Angel’s Blood: I’ll try anything once

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book reviews Nalini Singh Guild Hunter 1. Angel's BloodAngel’s Blood by Nalini Singh

I have to admit that I don’t normally seek out these types of books — not so much the paranormal romance genre, but the erotica aspect. Still, I’ll try anything once and after begin lent Angels’ Blood by a friend, I settled down for my first taste of what I knew would be a somewhat Mills+Boon-esque novel, at least with regard to the relationship between the protagonists. From the first page I knew that I was in for a heroine who would fail the Mary Sue litmus test: if the name Elena Deveraux wasn’t enough of a giveaway, we’re told straight away that she has “pale, almost white hair” and had “inherited dark gold skin from her Moroccan grandmother.” This is a somewhat indiscreet look for a covert bounty hunter, but I was committed to seeing it through to the end.

So Elena is a vampire hunter, part of a guild of hunters that specialize in the retrieval of runaway vampires who have fled their angel masters. The urban-fantasy setting is a world in which these great winged beings rule over vast portions of the earth’s continents, living in skyscrapers and turning the occasional human into a vampire for reasons that the human population has never quite been able to figure out (they assume it’s for the sake of having immortal servants). Elena is the best hunter in the guild thanks to her innate ability to sense a vampire’s presence.

It is because of this gift that Elena is hired by the archangel Raphael for a special task: to help track down a renegade angel called Uram, who is becoming dangerously unstable and the suspected culprit behind a growing number of dead bodies. Through Elena is immediately attracted to Raphael (of course, he’s tall, dark, handsome, rich and has two wings growing out of his shoulder blades), she’s intimidated to the point of fear when it comes to how much power he wields. Raphael is an arrogant, aggressive alpha-male, who claims (and believes) everything belongs to him and that he can do whatever he wants. Feisty Elena assures him that he has no chance with her, but of course, it’s only a matter of time before she wilts, and their relationship is a slow-burning build up toward a romp in the bedroom.

The story is divided into three main strands: the “romance” (such as it is) between Raphael and Elena, the attempts to track down and deal with the blood-crazed angel, and the exploration of the world Singh has created for her characters. The last aspect is lightly sketched, but what we do see is fascinating. In this world, angels rule from skyscrapers, living in apartments specially designed to accommodate their wings, collecting vast armies of vampire servants for their own reasons.

Elena is tough, abrasive, efficient, no-nonsense and good at pretty much everything she does, though Singh thankfully undercuts these attributes with a genuine love and concern for her friends, and a tragic backstory that we only get brief glimpses of (I assume we’ll get more concerning Elena’s family life in the sequels). Raphael, on the other hand, is the sort of male protagonist that you’d expect in a book like this: taunting the female with her powerlessness whilst dazzling her with his looks, charm and wealth. And of course, described in great detail in regards to his physicality. I have to admit, this kind of thing really doesn’t appeal to me.

Lastly, the plot itself is fairly straightforward, which involves tracking down a highly dangerous angel who leaves a rather gory trail of bodies behind him. It’s interesting enough, but really the entire plot is designed to push Elena and Raphael closer together. There’s an interesting backup cast of characters, both human and supernatural, and plenty of fodder for future stories set in this world.

As I said earlier, this was a difficult book for me to review simply because I’ve never read anything like it before. Judging from the other reviews, more experienced readers in this genre seem to enjoy it, but if you’re a newcomer to this sort of thing, then you could do worse than starting with Angels’ Blood.

Guild Hunter — (2009- ) Publisher: Nalini Singh introduces readers to a world of beauty and bloodlust, where angels hold sway over vampires. Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux is hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael. But this time, it’s not a wayward vamp she has to track. It’s an archangel gone bad. The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other — and pull her to the razor’s edge of passion. Even if the hunt doesn’t destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just may. For when archangels play, mortals break.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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