Saturday, 29 January 2011

CBR3 Book 7: "Archangel's Consort" by Nalini Singh

Publisher: Berkley
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Date begun: January 28th, 2011
Date finished: January 29th, 2011

First of all, there are almost certainly what some people would call spoilers for the first two books in the Guild Hunter series in this review, so don't read it if you're sensitive about that sort of thing and haven't read either of the two first ones already. Secondly, for the slow kids at the back - this is the THIRD book in a series, and it wouldn't make much sense to someone who hasn't read the other two - so if you're curious, go start with Angels' Blood, it's dead good, I promise.

There are natural disasters occurring all over the world - earth quakes, flash floods, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, monsoons, freak cold spells, you name it. There are also incidents of vampires breaking free of the control of their angel masters and going on murderous rampages, sometimes even teaming up in large groups. Angels and Guild organized vampire hunters have their hands full trying to stop the murderous vamps and contain the damages, while trying to prevent further bloodshed and carnage. All of these things are portents that one of the most powerful supernatural beings in the world is waking from its millennia-long slumber.

Elena Deveraux, Guild Hunter turned angel, is returning to New York for the first time since her remarkable transformation. She and Raphael (Archangel of New York and her lover) are aware that despite the many other things going on, there will be a media frenzy, as Elena is the only created angel in history. Elena worries most of all about the reaction of her father, who coldly threw her out of his home when he found out she was a Hunter. In addition, she's plagued by the recurring nightmares of her two older sisters' brutal murder and her mother's subsequent suicide. Only her growing feelings and increasingly stronger bond with Raphael keeps her from breaking down.

Elena is called to the prestigious boarding school upstate where her two younger half-sisters attend. One of the out of control vampires has broken in and killed two girls, one of them the best friend of Elena's sister Evelyn. Shortly after, Elena's summoned to her father's home and discovers that her father's callous treatment of her years earlier was massively hypocritical, as vampire hunting clearly runs in the Deveraux bloodline, and unlike Elena, her half-sisters have a mother around to stand up for them and protect them.

Several of the Archangels around the world are behaving in erratic and unexpected ways, influenced by the awakening of the sleeping Ancient. Raphael starts having visions which suggest that the Ancient is his own mother, the oldest known Archangel, who was completely insane when she went into her hibernation, but who also left Raphael with every bone in his body and wings broken on a field in the middle of nowhere the last time he tried to stop her from causing massive destruction. The damages she's causing unconsciously when still rousing suggests that her power still vastly surpasses that on any other living Archangel, and if she's still insane when she fully wakes up, Raphael may have no other choice but to try to kill her again, to prevent her from destroying the world...

Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series is very enjoyable, and the growing closeness and bond between Elena and Raphael makes the core romance of the series interesting rather than sappy. Because they are both strong personalities, not used to compromising, they rarely agree even though they love each other passionately. Raphael is overprotective of his fragile, newly immortal consort, and Elena is pissed off that he won't let her go anywhere without a bodyguard. The reaction of her chosen family in the Guild to her miraculous change is nice, and Singh has created a very colourful (literally - I don't think I've come across anyone in this world whose not at least bi-racial, with a wide range of skin, hair and eye colours) cast of supporting characters, both in the Guild and among Raphael's most trusted advisers, a mix of angels and very strong vampires.

There is a build-up of tension all throughout the story, with not just one, but two necessary confrontations needing to be resolved towards the end. I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied at the conclusion Singh gave this book, she leaves a few too many plot strands dangling in thin air for my taste, and there are some things that just don't get a satisfactory explanation. There are also seeds planted for future stories, with Raphael suggesting that Elena's mother was more than just a normal human woman, and as the book was a quick and enjoyable read, I will absolutely be continuing with the series.

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