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What Janine is Reading 8/21/11-9/4/11

In the reading world I’m more of a turtle than a greyhound. During the past two weeks, I read two books. Here’s a recap:

Archangel’s Consort by Nalini Singh

I picked up this third novel in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series in preparation for book four, Archangel’s Blade, which I had committed myself to reviewing. Since Jane has reviewed Archangel’s Consort I won’t regurgitate the plot. Suffice to say that though I liked the book less than Jane did, it wasn’t a bad way to pass the time.

As others have said, the ongoing conflict between Raphael and Elena was somewhat repetitive. Those parts of the book didn’t engage me as much as others. Also, I find some of the graphic violence in this series very hard to read, but I thought that in this book it wasn’t quite as gruesome and disturbing as in book two,Archangel’s Kiss.

What I liked a lot was the conflict between Elena and her father, Jeffrey. Their scenes together have riveted me since book one. There are times I wish that complex family dynamics got a little more attention in the romance genre so I was pleased to see that was the case in this book. I also love the vivid descriptions of the angels in these books, and the aerial love scene was something. Still, Angels’ Blood (#1 in the series) remains my favorite of the Elena/Raphael books.

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

Who would have thought that I could come to care so much about Dmitri? He’s been a complete jerk to Elena for three books, but as soon as Honor St. Nicholas showed up on his turf, I was 110% engaged with this dark and sometimes painful story, and couldn’t put it down.

Ultimately, though it wasn’t perfect, I ended up liking Archangel’s Blade a whole lot more than Archangel’s Kiss or Archangel’s Consort. It’s probably my favorite of all the Guild Hunter books thus far. This may be partly because I prefer books that introduce me to a new couple and resolve their romance in one book to books that drag a relationship out for multiple installments. But another part is simply that this story was deeply emotional – even haunting and touching.

Since I have a review of the book in the pipeline, I will endeavor not to repeat my thoughts, but I did want to discuss something that interests me about my own emotional response to this series. As in Archangel’s Kiss (#2, my least favorite) there is quite a bit of violence here – including brutal violence against children. I won’t say that this aspect of Archangel’s Blade didn’t disturb me, but I was able to tolerate it much better than I did in Archangels’ Kiss.

Perhaps my greater ability to bear it was because the nature of the violence against children was less gruesome, though no less horrific. I felt there was somewhat less focus on the physical details, and much of the impact came from the emotional effects of these acts on the characters. But it may also have been due to my being more caught up in this story, more interested in Dmitri and Honor than I had been in Raphael and Elena by their second book.

What about you, readers? What have you been reading lately? Have you read Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series and if so, what are your thoughts on these books? Do you ever find reading about violence, in this series or elsewhere, disturbing? Do you ever tolerate equally strong violence more in one book than another? Why or why not?

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.

20 Comments

  1. Lisa J
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 14:10:06

    This is one series I haven’t been able to get into. I love Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling books, so this should be a no brainer for me. But like you, I prefer books to introduce a new couple. It’s okay to visit the existing characters and catch up on how they are doing as secondary characters in the next installment, but I want a HEA in each book.

  2. Statch
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 14:40:52

    I normally don’t care for explicit violence in books, and I always prefer having a different couple in each book of a series but….somehow this series totally works for me. I didn’t buy her latest Psy book because of the price, but I’ll buy Blade as soon as it’s out and won’t care about the price.

  3. Janine
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 14:48:15

    @Lisa J: That’s the way I generally feel too. I’m pretty sure Dmitri and Honor’s romance is wrapped up in Archangel’s Blade and that may be another reason why I liked it much better than the last couple of Elena and Raphael books. Since I liked Archangel’s Blade so much, I think there’s a possibility you would too.

    @Statch: Archangel’s Blade is one of my favorite Nalini Singh books — probably in the top two or three, despite having loads of violence. So that is what I was trying to get at with my question — how is it that she can make it work for me in this book when it doesn’t in most books. Maybe it’s because that book told such an emotional story.

    Also, I forgot to mention — barring anything unforeseen, my review of it should post in the next couple of days.

  4. Lisa J
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 14:59:52

    @Janine: Can I read Archangel’s Blade without reading the other two?

  5. Tina
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 15:01:44

    I loved the first book in this series Angel’s Blood, but none of the others have lived up to that promise, imo. The most recent book I read, Archangel’s Consort felt flat to me. But I like the series enough still to follow up and read the upcoming 4th book especially since it centers on Dmitri.

    Regarding Dmitri, I don’t care that he’s a bit of a jerk to Elena. I like that he’s constantly needling and testing her. I respect him more for it. He’s been a member of Raphael’s elite for hundreds of years. If Elena can’t handle him then she’s not strong enough to have the position she does.

    I actually like that all of his Seven that she’s met so far seem to have differing opinions and relationships with Elena. It makes sense that they are all judging her for themselves on their own criteria. When I read Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound I rolled my eyes so hard they practically fell out of my head with how quickly and easily Dragos’ elite guard accepted Pia. I wouldn’t trust them to guard the opening of a letter based on the criteria they used to decide to accept her with open arms.

