ARC REVIEW: Archangel's Kiss

Nalini Singh
Archangel’s Kiss (Guild Hunter #2)
Berkley
ISBN-10: 0425233367
ISBN-13: 978-0425233368
Paranormal romance
February 2, 2010

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed—an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn—but her fragile body needs time to heal before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, is used to being in control—even when it comes to the woman he considers his own. But Elena has never done well with authority…

They’ve barely begun to understand each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing—and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena…

*based on copy provided by author.

Let it be known far and wide – I be loving me some Singh. Don’t you just love it when you can say an author’s name and there’s that connection with other readers that this author’s work is so universally liked and loved, that you just need their last name to identify with. Going to get the new Singh, etc. When a Singh release hits the shelves, I’m there.

Let it also be known that this is probably the first Singh that I had a couple of serious issues with. That being said, it’s amazing how the book rebounds and manages to change the perspective of that situation. I’ll explain as we go on.

Angels’ Blood was one of my favorite paranormal romances of 2009. It felt fresh, exciting and had a great premise for angels. I’m relieved to say there’s no Christian mythology here, and I say relieved because I feel that angle is a little overused at this point. Singh has taken the idea of angels and morphed them truly into their own culture, equipped with dangerous politics and maneuverings. That theme more than anything prevails in Archangel’s Kiss, that and Elena’s new status as an angel herself. The book opens a year from the end of book one, and she’s been in a coma. Readers haven’t lost anything time-wise as a result, and we get to see Elena’s awakening to her new life. In a sense, it’s like getting used to her as a character all over again. In book one, Elena felt invincible despite her obvious lack of strength, compared to Raphael. She depends on Raphael a lot more in the first several chapters and she’s still getting used to feeling so strongly for such a dangerous male.

I had conflicting feelings on these chapters. Given her newly made state, it’s completely understandable that Elena is weaker. She needs to get her strength back, figure out how to handle a heavy set of wings on her shoulders and she is still gauging how Raphael feels about her, not to mention how dangerous he is to her physical well being let alone emotional. At the same time, I missed the other Elena, the one that didn’t need anyone that way, who kicked butt at the drop of a pin and took on any obstacle with immediate self-assurance. And all while being completely believable.

I didn’t feel this initial Elena in Archangel’s Kiss was as believable. There was a point where she kind of reflects on Raphael in this star-struck way that made me a little scared the kick-ass Elena was gone, replaced by a standard, weaker heroine that stands in the hero’s shadow. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for her being this…sentimental. There’s another explanation – what happened to her and her family when she was a young girl, when a psychotic vampire attacked her family. Something about her transition into an angel has affected her memories of that time and they come on with increasing frequency and clarity. It’s times like these that I began to see a believable and touching connection between Raphael and Elena.

Because at times Raphael repelled me. As the book goes on, he becomes more relatable. At first, though, he’s about as relatable as a hook is to an earthworm. Raphael was that hook – relentless, stoic, cold (but so were most angels encountered in the books), and the rest of the world is of course quite low in comparison. Oh, he might have been sexy and caring to Elena a few times in those initial chapters, but it was also common to see him go almost angelic “Quiet” (a kind of madness) on her as well to get across once again how dangerous and alien these angels really are, at the drop of a hat. But he really comes into his own, despite me finding him about as appealing as an atomic bomb the first third of the book. Strange to feel that way after I found him so irresistibly compelling in the first book. Perhaps Singh simply continued that arch with his character. I did after all like that he was so morally ambiguous in book one. It was actually refreshing to see this in a hero. Maybe I’d expected him to be more loving right off the bat in book two without realizing it.

The plot, that of the dangers presented by the archangel Lijuan, wasn’t nearly the plot I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t, to me, that much of a main focus. And it’s a very cool premise. I find I’m enjoying that Singh is mixing angels, vampires and now zombies with this edition. Lijaun’s creepy practices were hinted at in book one and I was very intrigued by what motivated an archangel to create zombies, or reborn as they’re referred to in the book. When the book focused on this aspect, I loved it. I do wish it had taken up a little more of the book, but there was also the fact that Raphael and Elena’s relationship begins to develop more as the book progresses to. So again I’m a little conflicted. I came to really appreciate them as a couple as a result of the beautiful attention that Singh gave them and built upon, but I also wanted more of Lijuan’s bat shit crazies. Love vs. batshit crazies. Tough call in this case, actually.

