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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Angels' Blood' Guild Hunter #1 by Nalini SINGH

From the BLURB:

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 she's been set 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. Because when archangels play, mortals break...

‘Angels’ Blood’ is the first book in Nalini Singh’s paranormal ‘Guild Hunter’ series.

‘Angels’ Blood’ came out in 2009 and has been sitting on my shelf all this time. I don’t know why. I read plenty of enticing reviews of the first two books in the series, and I enjoy Singh’s ‘Psy-Changeling’ series (if only Hawke’s book would hurry the heck up!). But for some reason I stalled in reading her Guild Hunter series.

But then the kind people over at Hachette Australia gave me an advanced copy of ‘Archangels’ Consort’ and it was the final kick in the pants I needed to get stuck into this series. And it’s about bloody time!

Elena Deveraux is good at her job. She may be single, estranged from her family and overly invested in turning her apartment into a hermit’s haven . . . but she at least excels in her line of work. Vampire hunting. Elena tracks the fanged felons and returns them to their rightful owners, the Archangels. For in this world, Angels rule. Countries are divided by the Cadre of Ten – ten Archangels to rule over each country and maintain peace and order, via their iron fist. But when one of the European Archangel’s goes on a killing rampage, Elena is inexplicably called in to help.

Archangel Raphael insists that Elena help in tracking the crazed Archangel, Uram. But Elena is a vampire hunter – and only an Archangel can kill an Archangel. Elena doesn’t know what help she will be in stopping Uram’s maddening rampage, especially when she seems helpless against Raphael’s intoxicating danger. . .

I have to admit, I initially rolled my eyes at this being ‘another angel novel’. . . But Singh is writing Angels like you’ve never read them before. Her angels are base and lustful creatures – inhumanly beautiful and proud of it, these angels wear cat-suit outfits and take human lovers when it pleases them. These are angels who make and mingle with vampires – a sensual race who treat humans like amusing playthings. These are a completely new breed of angels – ones who have human faults and lusts, but are above reproach for their wing-span and impressive powers (invisibility and mind control among them). Singh’s angels have houses in New York and keep human servants. . . Really, these angels have little to no connection to their biblical roots whatsoever. And that is one of the many clever tricks that Nalini Singh writes in ‘Angels’ Blood’.

Conspicuously missing from Singh’s world-building of the Guild Hunter universe is talk about God and religion in relation to the angels. Sure, characters throw the words around – heaven and hell – but Singh never goes into any explicit detail about the inner religious workings of the Cadre of Ten. It even seems as though the Archangels are the highest order – with no God above, commanding them. Raphael himself has a place in the Bible as we know it – Saint Raphael the Archangel – but he bears little resemblance to his healing role in ‘Angels’ Blood’. I kept waiting for the obligatory filler-information about the angel’s background and connection to God. But it never came. Perhaps because Singh’s angels bear so little resemblance to their benevolent good book characters. And there’s no mention of the most famous (fallen) angel of all, Lucifer.

I was quite impressed by how Singh completely departed from the religious connotations of angels. She has really made them her own; a new breed of supernatural beings to be dissected and imagined. Impressive, to say the least. Admittedly when you mention ‘angels’ a whole plethora of images and references bombard the mind – and it is hard, at first, to distance yourself from those holy relics when reading Singh’s book. But at some point you just have to accept that Singh is using the bare bones of the angel characters to build a whole new mythology.

And even if you are clinging to the common conception of angels, the character of Raphael and his relationship with Elena will soon banish such connotations. Raphael is lust personified, and erotic danger. He is a frightening being, powerful and old beyond comprehension. Elena is equal parts terrified and drawn to him – and it makes for a spicy and complicated romance.
Her face shifted, becoming less and less of this world, a caricature of angelic features, paper-thin skin over bone glowing from within. “There are some humans – one among half a billion perhaps – who make us something other than what we are. The barriers fall, the fires ignite, and the minds merge.”
He stayed absolutely silent.
“You must kill her.” Her pupils had expanded to devour the irises, her eyes black flame, her face a burning skeletal mask. “Unless and until you do, you can never be certain when the barriers will fall again.”
“What happens if I don’t kill her?”
“Then she will kill you. She will make you mortal.”
Elena is a wonderful match for Raphael’s cocksure self. She is a fiery heroine who doesn’t back down and never gives in. . . and Raphael is utterly perplexed by her. I loved these two together; Nalini Singh writes a heated duck and parry between them, a complicated tango that reaches a romantic crescendo by book’s end. . . while also creating a whole new cliff-hanger for them. Brilliant.

I found it interesting that, throughout the book, Nalini Singh offers little information on some major aspects of the story. As I said before, there is no information given on the Archangel’s religious connections. Furthermore, Elena is haunted by a nightmare from her childhood that Singh literally delivers in drips and drabs – a menacing ‘drip, drip, drip’ permeates Elena’s memory in moments of distress. These loose-ends are never tied up (obviously, this is a series after all) but they’re not even acknowledged as being open-ended. They are simply dead-ends; if you don’t like the lack of religious world-building, tough. I was impressed by how unconcerned I was by these gaping holes in the story – yes, it would have been nice to know if the Archangels are acting on the word of God, but I wasn’t overly concerned by the lack of information by book’s end. The action and romance is enough to pull you along in the story – heightened enough to distract you from the more nitty-gritty absent details.

I was really impressed by this first book in Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series. And yes, I am kicking myself for not reading it back in 2009. The action and romance of the book carries the story, especially when Singh’s world-building seems to be a lesson in ambiguousness. Elena and Raphael have a heated and complicated romance, and set amidst angel politics it makes for addictive reading.

5/5

5 comments:

  1. I skim some of your review but what a rave one! I have books 1 and 2 and after seeing so many great great review of this series I dont know y I havent read them, they sound awesome!

    will have to change that soon =D

    Thanks for the review hon =D

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  2. I read and enjoyed this book, but somehow haven't gotten around to reading the second book in the series. Must remedy that!

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  3. Yes - I was skeptical about angels at first too..but omg does she write an awesome world. Her angels are so cruel, and dark and intense..yet are also the heroes..love!

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  4. I was just saying the other day that I should start this series!

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  5. I'm so in love with this series! Have you checked out the Psy & Changelings-series yet? Like them, too. :) Thanks for the review, agree with you!

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