Sunday 9 October 2011

CBR3 Book 75: "Archangel's Blade" by Nalini Singh

Publisher: Berkley
Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Date begun: September 12th, 2011
Date finished: September 14th, 2011

This is the fourth novel in the Guild Hunter series, but can actually be read fairly independently from the other three. Still, for a more comprehensive understanding of the backstory of some of the characters, and a richer understanding of the world the story is set in, you may want to check out the three previous books, as well.

Dmitri is a vampire, and has been for nearly a thousand years. He's the archangel Raphael's right hand man, and controls the group of seven who guard and assist him. When the severed head of a newly turned vampire shows up with a mysterious, but distinctive tattoo, Dmitri knows that there is more to the case than just a simple scuffle. He needs help from the Guild of Vampire Hunters to decipher the symbols of the tattoo, however, and is intrigued at who they send to help him.

While a rogue archangel went crazy in New York, Honor St. Nicholas was kidnapped by a bunch of vampires and kept captive for months while they fed on her, tortured her and sexually assaulted her. She nearly died, but was saved by her colleagues in the Hunter's Guild, and has slowly been trying to build herself up again. Still scarred, both physically and mentally, she's not sure she's ready for an active assignment, but as one of the Guild's foremost experts on ancient texts and languages, she is the person Dmitri needs to identify the mysterious tattoo. Before her accident, Honor had a strange obsession with the powerful vampire, trying to find out as much as she could about him. Now she has to work closely with him, while trying to get over her fear of vampires.

Romances where the heroine is getting over a trauma are difficult. It's clear that at some point, the heroine needs to heal and get stronger, better and confident again, or there is no real chance of a Happy Ever After. Yet, hurry that recovery along too fast, and the story becomes unbelievable. Now, I'm not saying that I'm not willing to suspend my disbelief a bit when it comes to romance, far too many stories the couple fall madly and passionately in love and decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together in less time many would take to choose a room mate or select a new home, and because I'm entertained, and the story is well written, I'm willing to take that with a grain of salt. Here, however, quite a lot is made of the horrors that Honor experienced. She really did go through hell. She has trouble trusting anyone, even her closest friends. Yet a couple of meetings with Dmitri, and she's pretty much good as new, if not better than before. The main problem is that the story is set over too short a period of time. Had the story spanned several months, preferably longer, then yes, I might have been convinced that Dmitri could draw Honor out of her traumatized shell, and made her heal and realize that she was still strong and capable and that not all vampires and/or men were untrustworthy. This just went too fast.

There is also a subplot concerning Dmitri's long dead wife and family, and how remembering them is creating difficulties with regards to his attraction for Honor. I think the way Singh resolved this was a bit too "having your cake and eating it too", which felt like a bit of a cop out. I would have liked to see her be braver about the resolution of the romance, which would have made the ending feel stronger and more satisfying. All in all, this was an entertaining book, but clearly the weakest of the four Guild Hunter novels so far. I hope the next one is better.

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