Friday, February 6, 2009

Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh *Advanced Review*

I can say without a doubt that Angels’ Blood, the first book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series will be on most readers’ top 10 lists for 2009, and will give the Urban Fantasy genre a great big jolt of excitement. In the past few years we have seen big changes in both Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. One of the authors who have helped pave the way for such incredible changes is Nalini Singh. She takes chances with her characters and the worlds she creates. With Angels’ Blood, She has taken a specific creature from myth and religion, broken some rules and made it all a bit taboo. For most, angels are still very much uncharted territory. To make an angel a romantic character in some circles is a no-no. The type of angels Nalini has come up with are just like the other mythical creatures we love to read about, such as vampires and werewolves. I wouldn’t necessarily say she has started a trend, but she has certainly put a new spin on the way she tells a story.

Angels’ Blood takes place in present day Manhattan, but in an alternate universe where angels and vampires are well known and accepted but also feared. They may act as if they want be on the same footing as the lowly humans, but in actuality they manipulate those weaker then themselves. It is a hierarchy, and the top dogs are the angels who rule with an iron fist and won’t be ignored. If they are crossed, they will punish without mercy or warning.

Sometimes vampires need to be put in their place because they lash out at their masters. Yes, vampires have masters and those are the angels because they made them. If you want to be one of the undead, you give yourself into a type of servitude, one hundred years of slavery to an angel as payment for being made. When a vampire tries to escape their angel master, a bounty hunter is called in and returns them to their rightful owner. Elena Deveraux is one of these hunters. She is a licensed hunter under the Guild. Elena is very good at what she does, not because she was trained, but because she was born one. Because of her natural born skill, her father disowned her and she was left to fend for herself. Her best friend Sara is the Guild Director for the U.S and a great support for Ellie, as she likes to call Elena. Elena has a pretty good life and loves her work even though she is the black sheep of her family and lives all alone.

Elena has a love/hate relationship when it comes to angels. She is quite fearful as well as in awe of them. Her apartment has a great view of the Archangel Tower where she can watch the angels take flight from the balconies of the tower. And even though they are all around her, she doesn’t come into contact with many of them, that is until one very powerful archangel has a need for her services. She is called by Raphael, the archangel who rules Manhattan. Elena is tough, but that doesn’t stop her from shaking in her boots. There is no way out for her and she must meet Raphael. Offending him would be the worst possible thing she could do. He would kill her without a second thought.

When Elena and Raphael have their first meeting, it is polite and much like business associates discussing a merger. Raphael is jaw dropping beautiful. Elena compares him to a warrior. Raphael thinks of Elena the same way because she too is a warrior in his eyes. Raphael gives Elena some small tests to see if she is worthy. She thinks he is playing with her. Raphael doesn’t like to be argued with and expects his minions to do whatever he wants without question. He doesn’t demand, he orders, and expects to be obeyed.

The reason he needs Elena is because she is the best at what she does. Elena is so good at catching vampires because she can scent them. Raphael doesn’t want her to retrieve a vampire for him, but one of his own. It seems Uram, the archangel who rules over most of Europe and the teacher to the Marquis de Sade is no longer in control. He is consumed by bloodlust and may already be in Manhattan, torturing and draining the blood from innocent humans. He has already killed fifty-two people in one month. He must be stopped and Elena is the only one who can accomplish this. And if she fails, Raphael will kill her.

There is no room for error in this case and Elena is screwed every which way. Raphael is part of the Cadre of Ten, the group of archangels who have thousands of years of experience behind them. They are so powerful and near sadistic; they are barely sane themselves. The Cadre really don’t want Uram destroyed because he is an archangel. Raphael is the one who makes them see reason why Uram must be destroyed. Surprisingly, Raphael doesn’t let Elena hang out to dry and will work with her to find Uram. The reason? Raphael wants Elena. His past lovers have always been warrior woman and since Elena is a warrior, they will become lovers.

Elena tries to keep Raphael at arms length. He uses his powers to persuade Elena to do what he wants. He has no conscience when it comes to her surrender and will use anything, even entering her mind to make her respond to him. Elena lashes out at him, which is a death sentence because you do not tell an archangel no. But Elena does and because of it she walks on a very slim tightrope. And even though Raphael threatens Elena bodily harm, a part of him holds back. He doesn’t want to hurt Elena because he wants her to come to him willingly.

But then Elena goes too far and taunts Raphael. The chase is on. He will have Elena on his terms, and for the moment, finding Uram is pushed to the side. Raphael will do whatever it takes, even if that means punishing those she loves, including Sara and her family, as well as her good friend and hunter, Ransom. In all the years Raphael has walked the Earth, he has never met a woman like Elena, and he is in for a big surprise, because Elena will fight back. And when she does, Raphael is weakened in both heart and body. He has no choice but to claim her as his because his vampire followers and the Cadre want to punish and kill Elena for her insurrections. Time is also running out for they must find Uram before he makes the island of Manhattan a river flowing with the blood and bodies of humans, vampires and angels alike.

Dark, seductive and mind-blowing are only a few words that come to mind when I think of Angels’ Blood. Raphael will be on the lips of many because he is an enigma. He is an anti-hero in its truest form. You really don’t know how he will turn out. From the moment we are introduced to Raphael, he is definitely not what you think a hero should be. He is sinister and very wicked. Because of all these things, you can’t help but fall under his spell. The way he tries to seduce Elena is the same way he tries to seduce the reader. And if you think of it, would any of us refuse a wicked angel like Raphael?

