Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh

Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 323
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Archangel's Kiss had been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time when a March Challenge to dig into my TBR pile finally prompted me to read it. I feel bad only giving the book three stars as Nalini Singh is one of my favorite authors, but three stars equals "I liked it" and that is the truth. I liked this book. Archangel's Kiss was a quick, engaging read that I definitely enjoyed, but it by no means knocked me off of my feet.

I read Archangel's Blood three years ago, so I had a hard time remembering all of the details of that book. They came back to me as I read and I was reminded why I'd made sure to pick up Archangel's Kiss and the next book in the series, Archangel's Consort. Nalini Singh creates characters and worlds that are vivid and engaging - very, very close to the world we currently live in, but different in subtle ways that really matter. Even if I didn't like Raphael, Elena, Illium and Dimitri, I'd be tempted to read Nalini's books just for the world building.

Archangel's Kiss picks up almost right where we left off in the previous book - newly minted angel Elena has woken up in Raphael's home, far from her native New York and the Guild Hunters she considers family. Given that Elena and Raphael are almost dysfunctionally (in the best way possible) in love with each other, Elena's new surroundings aren't as much of a problem as one might think.

What is a problem is the fact that the angel community is not happy with Elena's transformation and she might just be too weak from her injuries to stay alive. Raphael's Seven - his band of loyal angels/vampires - have a major problem with their boss making himself vulnerable because of Elena. They see her as a weakness that Raphael's enemies will exploit and make no secret of the fact that they don't trust/respect her - which is a testament to how deep their resentment goes considering Raphael's less than forgiving nature at having his decisions questioned. The lone exception, of course, is Illium, which is more dangerous than noble as I'm pretty sure the blue-winged angel is in love with Elena.

That won't end well.

Raphael and Elena's burgeoning relationship is framed by two distinct threats - a ball hosted by the oldest (and arguably most detached from reality) Archangel Lijuan and a power play by an unknown enemy to bring about a war among the Archangels. Raphael is adamant that Elena regain her strength quickly - if she doesn't, it could mean death for both of them.

As with the Psy-Changeling series, family - and more specifically children - are at the heart of everything. Protecting one's own is the motivation for nearly every character in both series and that's very apparent here where an otherwise acceptable series of political maneuverings becomes a matter of life and death when an angel child is attacked. The attack brings memories to the surface for nearly every character and as a result we learn a lot more about Elena - what caused the rift between her and her father, as well as her sisters/mother's deaths - and Raphael's past.

For all of the build up to Who's Trying to Star A War and What is Lijuan Up To, the actual denouement happened fairly quickly. That's not a complaint, really, as Nalini's books have always been more about the relationships of her characters than the plot, but it's worth noting.

I'm still having issues with the wings. I just keep thinking about how awkward it would be to cart the damn things around. I did enjoy how Nalini explained the way the angels adapted their clothes to fit around the giant extra appendages protruding from their backs. I commend her for making the wings a very real, very permanent part of the angels. While it may have been more to my tastes if the angels were somehow able to "put their wings away" when not in use, I also think it would have been something of a cop-out to do so.

Oh, since this is a romance novel, I will also say that the sex is pretty damn hot - wings and all. I expect nothing less from Nalini.

So, there it is. A review of a book that I definitely liked, but can't really gush over. I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Hopefully it won't take me another three years.

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