  6. Statch
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 15:41:19

    @Janine, I think the reason that series has worked for me despite the violence is Singh’s skill at character description. The characters felt real to me (well, except for the super powers :->) and so I felt an emotional connection to them.

    @Tina, your comment about Dragon Bound made me laugh, but then I realized that the part about how each of Raphael’s elite has a different relationship to Elena is exactly on target. I’ve cut way back on reading paranormals because all the characters started blurring into each other. Singh and Ilona Andrews’ Edge series are wonderful exceptions.

  7. Christine
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 16:18:27

    I read the first psy/changeling book and thought it was great. I got the first two Angel books from the library, read them and was unimpressed. The two main characters weren’t interesting enough (IMHO)to carry one book let alone three. The most intriguing characters for me were Dmitri and Illium, the blue angel with the tragic past- loving and looking out for the human their whole life.

  8. Janine
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 16:47:23

    @Lisa J: I think so. The events from the other two don’t figure all that much in Archangel’s Blade.

    @Tina: Agree on the first three books. I hope you like book four as much as I did.

    Re. Dmitri and the others of Raphael’s seven, I agree with you up to a point. I would like at least one of Raphael’s seven to be indifferent to Elena, or to see her as inconsequential, a passing phase to Raphael. The strong feelings around Elena from the seven (and particularly on the part of Illium and Dmitri) make her seem like a bit of a Mary Sue to me. If I didn’t like Elena so much, I would be more annoyed. But I agree that that problem was more pronounced in Dragon Bound.

    @Statch: For me that aspect was stronger for me in the Archangel’s Blade and my emotional connection was stronger there as well. Elena and Raphael have some aspects that feel real but Dmitri and Elena felt more real to me. Maybe because although they were strong and attractive, they weren’t the most powerful, most beautiful, most fascinating, etc., the way Raphael and Elena are? Or because their flaws were more human? Not sure. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what others think once the book comes out.

  9. Janine
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 16:56:32

    @Christine: I liked the first angel book a whole lot, but Dmitri’s book is probably my favorite in this series. I really look forward to Illium’s book too.

    Re. this series vs. the Psy/Changeling series. I think they have different strengths. I love the vivid descriptions of the angels in this series, but I’m put off by the degree of coldness and cruelty that so many of them display. The Psy/Changeling world is less compelling to me but those books feel warmer and that’s something I appreciate a lot.

    On the whole, the Psy/Changeling series has been more consistent for me but that’s probably due to the fact that each book in that series focuses on a different relationship. So now that Nalini Singh is focusing on shorter relationship arcs in the Guild Hunter series too, I suspect I might enjoy it just as much.

  10. MarieC
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 18:10:38

    I love both series. To me, the GH is UF and the Psy-Changeling more paranormal romance.

    Neither series’ violence bothered me; while a little gruesome, it seemed to be meting out some sort of justice…at least when our protaganists did it, anyway.

  11. Janine
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 18:30:43

    @MarieC: To clarify, I’m not referring to the protagonists’ violence. Although I don’t love that, I can live with it. In Archangels’ Kiss (the one where violence bothered me the most) I’m thinking of what Slater Patalis did to Elena and her sisters, and coming on top of that what happened to little Sam as well as what Lijuan and the people she reanimated did. All of it together (but especially Elena’s sisters) was too much for me.

  12. SonomaLass
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 00:45:36

    Yeah, the violence can be tough for me to take, too. But ultimately I find this series worth it, because the angels really DO approach things differently than humans, and the tension that creates (as well as the other aspects of the power dynamic between Elena and Raphael specifically) raises interesting questions that some PNR sort of glides over. How much of being non-human is just having cool superpowers and how much is a fundamentally different way of looking at things? And if there’s enough in common between humans and non-humans for romance to happen, what does that mean and what has to be resolved for it to work? I’m glad that Singh didn’t try to provide pat resolutions to those questions by resolving E&R’s story in one volume; I believe in them more as a long-term couple because of how many aspects of their differences they have faced and resolved. (See Jane’s post last month on “love is hard work.”)

    That said, I’m excited that other characters get love stories in this world now, too. I have Dmitri’s book up soon on my TBR, and I look forward as well to the ongoing romance of Ashwini and Janvier from Angel’s Pawn.

  13. Angela
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 09:13:45

    Interesting question regarding the violence. Violence against children is one of the hardest things for me to get past. What Slater did to Elena and her sisters was so gut-wrenching for me. What happened to Sam broke my heart.

    But it doesn’t make me dislike the books. Or even really affect my grade. You’re making me think about this, because I would say this is always the case, but it’s not. I know that I had a really hard time with some Jodi Picoult books, and what was that one book that was made into a movie about the little girl that was killed? Can’t remember the name. Shoot.

    Anyways, I think some authors can take me there and bring me back – not unscathed, but able to deal and more emotionally attached than before.

    Regarding Raphael’s Seven – I love that they don’t all automatically accept her. That they’re making up their own mind. @Janine – I’ve always kinda seen Venom as being the most distant from Elena. I still get the feeling that he hasn’t made up his mind, he’s just not as openly antagonistic as Dmitri, per se.

