Sunday 23 September 2012

CBR4 Book 82: "Archangel's Storm" by Nalini Singh

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Date begun: September 7th, 2012
Date finished: September 10th, 2012

This book is the fifth in a series, and will most likely contain spoilers for previous books the Guild Hunter series. So avoid if you dislike that sort of thing. Also, this book refers back to a lot of characters and events in the previous four books, so it's probably not the best one to start with. The first one in the series is Angel's Blood.

Jason is one of the archangel Raphael's Seven, the angels and vampires who work for him and that he trusts implicitly with his business and security. Jason is his spymaster, and can literally fade into the shadows and move unnoticed in the places he visits, should he wish to do so. Jason also has a type of psychic power where he can hear whispers on the wind. He's quiet, deadly, and extremely aloof, unable to fully engage with the world around him, due to some seriously horrific experiences as a child. A lot of Nalini Singh's characters have troubled pasts, Jason's is worse than most.

At the wedding of another member of the Seven, hears a whisper on the wind alerting him that the archangel of India, Neha (who has the power over snakes and poisons), has lost her consort Eris, and it appears to be murder. Neha hates Raphael after her murderous daughter was caught breaking the laws of angelkind and executed - but she'd love to steal Jason away to her court, so when Raphael offers to send his spymaster to India to investigate the murder, Neha accepts. She wants Jason to swear a blood oath, ensuring he can't reveal any secrets of her household without forswearing herself. Being bound to Raphael, Jason refuses at first, but a compromise is made. Jason is to swear to princess Mahiya, Neha's niece, thus making it safe for him to explore Neha's palaces and grounds to find the killer, without betraying any of her business to Raphael.

Mahiya seems like a timid and weak angel, but Jason soon discovers that she has a quiet strength that has helped her endure centuries of her aunt's displeasure. The daughter of Neha's consort Eris and her twin sister Nivriti, Mahiya is a constant reminder to Neha of the betrayal of her most loved ones, and she's put the princess through all manner of torture, both physical and emotional. Mahiya has endured, silently, plotting quietly and planning to get away. She's afraid that the blood bond with the deadly spymaster will jeopardise her plans, but discovers that she may instead have found an ally. As the two work together to discover the identity of the murderer, who is not content to stop at one victim, Mahiya and Jason are drawn towards each other. But Jason has had all capacity for tender emotion burned out of him by the horrors in his past - is there any possibility of a shared future for them? And will Neha ever let Mahiya leave her court?

While I much preferred this book to the previous one, Archangel's Blade, I wish that Singh had focused entirely on Jason and Mahiya's story, rather than interrupting the main plot every so often with subplots having to do with Raphael or Dimitri (hero of the previous novel) and his preparations for turning his wife into a vampire. It added absolutely nothing to the story, instead it kept distracting me from the flow of the main plot, and I don't entirely understand why, if this was vital to the plot of the next book, the readers couldn't be let in on it in flashback then. Singh does really good flashbacks. From the prologue of the book, continued in little glimpses throughout, revealing a little bit more every time, we are shown why Jason has become the man he is, until he finally reveals it in the last third of the book. Both he and Mahiya have experienced terrible things, which makes it even more remarkable that Mahiya has retained hope and a stubborn insistence on forgiveness and softness, refusing to give in to hate and bitterness.

I liked the couple a lot, and their romance was slow to build. The murder mystery, however, I figured out a little bit too soon for my liking. I like when mysteries actually take a bit of figuring out, because if I can solve them so easily, why would it take the characters so much longer? If Jason's as capable and brilliant as he's said to be, it shouldn't have taken him so long to come to the same conclusion I did.

While I really liked the first two books in the series, I've had complaints with the last three, and if it wasn't for the excellent world building, and the fact that I really did enjoy this one quite a lot, I would be considering stopping. At this rate, I will give Singh one more chance to win her way back into my good graces (after all, I'm still reading Charlaine Harris), and hope that the next one is back to the form of the early ones.

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