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Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singh

angels blood nalini singh1 195x300 Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singh

Think present-day New York, presided over not by politicians and reality television stars, but by Cadre of archangels. Sounds lovely and fluffy and like an ad for Philadelphia cream cheese, doesnt it? Wrong. These angels may be all delicate wings and inhumanly beautiful features, but theyre also a little morally canted. Thousands of years of immortality has that effect, after all. Whats the odd life here, the occasional bit of suffering there when youre looking at a timeline that stretches out indefinitely?

But while most of the archangels manage to keep their ethical compass pointing in a vaguely cardinal direction, this is unfortunately not true of all of them. Power corrupts, after all, and power and immortality? For some, that way can lead to madness. Archangel Uram, whos just embarked on a particularly debauched killing spree, epitomises this rather well (albeit grotesquely). Allowing this to continue is rather ill-advised indeed, so vamp-hunter Elena Deveraux is called on to the scene to, well, kick some angel butt. However, Elena finds herself not only pitting her will against Uram the Terrible, but also against that of the archangel Raphael, who despite his lofty Cadre position and significant age and wisdom, finds himself quite taken with young Elena

My thoughts

While paranormal romance is decidedly not my preferred genre, Nalini Singh has been good to me thus far. I found her Psy-Changeling books, although problematic in some ways, well-done, with better than expected world-building, and some believable characterisation. I had then, reasonably high expectations for'Angels Blood, the first in Singhs new Guild Hunter series. There are times where these expectations were met quite resoundingly, and times where I felt a little more polish was required, but in all, Angels Blood is a solid, although not stand-out, read.

The world-building is largely what made the Psy-Changeling books for me, and once again Singh shows her strength in this area, building her alternate angel-ruled with surprising depth and assurance given that shes working within a fairly minimal page extent. She neatly integrates a curious hierarchy of rather hellish angels and quite awful vampires into the fabric of our world, and give us a sense of the longevity of this situation, a fact that makes for some interesting ruminations on the readers behalf. If these angels have been ruling over the various continents of the world for thousands of years, what does that mean for humanity, our history, and our agency?

However, its not all neat and tidy, and I have to admit that the very nature of this omnipotent and vastly ancient angel Cadre raised a few questions for me. If Raphael, the ostensible leader of the feathered-winged crew, is as powerful and prescient as were led to believe, then how come this Uram chap has been given his head to wreak the mess he has? And how come all-powerful Raphael, or at least some of his angelic or vampiric cronies, cant intervene? Why is it up to Elena, a vampire hunteryes, vampire hunter, not angel hunterto take down this dude? This isnt to pass aspersions on Elena, who really does a good job of being angsty and fiery and dangerous and all that, but one has to admit that this does seem like a plot hole that needs a little bit of narrative putty to be truly believable.

Moreover, while Elena does her best to hunt down Uram, she finds herself stymied time and time again by Raphael, who would rather coat her in angel dust and make sultry remarks than allow her to earn her commission by stopping the whole mass murder thing thats going on in the background. In fact, this is perhaps the most confounding thing in the whole book: were given to believe that theres an urgent need for intervention, and that Elenas mission is a matter of life and, erm, rather a lot of deaths, but all of this takes a backseat in this literary station wagon while Raphael and Elena get busy steaming up the windows. Its not until perhaps the final third of the book that Elena drags herself out of her crumpled pre-marital bed to go and do her butt-kicking, and this makes the whole book feel more than a little uneven. Unfortunately, Elenas butt-kicking never really eventuates, as despite the fact that shes spent most of the book posturing and wise-cracking (although I think this may be largely to do with the fact that she feels rather vastly out of her depth), Raphael is the one who eventually nips in to save the day. This is a little frustrating both in terms of narrative cohesiveness, characterisation, and of course my feminist tendencies, and I really would have preferred to see Elena rescue her angel from the jaws of death rather than the other way around.

With that thought in mind, I cant help but make a comment about the whole alpha male thing that runs rampant through this book (and all of Singhs Ive read so far). Regular readers of my reviews will know that I have issues with alpha male characters, and while Singh does an interesting job in her characterisation of Raphael, avoiding simply making him a human with wings, and rather giving his character the particular traits and outlook that would no doubt rise to the fore as a result of his power, age, and immortality, Raphael is, well, rather creepy. There are scenes where he all but brutalises Elena, and for the better part of the book he is simply a violent fiend intent on wielding his powerphysical, emotional, and sexualover a lesser being. This changes, however, towards the end, when he has an epiphany of sorts, and the two suddenly become soulmates. This element was probably the hardest for me to swallow, as the notion of an ageless archangel hooking up with a thirty-year-old vamp hunter seems a little weird. (And I thought the age gap between Buffy and Angel was a bit much!) While I can see the appeal of a quick roll in the sheets for these two, its hard to imagine that two people from such hugely divergent backgrounds could really be meant to be in such a way (unless perhaps Elena has a past life were as yet unaware of, or somesuch). 'One wonders whether Elena is perhaps a right place, right time personRaphael is in a situation where a sense of humanity is suddenly demanded of him, and as such perhaps he sees falling in love with a mortal as appropriate recourse.

While Singh does a nice job of fleshing out the minor characters, giving them personalities strong enough that Id welcome their appearance in future books, the Manhattan setting is a little weaker, and I have to admit that the setting feels a little urban-generic. This is particularly problematic at the beginning of the novel, as it takes a while to become anchored in the narrative (with all the flashbacks and quick references to other characters and past situations I had to check that I was indeed reading the first in the series and not the second). Singhs prose could also do with a polish, as well the same issues I highlighted about the Psy-Changeling series crop up again: eyes flash, stomachs roil and wrench, lips are constantly bitten and touched and, er, hands fist (and I really wish that they wouldnt!). Few sentences are longer than a few words, and. it. all. feels. a. little. staccato.

While all of the above sounds critical, however, dont be mistaken in thinking that I didnt enjoy this. Singh is a competent story teller, and creates a rich and nuanced world with female characters who invite empathy and cheering from the sidelines. Even when the major plotline is backgrounded, she still keeps things zipping along, and her dialogue is fun and zippy. Angels Blood is a snappy read, and gets the Guild Hunter series off to a strong start. Ill be sure to read the next in the series (and yes, its in the pile by my bed, so I promise that I shall).

Rating: star Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singhstar Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singhstar Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singhblankstar Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singhblankstar Review: Angels Blood by Nalini Singh (good)

With thanks to Gollancz Australia for the review copy.

Purchase Angels Blood from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

See our review of Slave to Sensation, Psy-Changeling #1

See our review of'Visions of Heat, Psy-Changeling # 2

See our review of'Caressed by Ice, Psy-Changeling #3

Other books by Nalini Singh:

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