Angel’s Blood (Guild Hunter #1)
March 3, 2009
I know a lot of us have experienced the All-Nighter, that book that grabbed you by the throat, shook you till you begged for mercy and then willingly agreed to be it’s sole provider of undivided attention in the marooned hours between dusk and dawn…I very much felt that this book and I became intimate around 2:00 a.m. when I realized I didn’t care what in the world I had to do the next day, I simply had to turn the page, then again and again. Fortunately it was Christmas vacation; I didn’t have pressing obligations the next day. It felt very much like Christmas had come early and I’d been the best little reader on Santa’s list.
Elena Deveraux hunts vampires for the Guild, reigning in those that flaunt the will of their angelic creators. When her singularly impressive skills bring her to the attention of a dangerous angel, one of the Cadre of Ten, Elena isn’t thrilled. Raphael, the Archangel of New York is as frightening as his public image conveys, yet the powerful male needs one insignificant little hunter’s help. This time, vampires aren’t the catch of the day though. It’s another archangel that’s hell bent on savaging the New York City area and those he once considered close to him. Elena must hone her hunter skills as never before, and not only aid in catching a killer, but protect herself from the relentless focus and seduction of Raphael. Danger is in every shadow, every direction she turns, whether it’s the killer, or the beautiful angel she’s not completely sure she can resist.
While I was reading and after I finished, I got online and started talking about how good this book was in small doses. This is the big tamale. Holy hell this is one damn fine paranormal romance – Nalini Singh has done it again! As I read it I couldn’t believe the reaction I had to this book. Just unbelievably good, one of the best I’d ever read. And I still felt that way having finished it back before Christmas. This is guaranteed to be, I’m pretty sure, on a lot of top 10 lists for 2009. It will definitely be in my Top 5. I’m that sure, and this is only January.
It’s been a while since I last wanted to single out a heroine as a favorite, but Elena is definitely the first to go on my 2009 list race for Best Heroine. The book is in 3rd person, but Elena is very much the driving force in Angel’s Blood. She’s at the helm, and this was the best choice. She is the perfect counter force to the indomitable alpha, Raphael. It’s clear that the two synch right off the bat. That’s not to say that it’s an easy match. No, there’s plenty of conflict to heat up their relationship and a lot of it comes from Raphael. Elena’s no match for him physically of course in terms of strength, but despite her natural fear of him, she drives through and handles their scenarios with a resolute and calm defiance that knocks the ancient angel on his rear more than once. I thought that Elena’s fears made her easier to relate to. I think it would’ve been easier to make her a smart-mouthed, kick-butt woman that matched Raphael in every way possible. She doesn’t, yet she manages to give as good as she gets through sheer strength of will and character. My favorite part of Elena was her refusal to let Raphael treat her as a mortal toy.
Raphael is one of those anti-heroes, the one you know is the hero from the back blurb, yet aren’t really sure you should root for. The bad boy. The alpha, almost to the extreme, yet just when you are sure you shouldn’t root for him, he turns the tables, knocks you for a loop and leaves you panting. And I loved how he kept me on my reading toes. And panting.
Until Elena, his place in the world was sure. He’s the archangel of New York for gosh sakes, not some mere mortal, too insignificant to acknowledge. His orders are to be carried out, never questioned. No one challenges his authority, until one golden-skinned, pale-haired beauty. The attraction is almost instant, the allure too challenging. Suddenly the hunter has new prey, but Elena isn’t making his new game easy. His carefully lined-up world, centuries in the making, is somewhat falling apart. Raphael is literally falling apart. And we have a little mortal to thank for it.
There’s a point in the book where Elena has to remind herself that Raphael isn’t human. I found that I had to keep doing the same. It’s not so much to excuse some of the more rough and callous things that Raphael says or does, it’s to enable Elena to figure out how to come out somewhat ahead in a race with more than one deadly angel, the killer and Raphael, for even the insurmountable Raphael can fall. Know thy enemy, and in some ways he is her enemy. There does come a point though where I could see how different Raphael was, how Elena was changing him. I think these changes are on one hand good, on the other maybe not. There’s going to be some carryover into the next book and we’ll have to wait to see just how much Elena’s presence in his life has really changed him.
