Sunday 20 September 2015

#CBR7 Book 96: "Archangel's Shadows" by Nalini Singh

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is book 7 in an ongoing series, and as such, not the place to start reading. This review will contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, because it's impossible not to mention some of the things that have happened before this book began. The first book in the series is Angels' Blood and I highly recommend it.

After the devestating attacks on New York, archangel Raphael and his consort Elena are trying to re-group, rebuild and calm the population. When a dessicated body is found, it looks like it was killed in a way reminiscent of how Lijuan, the insane archangel who tried to destroy New York, Raphael and his people, would drain her victims completely of life force to gain strength. Releasing the news of the body would only cause panic, so the death needs to be investigated with subtlety and stealth. Ashwini, one of Elena's old Guild Hunter colleagues is recovering from a near-fatal cut she sustained during the battle and is eager and willing to do some investigating. Like all Guild Hunters, Ashwini is a skilled tracker and can handle herself in a fight. She's also gifted and sometimes haunted with the ability to sense the secrets, memories and experiences of those she touches, often suffering terrible nightmares after just brushing against someone by accident. With older immortals, like some of the angels or vampires in the city, she doesn't even need to touch, their mere presence is enough to trigger her visions.

One of the few people who doesn't affect her in such a way is Janvier, the centuries old Cajun vampire who has sometimes been her target, but more often her ally. He has wanted Ashwini since the first time he saw her, and as the years have passed and they have sparred, flirted and co-operated more frequently, his feelings for her have only grown. She keeps him at a distance, but after she nearly died in the battle for New York, Janvier is determined to never leave her side. He knows that there are secrets in her past that make her reluctant to take their relationship to the next level, but having lived for centuries, he's not averse to waiting a while for her to make up her mind. Now they need to track down the monster who slowly tortured and murdered a young woman, making sure her killer doesn't hurt anyone else.

Unlike in most of the books in this series, Ashwini and Janvier already know each other well by the start of the book. Their first encounter involved Ashwini having to hunt down the vampire, who had gone rogue from his angel master and him leading her on a merry chase through the bayou of Louisiana. Over the course of the series, Janvier has gone to work for Raphael, the archangel of New York and he and Ashwini are allies rather than antagonists. There has always been strong attraction and sexual tension between them, but due to her abilities, Ashwini keeps herself from getting too close to anyone. While Janvier is one of the individuals she can be around, and who seems to actually keep her grounded, she can't bring herself to actually initiate a relationship with him, as there are secrets in her past that make it impossible for her to commit to anyone.

Janvier loves Ashwini and is none too happy that she nearly died recently. He wants to spend the rest of his immortal life with her, but due to the effect of older immortals on her abilities, Ashwini hates the idea of being turned into a vampire. She's worried it will amplify her powers, causing her to go insane from the sensory input. So she keeps flirting with Janvier, but taking it no further. Her near-death experience and the tender care that her Cajun took of her while she was recovering makes her want to tell him the full truth about why they can't be toghether. She's just terrified that the truth will drive him away forever.

While a lot of the previous books in the series (especially the ones focused primarily on Raphael and Elena) have driven the story arc forward, this is a quieter book, with a murder investigation in its centre. While trying to negotiate the new status of their relationship, Janvier and Ashwini try to identify the withered husk of a woman they found in a dumpster, so they can narrow down the suspects and discover who murdered her. Because the way she was killed is so similar to Lijuan's power, the Tower is very determined to track the guilty party quickly. As they keep investigating, it seems the murder of the young woman might be connected to a strange new drug that causes uncontrollable blood lust among the vampires in the city. All signs point to someone further trying to destabilize Raphael's territory, making his subjects feel unsafe.

There have been some hit and miss books in the series, but the last few, this included, I have very much enjoyed. I liked that Ash and her Cajun already knew each other well and that they just needed to figure out a way to really be together, without any of the drama of falling in love and acknowledging their new feelings. There is a big, established supporting cast in these books, including Raphael and Elena, and the vampires and angels that make up Raphael's most loyal followers, the Seven. Now several of them have spouses of their own, and it's clear that Naasir, the most feral and mysterious of all of them is ready to find a special someone of his own. I like that Elena is so determined to discover what he is, which seems to be some sort of cat shapeshifter/vamprire hybrid. I'm very much looking forward to discovering the truth behind his origins and who his intended turns out to be.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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