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REVIEW: Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

Dear Ms. Singh,

042522692101lzzzzzzzAlthough I have not read your series novels, I have enjoyed all the paranormals in your Psy/Changeling series to varying degrees. Moreover, I have a real soft spot for angels, dragons and other winged creatures. So when I heard about your new Guild Hunter series, which has a world with angels, vampires and vampire hunters, I was very excited to read the first book, Angels’ Blood.

Twenty-eight year old Elena Deveraux is a vampire hunter. Gifted with acute senses, and, in another sense of the word, with weapons, Elena belongs to the Guild, an organization through which she is contracted to hunt wayward vampires and return them to their masters. The vampires’ masters are the angels — winged beings with special powers whose most powerful leaders, the archangels known as the Cadre of Ten, rule the earth.

The angels in this book are not necessarily saintly or even good; some of them, are, in fact, downright corrupt. It is the angels who can turn humans into vampires, but they only do so in exchange for a century of indentured servitude on the vampires’ part. Most vampires are the angels’ minions, but some vampires chafe at the angels’ authority and go rogue, and that is when the Guild’s hunters are called on to capture them.

After returning from one such mission, Elena hears from her closest friend and Guild Director, Sara, that she has been contracted to do a job for the archangel of New York, Raphael. It was not a contract that Sara could refuse, as to risk an archangel’s wrath is to risk death. Elena feels trepidation at the thought of even meeting with Raphael, much less doing a job for him, but she doesn’t feel she has much choice, and she would rather die than show her fear.

On seeing the archangel, Elena is struck silent by his unearthly beauty and the power that is “stamped on every inch of his skin.” But Raphael’s terrifying beauty and power aren’t the only shocks to Elena’s system. She is even more stunned when she learns from Raphael that instead of tasking her with retrieving a rogue vampire, he expects her to track another archangel — a being as powerful and deadly as himself.

The reasons why Raphael and the other members of the Cadre of Ten want one of their colleagues captured are shrouded in mystery, and Raphael is not above threatening Elena or using his mental powers to try and control her. When she protests this, he displays an ability to get her to cut herself. To Raphael, who has lived for over a millennium and who feels responsible for millions of lives, one woman’s life is a puny thing.

Elena fully expects that if she fails at the task he has set for her, Raphael will kill her. If she succeeds, she may come to know too many of the Cadre’s secrets. Refusing the job means signing her death warrant as well as her friends’ and her family members’, but taking the mission on is only marginally less dangerous.

Raphael is a terrifying being, unused to being disobeyed, while Elena is fiercely independent and unwilling to kowtow to anyone. But despite this, a powerful attraction coalesces between them, one that unsettles Elena and intrigues Raphael — one that will change them both.

Angels’ Blood is part urban fantasy, part romance, and part detective story, as well as an exhilarating, addictive read from start to finish.

The premise of fallible, flawed archangels who rule and oversee different geographic territories was reminiscent of one of my favorite books, Sharon Shinn’s Archangel. But the world of Angels’ Blood was also more familiar than the one in Shinn’s book.

The world-building raised some questions in my mind, since I wasn’t sure at what point in an obviously alternate earth’s history the story took place. The level of technology seemed similar to ours, with cars and cell phones still in use, as well as similar fashions, but this is also true of the Psy/Chaneling series, which if I’m not mistaken, takes place in the future of an alternate earth.

The world of Angels’ Blood shared some of our own vampire myths — the notions of vampires being vulnerable to garlic and sunlight — even though these myths were wildly inaccurate and in truth the vampires in Angels’ Blood were mostly immune to these things. It seemed to me that vampires are widespread enough in this world that most people would know better than to believe false myths.

I was willing to suspend disbelief though, because of the beautiful images created by the unexpected contrasts in the world you conjured. An angel with blue wings… Celebrities being seduced by vampires at a party as an angel watches… An angel using a cell phone… and I could go on. There was a seductive pull to this world and its not-so-angelic angels.

