FIRST EVER BLOG GIVEAWAY: Read on for a chance to win a free copy of Angel’s Blood. The giveaway is open to readers overseas and ends midnight on Thursday, March 19 AEDT.
You would think a book written by a New Zealand author would manage to get to our shores by the release date. People, it took me almost a week to find an Australian bookseller that had Angel’s Blood in stock. Lucky for me, Jill from Romance Direct heard me whingeing and told me she had some on hand. They arrived packed in bubblewrap, in pristine condition, before 10am the next day. My first online book buy, believe it or not.
Angels’ Blood was one of my most anticipated books this year. Not only am I a fan of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, I’m a fan of angel mythologies and I wanted to see how this book stacks up against Meljean Brook’s Demon Angel. The premise of the story and the mythology behind the creatures in the novel are different from Brook’s The Guardian series. I think if you found Demon Angel too wordy and slow paced, you’ll probably find Angels’ Blood just right.
Angels’ Blood is set in a world where angels and vampires openly co-exist with humans. Vampires are humans who have been granted an almost immortal existence in exchange for a hundred years of slavery to an angel. Elena Deveraux is a Guild Hunter—she tracks down vampires who have broken their contracts and returns them to their angel masters. In effect, she’s a bounty hunter. Elena is hunter-born–she has an innate ability to sense vampires through their distinctive scent–which makes her one of the best hunters in the field. But when she’s summoned by the archangel Raphael to help track down another archangel, she knows she’s in above her head. Not only will hunting an archangel test her skills, working in close proximity to Raphael will test her will. Either way, it’s her life at stake, because these angels? They don’t play by the rules, and they play to win at any cost.
Elena and Raphael
The strongest parts of the novel reflect what Singh does best—putting two conflicting characters together and exploring how their differences complement rather than destroy the other. The sexual tension in the story is fantastic, and Singh uses the physical characteristics of angels (and vampires) to good effect.
Having said that, I’m not sure I can be entirely objective when it comes to Singh’s work. There are some parts I loved that, if I look at them closely, I have to admit don’t quite make sense. For example, the way Raphael starts to see Elena as someone unique and valuable is thrilling to read, but I’m not sure how it came about.
Sucking in a breath, she said, “Sex isn’t new to you”…
“No. But you are.”
“Never had a hunter before?” She grinned, nibbling on his lower lip.
But he didn’t smile. “I’ve never had Elena before.” The words were husky, his eyes so intent she felt owned.
Draping her arms around his neck, she leaned back so she could look into his face. “And I’ve never had Raphael.”
At that moment, it felt as if something changed in the air, in her soul.
I think the story hints at it, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough for other readers. Me, I loved the scenes enough that I was willing to overlook the inconsistencies.
The build-up of the romance is great—lots of sexual tension and emotional conflict—and the pay-off at the end is okay. But this story isn’t finished, and according to this interview of Singh over at Lurv à la Mode, the next book in the series will continue Elena and Raphael’s story arc. Which is a relief because when I finished Angels’ Blood, I was left dissatisfied with how little I still knew about Elena’s past.
The plot twist at the end was … unexpected, but I have a suspicion that’s just me. If you know a bit about ancient mythologies, you might have found it easier to pick up the hints in the story.
Urban fantasy meets romance
Angels’ Blood starts off with a very urban fantasy vibe, but once Elena and Raphael meet, the romance takes centre stage. The external plot, while interesting, loses some momentum. Then again, if you’re reading the book for the romance, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story is quite dark, with some gruesome descriptions of the bad guy’s murder victims. I imagined every scene in dark or grey light, even the scenes between Elena and Raphael.
For me, what makes paranormal books unique isn’t so much the overall world building—because, let’s face it, most borrow heavily from existing mythologies—but the details within the world. Angels’ Blood incorporates these details and weaves them into the actual romance. For example, Raphael produces angel dust as a physical response of his desire for Elena. And Singh imbues the simple act of touching Raphael’s wings with so much emotion and angst. I particularly loved the scenes between Elena and Dmitri, one of Raphael’s most loyal vampires. Elena’s past has made her particularly susceptible to the seductive scent of vampires, so their scenes are always filled with tension.
