The Fallen: Raziel by Kristina Douglas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book captivated me. It started out kind of strange, with the shifting 1st person POVs, and the fact that the heroine gets hit by a bus at the beginning of the story (not a spoiler, trust me). But, I have to say, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s the honest truth that I would read the phone book if Anne Stuart wrote it. When I heard she had written a fallen angel paranormal romance (under a pseudonym), I was there. I mean, she’s the Queen of Bad Boy Heroes. She didn’t disappoint me with Raziel, the book or the character!
Anne Stuart takes the legends of fallen angels and spins her own version. I can’t say I liked all the theological doctrine behind it. I really dislike the whole “God’s on vacation” premise that seems to be very popular in secular supernatural fiction based on Angels and Judeo-Christian legends. In this case, God pretty much washed his hands of the humans, and left them under the control of his lead angel, Uriel. Uriel is a cold, unforgiving, disdainful regent, who thinks of the humans as a mistake. He dislikes the Fallen about the same, if not more. He has hatched plans to make their eternal lives miserable, and has plans to end them all. Uriel doesn’t show up in this story, but his machinations are readily apparent.
Our heroine is a woman who grew up with a puritanical religious mother (a Jew by birth and rearing who becomes a Fundamentalist Christian). She makes Allie believe that she is nothing short of the spawn of the devil, forcing her zealous form of Christianity down Allie’s throat until she chokes on it. As a result, Allie is an atheist who writes Old Testament mysteries that debunk the religion. So it’s pretty hard to believe that she’s dead, and an angel is taking her to her resting place. Especially an angel that is too gorgeous to be believed, with striated black/silver eyes, long tawny hair, and perfect chiseled features. And his wings (rolls eyes in ecstasy). Blue-black and lush! Heavenly! Yeah, Raziel is some kind of gorgeous, and she doesn’t see his wings at first. She doesn’t like him much, and he doesn’t seem to like her either, but then he saves her at the last minute when it turns out she’s supposed to be thrown in the fires of hell. And he almost dies in the process, because the Fallen are exquisitely sensitive to fire. Allie spends the night sleeping next to her sick angel rescuer, hearing the screams of the horrible Nephilim (fallen angels who have become ravening, cannibalistic beasts), all around her, and shell-shocked that this is actually happening.
The next day, they are rescued by a group of men who turn out to be Raziel’s brethren, other Fallen angels who dwell in a compound called Sheol with their human wives. Allie doesn’t want to be stuck in this weird place with its patriarchal rules, and she doesn’t want to be close to Raziel, who inspires feelings in her that make her vulnerable, and Allie doesn’t like being vulnerable. However, she is soon to discover that she is his bonded mate, and destiny is not something she can laugh at.
I started this story not knowing at all what to expect. This is one of those books you have to read with an open mind. It’s different. The writing style is a lot more conversational, and less action and focus on the sexual attraction between the couple, that is typical in most paranormal romance (that’s there, but it is on slow simmer until it boils over).
I found myself utterly seduced by this story. I really liked how Ms. Douglas (Stuart) uses the angel theme in this book. It was kind of odd at first, the idea that the angels have to drink blood, how they take human wives who die before they do (although they live longer lives), and cannot have children. How they are essentially trapped in their own compound, other than when Uriel calls them to escort certain humans to their afterlife destination. This story made me care about the angels, feel bad for the Fallen. That they fell because of their love and attraction to humans and humanity, their tendency to question Uriel’s orders. Of course, I had to put my own beliefs about angels and God out of the picture when I read this, because they are different from the concepts in this novel. But, for a fiction world, it was very interesting.
As far as supernatural themes, angels are in my top three (with faerie and werewolves). I love when a book does angels really well--bringing a new dimension to the concept, and giving me a novel way to look at them. I loved how Ms. Douglas showed the angels with their human wives, how their bond was very powerful and beautiful, but there is a poignancy because being the wife of an angel doesn’t grant immortality. It may prolong one’s life, and leave it relatively free of illness, but eventually they die, always childless, and the angels keep living, mourning all their wives over the millennia.
Allie was pretty annoying, quite frankly. She was a bit too much the Sex and the City-type heroine for me at first glance. Shallow, hard, unsympathetic. She seemed to be the type of heroine to make her life more difficult than necessary. She didn’t seem to get that she was dead, and that she was surrounded by real angels, and she couldn’t go back to her life. I understand that this was a lot to take in, but her defiant determination to believe in nothing supernatural got kind of old, especially with the evidence right in front of her. But then she actually became likable as the story progressed. I saw that she was wearing armor. It’s pretty tough growing up with rigid, unloving parents. Her determination not to believe was her way of fighting back at her mother, who loved God more than she loved her daughter. For her to be in a scenario where she was actually dead, surrounded by supposedly mythical creatures probably would be a lot to take in. And I liked that she stepped up when her help was needed, more than once. I admit I liked that she was tough and mouthy. She needed to be, with a mate like Raziel. Honestly, Allie was more of a chick-lit type heroine than I would have liked, but she ended up being a heroine I could root for.
Raziel is yummy with a cherry on top. He’s also ageless, and kind of sad. After all, he had been cursed by God for his sin of disobedience, cursed to never have children, and to be a blood-eater (blood drinker). He is the picture I would have of a fallen angel that is not evil. Sad, lonely, a stranger without a home, exiled from heaven. He put up barriers against Allie at the beginning, having lost his wife in the past, going through that heartache, and determined not to face it again. But, she worked her way through those barriers. And when she does, look out!
Allie and Raziel:
Their relationship starts out contentious, as they really don’t like each other, even though they find each other attractive. They actually wanted to be rid of each other, and were both working to find a way to achieve their mutual goal. However, over the time that Allie stays in close proximity with Raziel, they can no longer ignore their bond, which turned out to be destiny, pushed away by their mutual fears of intimacy.
I liked that this was a paranormal romance where there wasn’t the instant ‘mine’ moment. Now don’t me wrong. I love the whole mine/fated mate concept. Even though it wasn’t instant, boy did we get that ‘mine’ aspects in spades. Even the growly jealous expressions (loved those). Possessive hero lovers, fear not. All I’m saying!
The relationship development between Raziel and Allie felt authentic. Raziel and Allie aren’t warm and fuzzy characters, so they grow on you as they grow on each other. I could see why each didn’t want to be in love, because love hurts, especially when ultimate loss and disappointment (on Raziel’s part) is almost guaranteed, and feeling that you will never be good enough (on Allie’s part—her mother didn’t love her, why should anyone else)?
I liked the tension between Raziel and Allie. I think this showed up very well considering that it was first person. With 1st person POV, it is harder to see both sides of the relationship, which is why I was glad that we got shifting POVs. And the intimate point of view just worked for this story, in my opinion. Normally I don’t like 1st person love scenes, but these love scenes were very good--heightening the intimate aspects, actually.
I really loved the way Raziel took Allie flying, how he wrapped her in his wings during intimacy (which is something that the angels do with their mates). Oh those wings were so gorgeous and beautiful. I can just imagine flying around in an angel’s arms. Not likely to happen, but at least I can read about it.
This book gave me the post-reading glow! I can see how it wouldn’t work for others, and there were things that I felt were less successful than I’ve read in other paranormals. But there is a distinct, irresistible feel this book. In cooking, they use the term ‘mouth feel’. I look at books similarly. Some books just have good ‘book feel’. They taste good during the read, and they cause this power release of happy reading endorphins, and this is one of them. If I had time, I’d probably reread it right away to get more happy juice. But my tbr pile calls. I’m glad that the next book comes out soon!
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