The mystery surrounding the archangel Elena was expected to hunt was suspenseful. There were also many interesting side characters, from Elena’s hunter friends Ransom and Sara, to the angels and vampires who were loyal to Raphael. I was particularly intrigued by Illium, an angel who was fascinated with mortals, and by Elena’s father, who had disowned her for being a hunter but showed signs of caring for her nonetheless.

Elena herself was an appealing heroine, bright, loyal and above all, courageous. Sometimes almost too courageous. I liked the way she stood up to Raphael even at his most terrifying because she “wouldn’t crawl, not for anyone.” But therefore, when she wisely chose not to antagonize the villain toward the end of the book, it seemed a bit out of character.

There were times I felt that someone as smart-mouthed as Elena should have run into even bigger trouble than she did, and I also didn’t love being told that she was feminine over and over. I never doubted Elena’s femininity because I don’t feel strength and courage are the exclusive territory of men. But despite these hiccups, I liked Elena and enjoyed reading about her.

The character that made the book, though, was Raphael.

I loved the fact that unlike many romances with immortal beings, Angels’ Blood did not shy away from the natural consequences of extreme age and power. Raphael was not merely jaded by his age and isolated by his power; he had grown distant from human concerns, even as he tried to rule wisely. His compassion extended to human beings as a whole, but not to any one individual, since in order to put thousands or even millions of lives above any one life, he had to exert his authority to a sometimes terrifying degree.

The conflicts between Elena and Raphael were therefore the conflicts between the old and the young, the somewhat detached and the deeply engaged, and between an individual’s need for freedom and a leader’s need to put the needs of the community ahead of the needs of any one individual’s wants or needs.

All of these made Raphael an exciting character to read about (his good looks and sex appeal didn’t hurt, either), and I thought it was a fascinating paradox that Raphael’s very need to rule responsibly was one of the things that threatened to make him tyrannical and capable of dark deeds.

It was thrilling to see Raphael’s feelings for Elena humanize him, though I would have liked to understand better what it was about Elena specifically that gave her the ability to engage Raphael’s emotions more deeply than any of his other lovers (all warrior women) had done in his millennium of existence.

Raphael’s transformation was so absorbing that I wanted more of it, and I felt that it was a little rushed, in that he changed a bit too much a bit too quickly. Despite this, the moment in which his realization about himself came was terrific, and the ending of the book, though not unexpected, was still so wonderful that I have read it a few times now.

I look forward to more of Raphael and Elena’s story. There are things in their past and present that they have not shared with each other yet, and the mystery surrounding Elena’s parents has also captured my interest. Not to mention that this book that the ending for this book made me feel that there is a lot more excitement in Elena’s future. In the meantime, while I eagerly await the sequel, I recommend Angels’ Blood to fans of paranormal romances. I feel certain that this series will hit it big. B+.

Sincerely,

Janine

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

35 Comments

  1. Jennie
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 17:21:24

    Thanks for the interesting review, Janine! I am psyched to try this book.

  2. Gayle
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 17:39:25

    I’ve only heard good reviews of this book and worry that it won’t live up to all of the excitement. I’m glad to hear that someone at Dear Author thought it was good too.

  3. Janine
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 17:44:31

    Jennie — You’re welcome, and I hope you enjoy the book.

    Gayle — I didn’t think it was a perfect book but I was definitely swept up in the excitement of reading it. My enjoyment level was on par with my favorite books in the Psy/Changeling series (Caressed by Ice and Mine to Possess) though this is a different world with a somewhat different feel. I think if you like those there’s a good chance you will like this book as well, though the characters are a bit less warm.

  4. Shanna
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 18:21:43

    I really liked this book. It’s the first one I’ve read of Nalini’s. I love the vampire/angel storyline along with the whole “I’m terrified of you but find you incredibly hot” thing.