The one other aspect of the book that became a little too noticeable to me was The Hotness factor. It reigned supreme and I had to force myself to ignore it eventually. Until that time, though, I couldn’t help but notice how much the hotness is touted in just about every single character that is mentioned via a name. No matter how minor, it seemed, if it was a character that Elena came in contact with, they were hot, gorgeous, extremely so and also extremely deadly, lethal and buddy, they knew it and flaunted it. I think this is just meant to be part of the world Singh’s creating, but as I whined about it via Twitter one day, a fellow blogger, AnimeJune, pointed it out perfectly: If all are equally as special…what exactly makes them unique then? Individuality makes characters special. It got to a point that I couldn’t take even Raphael’s lethal, frowny, smoldery posturing seriously. Another minor character would come along, be described as Super Something and all I could think was, Well of course you are…”

As a result, the only supporting character that especially stood out to me was Illium, one of Raphael’s Seven, a group of angels and vampires that are his closes t guards and aids. Illium has a really special something about him, and I don’t mean simply his sexiness. It was his mannerisms, the things he would say, his actions and how he carried them out. He stood out in a Sea of Hotness. It’s clear something special has been planned for him. I hope so, at least. He simply feels like more when most other supporting characters felt cardboard.

Despite dislikes this time, I actually felt the book pulled itself right on through them. While reading, I find I don’t like it if I find myself doubting. Doubting characters I previously loved, doubting the world, doubting anything. But then Singh wove her signature magic and it finally felt as if it was all pulling together for me. While I had to ignore some of the things that had begun to feel annoying, I really loved how Singh brought it all together in the end. And this feeling came long before the end. It was a slow, precarious beginning for me, but in essence, Singh composed yet another brilliant bait and switch for me. Don’t we want to have this conflict while reading? Don’t we want to feel as if the hero and heroine’s path to love is challenged, so as to make their ultimate love more valuable and less easily achieved? Once I realized that this is what Singh had given, I started enjoying the book a lot more.

I could still do without the overkill in the world’s overall Hot Characters or Bust prerequisite, but the truth is that I really liked how the book came together. I came to appreciate Raphael more, now not only as that morally ambiguous epicenter, but as a male who is clearly growing through the unique brand of understanding, patience and love that Elena gives him. She in turn handles her transition with fortitude and grace, finding her footing once more to become the strong heroine I fell in love with in book one. In other words, anything but the occupant of some male’s shadow.

Archangel’s Kiss follows pretty well and strengthens, for the most part, a very good young series. I, of course, look forward to book three.

Rating: Four Scoops

Visit author’s site here.

Series order:

  • Angel’s Pawn (short story ebook)
  • Angel’s Blood
  • Angels’ Judgment (Must Love Hell Hounds anthology)
  • Archangel’s Kiss
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15 comments

  1. Wow, some great insight Kmont. You found things I didn’t even think of.

    I think because of what Elena has gone through, she’s not going to be kick ass in this book and needs to rely on those around her more like Raphael and the hotness crew. I actually liked that turn, because it shows a heroine who has faults and can’t always go around as if nothing will hurt her.

    Where Nalini excels most is with her characters and the bonds they build. I had issues with AB because I felt the action was very surface like, not enough to keep me interested, but because of Raphael and Elena and their constant tugging and pulling, that was what kept me reading.

    As always, your reviews and opinions really open my eyes. Kudos ;)

    • Babs, you make your own good points here – Elena likely wouldn’t have come off as beleivable to me either had she been kick-ass from page one. It’s understandable that she goes through things as she does at first, I suppose it was just a little less workable to me than her other persona. It is good that she shows vulnerability. I suppose of she were only kick-ass she wouldn’t grow either.

      I firmly agree on the characters and the bonds they form. This is definitely a strength of Singh’s.

    • Thanks! :D I highly recommend Singh’s work. Hope you enjoy it should you pick one of hers up.

  2. Thanks KMont. I had the worst crush on Raphael, let’s see how that goes for me in this book. Hmm… Elena wasn’t my super-favorite character as she was in the first book, so maybe my reaction to her will be different. Can’t wait to read it!

    • I was crushing on him too! I really love moral ambiguity in characters, so I was surprised at my reactions to him this time. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Spot on KMont I loved the angle Singh went with this series. Singh is fast becoming one of my favorite authors for PNR/UF genre. My only wish is that the rest of us could drool/read Archangel’s Kiss right now.

    Great review.

    • It’s not long now! What? Next week? Feels like it got here fast after waiting a whole year. :D

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  6. Thanks for the great review, KMont.

    I LOVED Angels’ Blood … thought it was bloody brilliant. I can’t wait to read this one.

  7. Thank you KMont. I’m looking forward to Archangel’s Kiss in part because Elena is more vunerable. It’s not that I want her to be dependent on others…more that I want to see a hint of vunerability. She was very competent and self-assured in AB – I guess I wanted to see the odd hint of doubt. It makes her feel more real I guess :)P Am looking forward to reading AK – once it arrives at the library :)

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