the story feels very different from that of the Psy/Changeling series. This world is darker and the violence is more graphic, and I think it felt a bit closer to Urban Fantasy. Not quite, though, which is good news for me, because it meant that it had the best of both worlds. There's the strong, kick-ass female protagonist and edgy feel of UF, but theres also the strong romance of, well, Romance, with its HEA ending, as well as a strong hero, whose POV were privy to.

Granted, we do see a lot more of Elena's POV than of Raphaels, but I have the feeling that is necessary, given the huge humanisation his character experiences throughout the book. The glimpses we catch of his thoughts at the beginning really reflect his otherness and inhumanness excellently, but much more than that and he either wouldn't have been that mysterious and unsettling, or he would have become a bit too scary.

As always with Singh, the worldbuilding is complex and coherent, and the book is full of fascinating characters about whom I was dying to know more about. And imagine! Singh does this without any sequel-baiting whatsoever! Every one of those interesting characters had a necessary role in the story, and that was something I appreciated.

The only reason I'm not quite giving this book an A grade is that I felt it was a bit slow to get started. During the first half of the book I wondered a few times when the actual plot would really get going, and it felt like Elena and Raphael were just circling each other for a bit too long. Mind you, it was still a really good read, that first half, but I found it a teeny bit too easy to put the book down.

Oh, there was also a bit of a sense of dissatisfaction on my part with the way we never get to know for certain exactly what happened with Elena's sisters. We get some extremely tantalising hints about an earlier blood-crazed serial killer with whom Elena had an extremely traumatic experience, and we get some details about what that experience was. I kept expecting her to share this with Raphael, so that I could know exactly what happened, too, but at the end of the book, I was still waiting. Hmm, I dont know, maybe this is something well find out later. I'm still not 100% sure if upcoming books in the series will feature new characters, as in the Psy/Changeling series, or whether Singh will go in a more UF direction and keep Elena and Raphael as her mains. Theres certainly plenty more to explore there, so either option would be fine with me!

MY GRADE: A very solid B+.


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