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REVIEW:  Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh

REVIEW: Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh

Dear Ms Singh,

When I heard that the sixth book in your Guild Hunter series would be a fourth book about Elena and Raphael, I gave a mental groan. Book three, Archangel’s Consort, made me feel the conflict between this couple was played out. I would rather read Aodhan’s book, or Illium’s, or Venom’s, or, most of all, Sorrow’s, than a retread of the old argument about whether it’s safe for Elena to have the freedom she needs to be herself.

Nalini Singh Archangel's Legion But in order to read those other characters’ books and not be lost, I figured I’d need to read this one. Fortunately for me, this book turned out not to be as much of a retread as I had feared. While the conflicts that came up between Elena and Raphael were rooted in the relationship that had been established in Angels’ Blood, Archangel’s Kiss and Archangel’s Consort, the issues between them played out differently, with the characters, Raphael especially, showing real growth.

Before I get to that, though, here is a summary of the novel’s opening. Archangel’s Legion begins with Raphael delivering two pieces of news to Elena: His mother, the ancient archangel Caliane, has invited them to a ball celebrating the city of Amanat’s awakening, and the archangel Michaela, endangered by the coming Cascade, has requested shelter and protection for herself and for the unborn child she carries.

These two pieces of news, dismaying as they are to Elena, are quickly eclipsed by storm clouds that turn out to be made up of birds. Then the birds begin to fall from Manhattan’s sky, and soon angels are falling in their wake.

As Elena sets up an infirmary in hers and Raphael’s home, receives reports of injured angels from Sara and relays them to Aodhan who, in Dmitri’s absence, is in charge of tower operations, Raphael ascends in the midst of The Falling to catch and rescue younger angels.

When The Falling ends, hundreds of New York’s angels are out of commission, forcing Raphael to recall some of his forces who are stationed further away to protect a vulnerable Manhattan.

Raphael believes The Falling is a sign that the Cascade, an event that brings archangels greater powers as well as madness and inhumanity, is burgeoning. One of the archangels may have attained the power to make angels fall from the skies, but even via process of elimination, Raphael and Elena can’t figure out who it is.

That night, Raphael dreams of the field in which Caliane left him to die, and he begins to hear haunting whispers asking him who he is. When he wakes, Elena sees fire in his wings, but Raphael dismisses it as an illusion of the light.

Meanwhile, Elena faces challenges of her own. Her father’s rejection has brought her younger half-sister Eve, a guild hunter in training, to tears, and Elena is determined to confront Jeffrey. Another guild hunter has apparently lost it and purchased an arsenal of guns, and now Elena and her fellow hunter Ransom must track him down. Worst of all, in the midst of that hunt, Elena and Ransom discover a dead vampire who appears to have been infected with a lethal disease.

All of this is only the beginning. Archangel’s Legion also sees Raphael and Elena forging new alliances in preparation for the coming war with their old and creepy enemy, the Archangel Lijuan, and the unknown new enemy who has created the disease and caused The Falling.

For although Raphael, like all the Archangels, is evolving, for him accepting new powers may mean losing his humanity, something neither he nor Elena wants. Yet if he rejects the new powers that come with the Cascade, New York may be vulnerable to his enemies’ attack. To defeat Lijuan and the disease-maker, Raphael will need to gather every ally he and Elena have. It will take a legion of fighters to win the coming war.

As may be evident from this plot summary, Archangel’s Legion relies a lot on external conflict,with much less internal conflict (by which I mean conflict that takes place in a main character’s heart and mind) than I usually like. At this point, four books into Elena and Raphael’s relationship, that is probably a good thing – if these two were still making up their minds about what they felt for each other, I’d be frustrated with them.

There is some internal conflict though, and I really appreciated that it wasn’t the same one we’d seen in the earlier books. Instead the conflicts within the characters centered on Elena’s unconscious trust issues resulting from her father’s painful rejection of her, and Raphael’s need to protect his people, something that accepting new powers could make possible, versus his fears of losing his humanity and his love for Elena if he did take on the new powers that the Cascade offered him.

Archangel's Legion UK Cover

Archangel’s Legion UK Cover

What I really liked about both these issues is that they felt like progress for both characters. Consciously Elena trusted Raphael, but unconsciously it was harder for her to believe he would always be there for her in a way that her father had not. This was not about her thinking Raphael was an overweening jerk, but about something that went deeper than that.

Meanwhile, on Raphael’s side, his desire to hang on to his humanity felt like a big step, especially when comparing the Raphael of this book to the Raphael we encountered at the beginning of book one, Angels’ Blood. While I’ve enjoyed reading about Raphael in some of the past books, this was the first book in the series in which I truly sympathized with him. It was evident he wanted to remain caring toward his people, even as he wanted to protect them from powerful enemies, but he didn’t know if it was possible to do both.

If I have a criticism on the Elena/Raphael side of this book, it’s that although I’m far from a prude, most of the sex scenes didn’t engage me that much. I didn’t skim them, but I was tempted to do so in some cases. There are only so many ways to write about the same couple having sex, and by the fourth book, Raphael and Elena’s relationship’s bedroom dynamics don’t feel that fresh anymore, so I hope there won’t be quite so many sex scenes in the next Elena/Raphael novel.