  5. jubee
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 18:22:32

    I enjoyed this book for many of the same reasons Janine has listed. The glimpses we get of their respective pasts are almost too much of a tease. I loved reading about the Cadre of Ten and would have liked more info about the angel hierarchy.

    The one thing I don’t understand is how angels wear tops.

  6. Janine
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 18:56:35

    Shanna — I agree, Elena’s internal conflict between fear and desire (along with her need to stand her ground) was extremely compelling.

    jubee — Re. how angels wear tops, I think there’s an answer to that in one of Sharon Shinn’s angel books (an excellent series BTW). I’m trying to remember what it is… I think the female angels may wear backless tops that are tied in back with strings. I’m not sure about the male angels…

  7. orannia
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 19:27:03

    Thank you Janine for a very informative review – I am really looking forward to reading this book!

    And Mine to Possess is one of my favourite Psy/Changeling books too :)

  8. Janine
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 19:28:44

    You’re welcome, Orannia. I hope you enjoy Angels’ Blood.

  9. Keishon
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 19:44:42

    Hey Janine,

    I read some of the review and I also gave this book to a friend to read first. I had issues with the premise and maybe you can explain (and others have explained this to me as well so I am not discounting their opinions but asking for another opinion.) What I couldn’t understand was why in this alternate universe angels were allowed to create vampires as their minions? I didn’t get far enough into story but where are they escaping from to serve their century of slavery? I mean what kind of laws were created or what are the rules of this world? My mind simply can’t get past that issue.

    Another thing that didn’t make sense were the humans lining up to be transformed into a vampire in exchange for a 100 years of slavery. I mean wow, that is a lot for a bit of immortality and maybe this is my personal belief that is the problem but I can’t believe anyone would do it. This is fiction and I usually enjoy paranormals but I find that there are too many unanswered questions in this story and I guess I can’t suspend disbelief to enjoy it for what it is. The cover is kick ass and that is what attracted me and pulled me to this book. But I had red flags throwing all over the place and I feel as a reader if I have to stop and ask myself questions then this story is not working. I mean like you said, the story lacks a time period and vampires and angels co-exist but when/where and why?

  10. Janine
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 20:04:21

    Keishon,

    I’ll do my best to answer these questions. As best as I can tell, the story takes place in an alternate version of our own world. I think the date is comparable to right now (though it’s not specified, so I’m not 100% sure).

    In the same way that we can read books where there are vampires that are known about and accepted in a world that is very similar to ours (like the Sookie Stackhouse books), this world includes another set of paranormal creatures that are called angels.

    However, these “angels” are not servants of God. As far as I can tell, they have no relationship whatsoever with God and are no closer to the divine than human beings are. They don’t live in heaven; Raphael and the angels who serve him live in an enclave near New York City.

    I don’t think there’s anything divine about these angels. As I say in the review, many of them are corrupt and some are even evil. They only resemble our biblical angels in a few ways — they typically can only die if they are killed by other angels, they have wings and can fly. They also have some powers that we don’t traditionally associate with biblical angels, such as the ability to read minds and communicate telepathically. They are simply another type of paranormal creature.

    To answer the question of why the angels are allowed to create vampires, there simply is no one who is more powerful than these angels who could give them permission or take it away. They appear to be the most powerful beings in this world.

    There are also good reasons why the angels make the vampires, but these are given at the very end of the book and I think they constitute spoilers. I can email you with this explanation if you really want to know, but I think it’s better to find out at the end of the book if you think you might want to read it.

    As for what kind of laws were created, the angels are the rulers and there doesn’t appear to be a democracy, so I think they make all the rules, and those rules specify that if a vampire violated a contract he or she signed with an angel to serve that angel, he or she can be hunted by a vampire hunter and brought back to be punished by the angel. Since the angels are powerful and scary, most of the vampires don’t defy them.