What I liked about their relationship though was that Elena was able to touch this proud, aloof angel, that she could break through his glacial exterior. There are times it seemed like she never would, or that anything positive had been revoked. It’s an uphill flight all the way with these two, but the passion. Oh.the.passion. I can’t express how sizzling their attraction was. Anytime a scene ended between them I mentally hollered, “No!” and was more than pleased to see that it was never long before the plot brought them back together again. When things slowly ignite between them, then flare into something unstoppable, it’s one of the most well worth it waits. Two words: angel dust. Getcha some. Singh is great at accumulating the anticipation for her sexual encounters, like a churning storm, and the one leading up to Elena and Raphael’s is no exception. No doubt about it, these two put off the heat.
The main conflict, that of the angel Uram, who slips into a rare madness, rang somewhat familiar to Singh’s Psy/Changeling series villains. Like the cold Psy that go rogue in her original series, an angel can succumb to a little-known madness that morphs them into ravenous killers. There was a brief twinge of regret that I’d seen a similarity, because I usually like the villains to be completely unique too. However, Uram does change and we learn more and more about him and his madness as the book goes on. Too, the madness does carry some traits that were unique enough. There’s also the fact that Raphael and Elena dominate, in a good way, this book so much that I very soon didn’t really care who the villain was. They could have been going after a rabid Easter Bunny in clown getup and I wouldn’t have blinked, just moved onto the next Elena/Raphael showdown.
The worldbuilding details are pure Singh: unique and intriguing enough to need to know more, yet doled out in just the right amount to keep it from being too much. And there never was any doubt on that score, but it’s always impressive to me how well Singh does this. That being said, I liked that we do get plenty of info about angels, how vampires came about and why people like Elena are necessary. There are points in the story too where we’re learning as the angels do, another device that I love if done well. It can seem too easy sometimes to have too many great unknowns, but it was a sort of balance when you have these powerful angels that aren’t exactly all knowing. They have their vulnerabilities too, and in the end I think that will make these beings, this completely different species, easier for readers to relate to. I felt that this was smart because the angels are very dangerous, very inhumane at times and those aren’t even the killer.
This is probably one of the more unique scenarios I’ve seen for vampires in a while. They’re not the top dogs necessarily, although you’ll see some powerful ones. The whole situation surrounding them isn’t entirely revealed in this book, but very likely will continue into the next. What we do see though is interesting and very important. Not as much as the angels of course, but at least they’re given some top billing when it came to worldbuilding details. They’re not just there for decoration, and as Singh always wraps things up and leaves no loose threads, I was pleased with how she ties angels and vampires together. There was one vampire in particular; Raphael’s second in command, Dmitri, who I do look forward to more from. He doesn’t particularly like Elena and has good reason, and he adds great conflict to the plot.
We’re set in what seems to be a parallel earth/alternate reality and pretty much stay in the New York City area. Lower Manhattan is home to Archangel Tower, the headquarters for Raphael and the area angels. It’s also the business home of the vampires. We get to “see” that the countries around the world are the same, except for one small detail. Angels rule. Literally. So in some ways, human politicians and dignitaries are mere puppets. In Raphael’s case, they’re more, but there is no doubt in any human’s mind who runs the show. All the archangels are different too, their territories not necessarily separate as far as human affairs go, but definitely separate in terms of angel affairs. This changes in Angel’s Blood and I can’t wait to find out more about the angelic side of politics as the series grows. There’s more than one menace residing within the angelic ranks.
From a very short excerpt of the next book, this seems to be a series with Elena and Raphael as the continuing hero and heroine. Angel’s Blood had plenty of twists and turns to keep me on my toes, right up till the very end. The end does leave one hanging a little bit, but it was a slight cliffhanger for me when compared to how much we do get. Singh definitely ties the important points up for the most part and leaves us just enough to wonder about for book two. I felt reasonably assured that I was leaving Elena and Raphael in a good place. I have a feeling these two will always be in each others faces, challenging each other to a passionate frenzy, never lax about their feelings and passion for one another. If it’s anything like the awesome ride we got in book one, I’ll be more than ready for 2010 and the next Guild Hunter novel, Angel’s Kiss. My one gripe: that the first didn’t get published later in the year so that the wait wouldn’t be such torture. In fact, I was ready for book two the minute I put Angel’s Blood down.
Angel’s Blood releases March 3.
Rating: Five Scoops, absolutely one hundred percent pure excellence.
For more information, visit the author’s site. I’d definitely go there soon as a special novella set in this same world will be made available on February 24th. See site for details.
Also, stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with the author herself, some insight into her thoughts on the Guild Hunter series and her Psy/Changeling world. Enter for a chance to win one of TWO copies of Angel’s Blood! Hope to see you there.