Posted in: AztecLady Reviews, Nalini Singh
I have read and enjoyed Ms Singh’s Psy/Changeling novels (listed below, with links to my reviews) very much indeed, because of her careful world building and characterization, as well as her writing voice. I was, however, a tad leery about her moving into urban fantasy—even knowing that she’ll continue writing Psy/Changeling novels—mostly because there was sooooo much buzz about Angel’s Blood. As Christine so aptly said, sometimes there is so much positive buzz about a book or a series, that I hesitate to actually read it, for fear of having build it up so much in my mind that the reality can’t possibly live up to the expectations.
I am quite happy to be proven wrong 😀
First novel in Ms Singh’s Guild Hunter series, Angel’s Blood introduces a wonderfully complicated world where vampires are made by angels, archangels rule, and gods don’t exist.
Or do they?
Here is the blurb from the author’s site:
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…
Contrary to most blurbs, this one actually reflects quite well the bare bones of the conflict in the novel.
In the Guild Hunter universe, humanity shares the world with angels and vampires as a matter of course, though it is not completely clear whether angels and humans are (were?) ever related. What is clear is that, while angels rule, they do not exist in a vacuum. There are careful rules of conduct between mortals, vampires, angels and archangels, which in theory benefit the majority while preserving the rights of the weaker groups.
Vampires are made by angels, and as payment for their near immortality, they are bound to serve their Makers for a hundred years. The Guild Hunters are humans hired by the angels to bring back rogue vampires who wish to renege on their contracts. However, a vampire who dutifully fulfills his contract has a long and free life to look forward to, dependent only on his own strength and ingenuity.
These vampires are similar to most others in literature because they are made, not born; because they need living blood to survive; and because they are close to immortal. They are different in that sunlight doesn’t affect them one way or the other, and they can neither fly nor shape shift. Individual vampires may have different psychic gifts, but those seem to be an extension, or evolution, of whichever abilities they had as humans.
The group that truly intrigues me, though, is the angels—and, obviously, the archangels. These are definitely not the meek, serene, smiling entities of so much Christian lore. Quite a few of the angels in Ms Singh’s work would give Archangel Michael in his celestial fury a good run for his money. Their emotions are inhuman in the same way as those of the gods of Roman or Greek mythology—they are removed from pity and empathy but not from cruelty and greed, if only for power.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, is it not how the saying goes? And there are none more powerful than the archangels who form the Cadre of Ten, and therefore rule the world.
Unlike most of the urban fantasy novels I’ve read so far, Angel’s Blood is told from the point of view of both protagonists. It is through Elena’s eyes that most of the world and secondary characters are introduced—from Raphael and his angels and vampires, to the Guild and the humans who are born to hunt vampires. But it is through Raphael’s perspective that we first glimpse the hidden layers of this universe—and its rulers.
At first glance, Angel’s Blood is simply the story of Elena’s hunt for an archangel gone… well, mad; with a strong romantic thread interwoven throughout. Looking past the heart-stopping intensity, this book sets up an extremely complicated world with unseen factions pulling strings. There are secrets—in Elena’s past, in the individual pasts of the Cadre of Ten, in Raphael’s present—that are hinted at, yet very little is truly revealed. Probably what I like best about all this, though, is that none of these hints slow down the pace of *this* novel.
Yes, they are seeds, telling us that there is more to be learned in future installments. They are designed to whet the readers’ appetite for more Guild Hunter books. However, they are also woven into the narrative and given weight relevant to the characters in *this* novel.
Elena’s childhood memories and her relationship with her family, as well as all the secrets from the past. Her relationship with Sara and Ransom from the Guild, as well as their relationships with each other and with their own partners. Raphael’s mother, his musings about the other archangels’ state of mind; his friendship with Dmitri, Illium, Jason and the rest of the Seven. All of these nuggets both point to the future and flavor the present, giving each character just that much more depth, making them that much more real.
The development of the romance between Elena and Raphael may seem fast in terms of days, but it is not rushed; it fits both the characters and the rules of the world created by Ms Singh. By the last page there is both a sense of closure and an undercurrent of expectation—what will happen next?
Angel’s Blood is an engrossing read with very well crafted characters. 8.75 out of 10
Hostage to Pleasure (review)