That said, the world building is a little sparse. The romance dominates most of the book, and there’s really no place to squeeze in the amount of information required to get a proper sense of what kind of alternative world Elena and Raphel live in. While this makes the romance stronger, I struggled to make sense of some of the sociopolitical issues in the story. I still don’t quite understand how society works in this world, and whether angels are celestial beings or if they’re just considered a stronger species with no spiritual significance. I have no idea where angels come from or what their purpose is. Hopefully, these questions will be answered in the next book.
How does Angel’s Blood compare to Slave to Sensation?
Unlike Slave to Sensation, I didn’t immediately love Angels’ Blood. A few pages in and I struggled to be more than passably curious about the story. I put it down a couple of times, but somewhere around chapter 3, as she’s done in every other book, Singh sucked me into the story and I finished it wanting more, more, more!
My main problem with the beginning of the novel is that it focuses too narrowly on Elena’s point of view. The narrative is so close to Elena that it feels like it should’ve been written in the first person. I have nothing against first person—I love Ann Aguirre’s Jax series, for example—but this isn’t a book written in the first person, and the opening doesn’t gel for me the way I would’ve liked. We’re in Elena’s head and she’s off doing something Very Important and, well, I just don’t care all that much. It’s not until chapter 2 that the novel picks up, mainly because it looks like Elena’s in for a bit of a dressing down.
The romance in Angels’ Blood isn’t as tightly linked to the external plot as it is in Slave to Sensation, and I’d argue that the external plotting is better than in any of the Psy-Changeling books. The bad guy’s actions are less predictable, and even the emotional climax is more restrained, so Singh keeps us in suspense right up to the end of the book. This doesn’t mean the romance in Angels’ Blood is shabby—Elena and Raphael can give Sacha and Lucas a run for their money—but it does give the series opener a different flavour. Elena and Raphael are more extreme than the Psy-Changeling couples, so the power dynamics are also different. We don’t lose the brooding hero, however, nor the secondary characters flitting through the novel and calling out for stories of their own (without any overt sequel baiting).
Outside of the romance, the setup for the series has simlarities with the Psy-Changeling books. Raphael is surrounded by very strong guards, some of whom feature prominently. The archangels effectively form a council, which begins to destabilise in the novel. The balance between humans, angels and vampires is threatened by escalating events. And by the end of the book, some key assumptions about their world shift dramatically. All in all, it’s a recipe for a series arc that can be sustained over plenty of books.
Yay or nay?
It may have taken me a few pages to acclimatise to the different narrative feel of this new series, but Angels’ Blood has all the essential ingredients I love about Singh’s novels—and indeed most good paranormal romance series: a brooding hero, a vulnerable but far from fragile heroine, an impossible love, cross-cultural issues, a strong adversary, and the backdrop of a world poised on the brink of change. But don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up because the next book in the series, Angel’s Kiss, will be a continuation of Elena and Raphael’s story.
ANGELS’ BLOOD GIVEAWAY
There’s a glut of paranormal romance books out there, and we want your help in sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Give us your recommendations in the comments and tell us what you love about that book, author or series.The best answer (as decided by Wandergurl, Decadence and me) will win a copy of Angel’s Blood.
Some rules: You must post your recommendation in the comments, and you must give a reason why you think we should try it. Multiple entries are fine, but please don’t flood the thread. By entering, you give us permission to quote your entry in future blog posts and articles. Overseas readers are welcome to join in.The giveaway ends midnight on Thursday, March 19 AEDT and will be announced on Saturday in the Book Bizzo. The winner will have a week to send me their delivery address before the prize is forfeit.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Galaxy | Intrigue | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Romantic Reflections | Siren | More (no online catalogue) Psst … where are these stores?
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Dymocks | Fictionwise | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Borders