    As for why some people agree to serve the angels for a hundred years in exchange for being turned to vampires, well, some vampires live longer than a hundred years (there is one in the book who is seven hundred years old). I agree that it doesn’t seem like a good bargain but for some people, the exchange may seem worth it. Elena thinks that it would never be worth it to her and she thinks the vampires are dumb to accept that deal. But I think there are some people who would do anything for the possibility of immortality, and also, if a vampire lives past the hundred years of slavery, they can gain a lot of power.

    We also encounter one vampire in the book who was made into a vampire against his will so perhaps there are others who do not get made by signing away a hundred years of their lives.

    I do think the worldbuilding isn’t perfect here but the book was rewarding enough that I was able to suspend disbelief and go with the flow.

  11. Amy
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 21:03:16

    Thank you for this review. I am a big fan of Nalini Singh’s Changeling/Psy series (though I liked some books less than others). When I read about the Angels’ storyline, my response was sort of “eh”. The premise didn’t do anything for me. Why would such super powerful archangels need to make vampires to do stuff; they are super powerful so they can do anything already, right? They can control all the humans to do their bidding. Also, why would they need human vampire hunters to get the rogues? Couldn’t they, being all powerful, hunt the rogues down? Maybe use other powerful vampires in their control? I nevertheless bought the recent teaser e-novella, Angel’s Pawn. Upon finishing it I can’t say I changed my mind about the world NS described. I still had the same questions and I was disappointed that the relationship in the novella didn’t have an ending; it is supposed to be a standalone novella. So I was prepared to let Angels’ Blood go, but now your review made me reconsider. I think I will give this full length novel a try before giving up on this series.

    Completely unrelated [to this review] question: Does anyone know what time Fictionwise makes available for downloading books bought via preorder? I am thinking of getting the ebook and Books on Board tells me the download for Angels’ Blood will be available at midnight central time. Fictionwise’ page for this novel doesn’t specify a time. Its FAQs don’t mention the time issue and from prior experience it customer service folks do not answer emails (and the site makes it impossible to find an email — the last time I emailed Fictionwise I had to use one of the emails received in my inbox to get an address). Anyway, in case it is not obvious, I’m asking because I’d like to download the book tonight (after midnight) and read a bit before going to sleep (as I am a night owl). I have a bunch of rebate dollars at Fictionwise that I’d like to use but I keep ending up at Books on Board because they answer my emails promptly and often have better net prices. (It is too bad BoB’s website is so lame.)

  12. Janine
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 21:49:41

    Amy — You’re welcome. For what it’s worth, I recently read the Angels’ Pawn novella (after I had read Angels’ Blood) and while it was a pleasant way to pass the time, I was ultimately somewhat dissatisfied with it. I didn’t like it anywhere near as much as Angels’ Blood or the Psy/Changeling books. I’m debating whether or not to review the novella, but for me, the novel seems like a better value for the price than the novella did. I hope you will enjoy it too.

    I would welcome hearing from you and from the other posters in this thread when you have read the book, if you want to share your opinion.

    Re. Fictionwise, I don’t know the answer but hopefully someone else will.

  13. Amy
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 21:56:15

    Glad to hear you also found Angels’ Pawn dissatisfying. Now I’m even more optimistic about Angels’ Blood.

  14. LauraJane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:34:06

    I started this last night, so I’m going to wait to read your review and the comments.

    By the way, I bought The Better to Hold You last week. Thanks for your reviews.

  15. Helen Burgess
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:39:16

    I loved this book, loved it, loved it and just to be clear loved it. I can see it might not be everyone’s taste but me it suited. I finished A Vampires claim and went straight on to this – loved them both. So far it’s been a great March for reading and it’s only the 3rd.

  16. Hilcia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:44:50

    Love the review. Angel’s Pawn is actually called a Companion novella to Angel’s Blood. As a “companion” novella, IMO it works. I also read Angel’s Blood first and loved it. However, I have wondered how it would have been to read Angel’s Pawn without reading Angel’s Blood first. In that case, I think, I also would have been disatisfiedl.

