Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've been a fan of Nalini Singh for several years now. I started reading her with the Silhouette Desires she published, and I liked the way she wrote intense love stories with magnetic heroes and heroines I liked. I waffled for a year or so before deciding to try her book Slave to Sensation. I was just getting into paranormal, and I wasn't sure about the sci-fi elements. Finally, I read it, and I was hooked from that point on.
When I heard that Nalini Singh was venturing into urban fantasy, of course I was going to buy Angels' Blood. She's autobuy for me, and urban fantasy is one of my absolute favorite genres. It also helps that I have this unhealthy love for angels. I'll read most books with an angel theme. Let me tell you, I was so impressed with this book.
Nalini Singh took the theme of angels and made it her own. She captured the essential elements of angelhood (except for the messengers of God part), and gave it some dark and sinister aspects. In Singh's world, Angels are very carnal, sexual beings who involve themselves with the human world, exploit the fact that humans are drawn to, adore them, and sometimes worship them, and have put themselves at the top of the hierarchy. Basically, angels run things. They even Make vampires to be their servants. Of course, absolute power has a way of corrupting. In this case, there is an archangel (the most powerful type of angel) who has gone beserk and is on a killing spree. A scary thought there, an absolutely beautiful, pretty much invicible being on a killing spree. Who's going to stop him? Raphael, the Archangel of New York, has appointed himself to do that. But he needs the help of the best Hunter (vampires) in New York, Elena. And, he decides that he wants to have more than a business relationship with this powerful warrior woman (that's his type, you see).
Raphael was some kind of character. He defines the 'gamma' hero. Not gamma as in the mix of alpha and beta. Gamma in the sense of mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Raphael is utterly ruthless. He knows just how powerful he is, and he's not afraid to use that power to achieve his goals. He is not controlled by human morals. He follows a higher law, the laws set by himself and the Cadre, the group of ten archangels who pretty much rule the world. This guy was one of those heroes that sends a chill down your spine, but also has you gaga over him because he was so gorgeous and just had that masculine appeal that turns your bones into water. He thought about killing Elena several times, because human life has no value for beings that are essentially immortal. I was like, "Okay?" I admit, I like that dark/edgy hero, but I could see how that would be chilling for some readers. But, somehow, Elena found the small aspect of this scary dude that could love. He was drawn to her for the essence of who she was, the fierce hunter, the vulnerable woman beneath the tough facade. She made him more humanlike just by reaching that core of him that yearned to be truly loved and to love someone. Even more than a millenia of having whatever lovers he wanted didn't leave this archangel satisfied. But Elena had to power to give him what he yearned for.
Elena was a very likeable character. She was tough, a survivor, but also very humane. She had a great sense of humor, and didn't let anyone push her around. She takes her job very seriously, and is determined to find this archangel who is leaving a grisly pile of bodies in his wake. She has no idea how to react to Raphael. He's gorgeous, because all angels are. But he is moreso than any others to her. She's attracted to his strength, and the unearthly beauty and functionality of his wings, and the intrinsic deadly appeal of him, with his volcanic sex appeal. At the same time, she's not signing up to be anyone's toy, seeing the way angels manipulate vampires and people like puppets. She's got to get this job done and somehow try to keep Raphael from killing her or seducing her into his bed until he gets bored and casts her aside.
Ms. Singh managed to capture the razor edge of the attraction, unfolding relationship between Elena and Raphael and pair it to a very dark, very noir murder mystery. I was actually surprised at how grisly the murders are in this book. It was well done, and Ms. Singh didn't flinch away from those aspects, so I couldn't either. Uram, the angel that went blood-thirsty, was one scary, despicable creature, all the more so for his unearthly angelic beauty.
I thought this story had such an appeal. I could see very vividly the physical loveliness and allure of the angels and the vampires, and how they could turn deadly in a split second. Ms. Singh captured the appeal of these beings so very well, along with the inherent menace and danger they represented to humans and hunters. In my estimation this story represented the underlying theme of how society is set up to favor the powerful and endowed, whether it's with money, sex-appeal, or beauty. And the rest of us have to struggle to keep our heads above water if we lack any of the above. But, we don't give up. We keep fighting. Elena represents the everyday person who is fighting that battle against the system and the 'big fishes'. I admired Elena for having the guts to immerse herself in this world, knowing that her hunter-born strength only gave her a slight edge over the average human.
Because this is the start of an urban fantasy series, Ms. Singh is somewhat stingy with some details. She tantalized me with the romance elements, giving me enough to be somewhat satiated, but knowing there was more to be told about Raphael and Elena's relationship. I wanted to know more and see more of this world she created, and all the fascinating characters she has introduced. I am already invested in this series, because I crave more of this world of alluring and lethal creatures. This was a book that grabbed me and did not let go.
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