Amazon seems to have sussed out my penchant for urban fantasy tales, and therefore came to recommend “Angels’ Blood” on a recent browsing/purchasing binge… I’m glad the recommendation engine was smart enough to do so, because I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Nalini Singh is a new author to me, but seems to have taken as her inspiration a relatively overlooked component of the Biblical tale of Jesus’ Annunciation: when the archangel first appears to Mary, he says “fear not”–implying that he was quite an overwhelming being with which to be in contact.
Given that ambiguous starting point, Singh develops a whole new vision for angels and archangels in the world. She divides the world into 10 quadrants, each “ruled” by an archangel, who form a Cadre. These are immortal beings, who are only very rarely created, and have a penchant for rather more of the “I’m not THAT kind of angel” action than I would have suspected. (Yes, I did have to insert a reference to “Michael” since it’s the only other artistic reference to an angel of ambiguous morality that comes immediately to mind.)
In fact, in Singh’s world, it’s the Archangels who create vampires to be their eternal servants. And it’s the Guild Hunters who search for and retrieve vampires who “forget” their contracts and try to run away to make it on their own. It’s a very intriguing perspective, and I’m certainly excited to see how this series develops, since it’s well-written, well-edited, and well-crafted.
The things I really hope Singh clarifies: How is a “Hunter” not a human? How do angels and archangels normally come into existence? How did the Guild come into existence?
There was a lot of meat for her to get through in this introduction to Elena and Raphael and their relationships, both with each other and their closest associates. One particularly moving scene toward the end of the book, when Ellie’s friends suspect she is dead, really cemented my respect for Singh’s ability to word-smith the depth of these relationships in such a way that even copying it here is choking me up a bit:
“You’re her family,” Dmitri’s eyes met hers. “Chosen, not born.”
“Yes.” Sara saw a depth of understanding in the vampire’s gaze that she hadn’t expected. The old ones–and Dmitri was very old–seemed to forget they’d once been human, with human dreams and fears. “We need to see her.” Even then, part of her, a stubborn, irrational part, hoped for a miracle.
“You can’t,” Dmitri said, then raised a hand when Ransom snapped out a curse. “But this I can tell you–she lives. Perhaps not as she would’ve wished, but she lives.”
Sara was so relieved, she almost didn’t hear the last sentence. Ransom was the first to understand. “Aw, Jesus. Ellie’s going to be so pissed if you’ve turned her into a vamp.”
Dmitri raised an eyebrow. “You won’t castigate us for taking the choice from her?”
Sara answered for both of them. “We’re selfish. We want her to live.” Her throat was so thick with emotion, she had to concentrate to form the next word. “When…?”
The twist that ends the book, then, casts the whole tale in the light of a prequel, given how dramatically circumstances change. I really appreciate the ambiguity built into these characters–though I was also glad I was reading this with a multitude of interruptions, to help me gloss over some spectacularly gory scenes. I would recommend this to anyone who likes paranormal thrillers, complicated romances, and otherworldly beings comfortably ensconced in a not-unfamiliar world (this is set in a New York city that I think any visitor would recognize).
In the end, I have to credit Patricia Briggs’ recommendation for my final purchase decision, and it really sums up my experience with the book: “Terrifyingly, passionately awesome… You’ll love it!”