As far as the external conflict in the novel goes, with so many irons in their enemies’ fire, the external conflicts were numerous and big, especially in Archangel’s Legion’s climactic scenes. I don’t want to give those away, but suffice to say that Raphael and Elena’s world is rocked by something that happens near the end, and that event left me eager to read more in this series.

One thing that did bother me a bit was that though some of what happened was brutal, none of the characters I had an emotional investment in died. I’m not usually one to advocate for characters’ deaths (in fact I generally hate when that happens), but in this case, the death of a minor character we’d come to care about at least a little would have gone a long way toward grounding the storyline in reality.

Overall though, the external conflict was one of the strengths of this book. I was grateful that there wasn’t as much disturbing / horrific stuff going on as there was in Archangel’s Kiss, while at the same time the storyline felt fresher and more eventful to me than in Archangel’s Consort. There was even some progress on the Jeffrey/Elena front, something I’ve hungered for since book one.

While I’d still prefer books about characters I don’t know as well as I know these two by now (there is more mystery surrounding those less-well-known characters and therefore also more opportunities to be genuinely surprised by things they say and do), I think I’ll be more receptive to the idea of another Elena/Raphael book than I was to the idea of this one. B for Archangel’s Legion.

Sincerely,

Janine

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REVIEW:  Zipper Fall (A Steel City Story) by Kate Pavelle

REVIEW: Zipper Fall (A Steel City Story) by Kate Pavelle

ZipperFall1

Wyatt Gaudens, an advertising executive and adrenaline junkie, has fine-tuned the art of breaking and entering into apartments, misusing his considerable rock climbing skills. Once inside, he steals a pretty, shiny thing or two. When his friend Reyna complains that her jerk of a boss makes her workplace a living hell, he breaks into her boss’s home to get even. More than any other pretty thing, what really catches his eye the most is her boss, Jack.

Working hard to overcome his own lingering problems, investment specialist Jack Azzuri focuses on his second chance at making his business grow. But grief for his sister, Celia, recently killed in a suspicious climbing accident, sabotages his attempt to start over. When he meets Wyatt, he’s strongly attracted even though Wyatt is the last person he should associate with. With Jack’s explosive temper and Wyatt’s adrenaline addiction, the path to a stable relationship will be a tough climb. They might succeed if they can sort out what really matters, as well as learn to take the good with the bad. Wyatt hopes to speed their progress by solving the mystery that’s weighing Jack down: how did Celia really die?

Dear Kate Pavelle,

Unfortunately your book was a frustrating reading experience for me. I bought it specifically because I was in the mood for reading the story about a bad boy, but not so bad that he would be a killer, and a burglar who enters into apartments to steal pretty things sounded perfect.

Things went south very fast for me, though. I understand that Wyatt was supposed to be portrayed as an adrenalin junkie, but there is a fine line between that and overwhelming stupidity. There is no way for me to be convinced that Wyatt could have lasted for years as a successful burglar. When he enters an apartment and finds the owner home asleep, he decides that he is so smitten with the owner’s Greek god looks that he decides to film him, instead of you know, waiting till it is safe and making his escape pronto. Sorry, but no. And he knows that he is smitten within minutes, if not seconds.

When Wyatt continued to behave like an idiot and lost his day job in the most stupid way, any sympathy I had developed for him evaporated and unfortunately never came back.

The growing romance between him and Jack gave me whiplash. It was as if the writer expected me already to know these characters before the book began and did not give them motivations for their behavior that made sense to me. A lot of things were touched upon – dead family members, alive but feuding family members, past love traumas that weren’t really traumas — but nothing was developed in depth and very little made sense to me.

For example, more than halfway through the book we learn that Jack apparently has a controlling personality, and that apparently Wyatt decides he is not happy about that. But what was shown on the page was not strong enough for me to buy into his controlling personality, and more importantly, he does a 180-degree switch very fast. And then, hilariously, Wyatt does his own equally rapid 180-degree switch – one minute he claims he is being controlled and not happy about certain things Jack has done, but then when Jack starts treating him differently (as I said – very fast page space wise), he is unhappy that he is being treated like a “girl”.

I was also extremely confused about Wyatt’s relationship with his family. Based on his monologue, he was supposedly feuding with his father, but his father was right there at the first sign of trouble Wyatt got himself into (that he told his family about). I could have believed that because no matter how much we argue with the family, they will often still come to support us in times of trouble (of course not always). What I was confused about is that the story seemed to go back and forth about how much communication he had with his father and siblings in the first place.

I was also confused about Wyatt’s past love life, in the sense that I did not understand the purpose that the appearance of one of his exes served. I felt like the story kept manufacturing conflict out of thin air, but then failed to really develop it, so the potential for drama just went away. Please do not get me wrong – I was *not* looking for manufactured drama and angst! Earlier in the review I used the word “whiplash” and I think this is the best word to describe how I felt after I finished with this book. The story was pulling me in many different directions and did not properly take me in any of those directions to satisfy me.

I cannot really say anything bad or good about the writing style. It felt competent to me, but as I tried to explain above I was not happy with the story and I really was not that in love with the writing that it transformed the story for me. I cannot even choose the quote to give you a taste – probably reading the sample is the best way to get a feel for it.

Oh have I mentioned that halfway through, the story decided that it wanted to be a mystery as well? The less said about that the better.
Grade: D.

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