  17. Janine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 14:56:17

    LauraJane – Let me know what you thought of the book when you finish. And of The Better to Hold You, too.

    Helen – Glad you loved it! What is A Vampire’s Claim? Is that another Singh book or novella?

    Hilicia — I did read Angels’ Blood before Angels’ Pawn. I did enjoy it somewhat, thought it was entertaining and agree that it is probably better to read them in that order (the worldbuilding stuff is probably a lot clearer that way). But even so, at the risk of giving away anything that wasn’t in a review, I was disappointed that there was no HEA or HFN ending, and failing that, not even a single sex scene. Also, for its length, the novella seemed a bit overpriced. I did like Ashwini and Janvier, though.

  18. Helen Burgess
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:02:26

    Dear Janine, A Vampires Claim is by Joey W Hill, australian bushman takes up with a young (!) vampire. he is ultra yummy.

  19. Janine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:03:24

    Thanks, Helen.

  20. Anita Chax
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 00:31:17

    I read the book and loved it! It is a rather wise book, if I may say so, in a genre where one doesn’t really expect much wisdom. I’d love to see how the relationship between Elena and Raphael would develop in the sequels, because there is still a way to go for both of them, they still have a lot to learn about each other and from each other. Both are very, very strong characters — I loved that about them. No doormat hs here, thank goodness. Plenty of sass and verve in Elena.

    Astute review, Janine, particularly your comment on the clash of the young vs. the old.

  21. Janine
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 02:06:16

    Thanks, Anita. Glad you enjoyed the book!

  22. LauraJane
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 11:39:30

    Thanks for the review Janine! I finished Angels’ Blood last week, but I didn’t love it. There were aspects of the book that thrilled me – I really liked the Seven. I’m pretty sure I’d read a book about Dimitri. The other archangels didn’t interest me as much. My big problem was with Elena. She was just too much of a smartass for me to believe Raphael would be into her. Since my main interest in the book was the development of their relationship, Elena’s attitude kind of ruined it for me. I am curious to see how the series progresses.

  23. Amy
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 12:59:39

    I finished Angels’ Blood and I’m glad to have read it. I think NS did her readers a disservice issuing Angels’ Pawn first. As I stated above, I probably would have stopped following this series but for the good review here. I enjoyed Angels’ Blood enough that I plan to buy the next book and see how the series progresses. However, I didn’t love it the way I loved the first book in the Psy-Changeling series. I can’t put my finger on all the reasons. One factor may be the fact that I’m still not sure I *believe* in the Elena and Raphael pairing. I frequently have this difficulty in paranormal romances when one character — usually the male — is hundreds of years older than the other and that ancient one yielded super powers and had a gazillion lovers during all that time. With such a dramatic power and experience difference, the less powerful/more inexperienced character has to be super duper special with super duper great chemistry with the other character for me to buy into the — after all these years “you are it!” aspect of the romance. It is just hard for me to believe that Elena is so super duper special. Sure she is a kickass character with a smartass mouth, but Raphael most have enjoyed countless similar women over the years (as he said he prefers warrior women). Sure she has suffered, but in this world it is hard to believe that Raphael has not encountered countless kickass women over the years who also suffered terribly at the hands of either vampires or angels. And I’m not too certain their chemistry. I certainly saw the potential for them to be lovers, but THE LOVE of their lives??

  24. Janine
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 13:48:19

    LauraJane and Amy,

    Thanks so much for posting your thoughts!

    LauraJane — Elena’s smartassery didn’t bother me so much because it seemed like bravado, like she was trying to muster her own courage. But I did feel that I needed to see more of what it was that made her so special.

    Amy — I think I said something similar in this part of my review:

    It was thrilling to see Raphael's feelings for Elena humanize him, though I would have liked to understand better what it was about Elena specifically that gave her the ability to engage Raphael's emotions more deeply than any of his other lovers (all warrior women) had done in his millennium of existence.