Nalini has excelled with her female characters. Whether it is Elena, Sara or even the archangel Michaela (who was the lover of Uram and one of the Cadre of Ten), these females are strong and won't be controlled. When they have their backs against the wall, they fight with everything thing they have. The reason I enjoyed Angels’ Blood was not just because of the sexual tension and eventual consummation of Elena and Raphael’s relationship, but because of the character of Elena. It is pretty early in the year but Elena may just be my favorite heroine for 2009. She is everything I would want to be and what I am looking for in my female characters. The way she stands up to Raphael is so very dangerous but because of the woman we see her to be, we wouldn’t expect it any other way. When it comes to the heroines in Urban Fantasy, I think of the work kick-ass. Elena is definitely a kick-ass heroine.

The sexual tension is fierce, and that also includes the murder and bloodshed that Elena witnesses. When Elena allows Raphael to have is wicked way with her, that first scene lives up to the buildup. The foreplay between these two is their bantering and how Elena is able to stay out of reach from Raphael and he enjoys the chase. When they finally come together during sex, it is as equals. The sex, and excuse my play on words, is heavenly. Raphael becomes so protective of Elena because she has accomplished something no other mortal woman has done before. She has broken through his defenses and brought him down to her level, which is not a good thing for an archangel because he is now more open to attack from his enemies.

There are also some shocks, and a twist with Elena that you won’t see coming at the end.

Angel’s Blood is a wonderful accomplishment. There are only two small issues I had. One was the setting. Because I live right next to Manhattan and work there, I feel that Nalini was just too vague with her descriptions and the feel of the New York I know. Also, the storyline with Elena and her father is pushed right into the front during a critical moment in the story. It took me out of the story and I felt that was unneeded. The way Elena’s father is introduced and how their relationship was written took me away from the moment. I wonder if Nalini made Elena and her father’s relationship a loving and stable one, how would have that changed the dynamics of what Elena had with Raphael?

With those two small issues, I really can’t find anything else wrong. Angels’ Blood is a stellar read that pushes boundaries and leaves you breathless. I have been going back and forth with the grade I wanted to give Angel’s Blood, and after much thought I really can’t give this book lower than a B+.

When all was said and done, all I could say was, “WOW” and when can I have more? (March, Berkley)

Final Grade: B+


Mishel said...

Really great post KB!

I have a couple of questions:

1. When will this be coming out? It sounds wonderful and I'll definitely be looking for it.

2. About Elena herself? I know I'll find this out eventually, but is she human? Are the bounty hunters themselves mortal?

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Mishel: AB will be out on March 3. Less than a month away!

Elena is human but is special because she is a hunter who can track vampires. Bounty hunters are mortal.

Sayuri said...

I thought you were going to trim the 2000 words? LOLOL

Great review though. Nalini's always beenan auto-buy for me so I needed no encourgement.

KMont said...

Elena is in the running for favorite heroine of 2009 for me as well! Great review, now go enjoy ComicCon!

~ames~ said...

Just great! I can't wait to read this now.

SciFiGuy said...

I haven't read much of Nalini but after your review I think I must certainly add this to my list. Thanks!

Renee said...

Sounds wonderful! I can't wait for the release.

Kati said...

Mm, I loved this book. Raphael as an anti-hero leaves almost all other antiheroes I've ever read in the dust.

Didn't you think that the father/daughter relationship might be foreshadowing? I kept thinking that storyline will be brought up again.

I often feel the way you do when an author (or heck, a movie) uses DC as a setting. Nothing yanks me out of a storyline more than someone hopping the Metro in Georgetown (impossible, there is none), or taking a street that doesn't run that direction somewhere. But, since I don't know NYC that well, the setting didn't phase me at all. Maybe you're just angling for Nalini to come visit you, Kate? Hmmmm???


orannia said...

Thank you much for the review Katie!

I am both looking forward to this book and not...the premise sounds amazing but I have this completely illogical block about kick-a*s heroines - they're like the antithesis of me. I am going to read Angel's Blood though (with an open mind!) as I have faith in Nalini :)

PS Enjoy ComicCon Katie!

Bridget Locke said...

Jealous! *sigh*

I cannot wait to read this! :)

Zara said...

This review has made me so unbelievably excited about receiving my ARC. I was out on Friday and missed the FedEx courier, and I'm just about ready to kick myself. Hopefully I'll have it by Tuesday when they redeliver, because I'm liable to go insane if I have to wait any longer. Oh boy. This one's gonna be good. *silly dopey grin*

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Sayuri: I cut it down by a few hundred words. I seriously could have gone on for another thousand words.

Kmont: The Hulk got way too friendly with me at Con. O_O

Ames: Must read!

Sci Fi Guy: This book is a great start. But you MUST read Nalini's Psy/Changeling series. You will really enjoy those books.

Renee: Yes!

Kati: I am lusting after Raphael. I hope in the next book we see more of Elena's sister and her situations. Elena's father was such a dickhead.

Orannia: Elena may be kick ass but she also has a tender side to her, especially with her friends. And with Raphael... heh heh

Bridget: Only a few more weeks to go.

Zara: I think many have dopey grins upon receiving this book. :D

orannia said...

Katie - thank you!

Tracy said...

I cannot wait to read this!!!

Lisa R said...

Seriously, don't cut out any words in your review. I love to see what someone else thinks about a book or series that I reading next.