    I loved the mixture of elements in the book, but this is where I feel that fitting in the Seven, the Guild, the Cadre of Ten, and the detective story didn’t leave as much room for the relationship development as I would have liked. I agree that Raphael’s age, which IMO was part of what made him such an interesting character, also made it harder to believe that Elena was the love of his life. I think I could have been convinced though, if the relationship development had been given more pages. But since I enjoyed the other parts of the book so much, I don’t know that I would want that to come at their expense. Maybe the book could have benefitted from being a bit longer.

    I actually enjoyed this one more than Slave to Sensation — I liked that book but I had bigger problems with it such as for example not finding Sascha entirely believable as someone who had repressed her emotions her whole life.

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  26. Jorrie Spencer
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 19:12:21

    I just got around to reading this and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not a perfect book, but I found it a real pageturner, once I got into it. For me, I felt that the reason Elena made such an impact on Raphael was partly timing. In that the rogue angel’s descent into madness was something Raphael feared for himself, making Elena’s humanity that much more attractive to Raphael. I’m not saying just any human would do, but that perhaps this is why he let his guard down for her in this instance.

    At least, that’s how I suspended disbelief over the huge gap in age and power between the two of them.

    Thanks for the review and comments!

  27. Angels’ Blood « Jorrie Spencer
    Feb 17, 2010 @ 05:07:26

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  28. Janine
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 19:32:04

    @Jorrie Spencer: Hi Jorrie! Just now found your comment. I think timing is a good way to explain it, though I would have liked a bit more insight into why Raphael fell for Elena.

    I recently read the sequel, Archangel’s Kiss, and though overall it worked a lot less well for me than Angels’ Blood (too much violence for me), I felt that the fleshing out of Elena’s childhood trauma helped show some of what she and Raphael had in common.

    I’m still not 100% sold on the fact that he never fell in love the same way in the thousand years before he met Elena, and I still wish it had been explored further, but I understand the attraction a bit better now.

  29. Jorrie Spencer
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 20:53:18

    I’m still not 100% sold on the fact that he never fell in love the same way in the thousand years before he met Elena, and I still wish it had been explored further

    I can definitely see that. I suppose I’m willing to give it some kind of pass, if you will, since I find 1000 years of living unfathomable anyway. But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been more there.

    I’m wondering how I’ll find the violence in book #2.

  30. Janine
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 20:58:25

    Yeah, I agree that a thousand years of living is hard to grasp. And I thought Singh conveyed Raphael’s age much more successfully than many authors in the genre do with their immortal characters, and without it lessening his attractiveness.

    Hopefully you will like #2 better than I did. Jane loved it. I am glad you enjoyed #1.

  31. Amy
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 21:23:36

    I have been so good about not buying Archangels’ Kiss; it was especially difficult not to order a digital copy after reading Jane’s review. But I’m preparing for a big test scheduled for next week; I just know if I were to buy the book I would kills hours reading it in one setting. I’ll report back later next week!

  32. Janine
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 22:30:41

    I will be interested to hear your thoughts on the book, Amy (and Jorrie’s too). Jane and I are both Nalini Singh fans but we favor different books. Good luck on your test!

  33. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:33:40

    @Amy Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

  34. Amy
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 00:14:28

    I LOVED Archangel’s Kiss! I loved it so much that I think I need to reread it before I could post my thoughts (and I’ll do so on the Archangel’s Kiss post). I read Kresley Cole’s Pleasures of a Dark Prince immediately after I finished Archangel’s Kiss, and I couldn’t help but mentally compare the characters and relationship in the two books (as each is supposed to have a strong kick ass heroine and strong hero); each time I do so, Pleasures of a Dark Prince falls short — way short.

  35. Janine
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 01:51:39

    @Amy: Glad you liked Archangel’s Kiss. I wish I had enjoyed it as much as you and Jane did! I do agree Elena and Raphael are both strong characters.

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