    @Tina – Yes! That is one, of the many, things that irritated me in Dragon Bound. It’s a big part of the reason I’m not at all anxious to read further in the series.

  14. Janine
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 11:30:44

    @SonomaLass: You’ve pointed out one of the things I love about this series, that it tackles a question many paranormal romances don’t. I think of it less as the difference between human and nonhuman and more as the difference between mortal and immortal or near-immortal. In other series, often get these characters who have lived for centuries but their long life does not seem to truly impact them. In this series, it really does. That was one of the things that most excited me when I read Angels’ Blood.

    But if you’re saying that the degree of graphic violence is necessary to illustrate that difference between human/nonhuman, you haven’t convinced me of that, and I’d like to hear in more detail why you think so.

    If on the other hand what you’re saying is that the way Singh depicts differences between humans and inhumans makes you willing to put up with the violence, then we are in closer agreement because that is one of the reasons I’ve stuck with this series myself.

    I’m glad that Singh didn’t try to provide pat resolutions to those questions by resolving E&R’s story in one volume; I believe in them more as a long-term couple because of how many aspects of their differences they have faced and resolved. (See Jane’s post last month on “love is hard work.”)

    I don’t disagree on that but for me, their conflict started to get repetitive by book three. I don’t think I want a pat resolution but at this point the payoffs from watching them hash it out don’t outweigh the downsides as much as I wish they did. I would still rate books 2 and 3 as above average, but only slightly.

    @Angela:

    You’re making me think about this, because I would say this is always the case, but it’s not. I know that I had a really hard time with some Jodi Picoult books, and what was that one book that was made into a movie about the little girl that was killed? Can’t remember the name. Shoot.

    Anyways, I think some authors can take me there and bring me back – not unscathed, but able to deal and more emotionally attached than before.

    This is what I was most interested in about my own reaction. I felt that way about Archangels’ Blade and after Archangel’s Kiss it surprised me that it did. There was a ton of violence in Dmitri and Honor’s Book, but it worked for me much better.

    Re. Venom — you could be right.

  15. Angela
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 12:29:02

    @Janine:

    This is what I was most interested in about my own reaction. I felt that way about Archangels’ Blade and after Archangel’s Kiss it surprised me that it did. There was a ton of violence in Dmitri and Honor’s Book, but it worked for me much better.

    Archangel’s Kiss was rife with a lot of violence against the innocent. That’s always the hardest for me to take. And while Archangel’s Blade had a lot of violence, I don’t remember as much against innocents – though I was thoroughly disgusted by the vampire mother (I’m having a real problem with naming things today!). For me the innocent vs non-innocent is the line that hardest.

    And while I hate seeing characters that I’ve come to care about hurt, and find it heart-wrenching when it’s in their past, seeing them rise above it, heal, become even better people (I use that word loosely) makes it that much more satisfying. Seeing good triumph over evil, whether it be a person or memories or circumstances, is my absolute favorite thing to read about.

    I’m a bit off-topic here. I’m enjoying thinking about this though, trying to figure out why I react the way I do to certain books/events in books.

    I do love the way that Singh depicts the differences with beings that have immortality. Yes, there are bonuses to living forever and being nearly invincible, but there are also downsides. She doesn’t shy away from that crucial blend in her characters.

  16. Janine
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 18:51:55

    @Angela:

    Archangel’s Kiss was rife with a lot of violence against the innocent. That’s always the hardest for me to take. And while Archangel’s Blade had a lot of violence, I don’t remember as much against innocents

    I was trying to avoid spoilers, but

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    There was what happened to Dmitri’s children. I thought that was pretty close to on par, though perhaps less graphic than, what we saw in Elena’s flashbacks to her sisters’ death in Archangel’s Kiss.
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    But you are on the right track in that it is violence against innocents (and children in particular) that is most disturbing to me as well.

    And while I hate seeing characters that I’ve come to care about hurt, and find it heart-wrenching when it’s in their past, seeing them rise above it, heal, become even better people (I use that word loosely) makes it that much more satisfying. Seeing good triumph over evil, whether it be a person or memories or circumstances, is my absolute favorite thing to read about.

    I like it a lot too, especially when it’s an internal struggle within a character to be a better person, or when he or she grows into a better person. Good vs. evil when it’s good guys vs. evil guys isn’t as interesting to me because I like characters with shades of gray. I find this series compelling in that regard too.

    I’m a bit off-topic here. I’m enjoying thinking about this though, trying to figure out why I react the way I do to certain books/events in books.

    I do love the way that Singh depicts the differences with beings that have immortality. Yes, there are bonuses to living forever and being nearly invincible, but there are also downsides. She doesn’t shy away from that crucial blend in her characters.

    Agreed. And I don’t think you are off topic. I’m glad you are enjoying the conversation.

  17. Angela
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 09:51:38

    @Janine:

    I like it a lot too, especially when it’s an internal struggle within a character to be a better person, or when he or she grows into a better person. Good vs. evil when it’s good guys vs. evil guys isn’t as interesting to me because I like characters with shades of gray. I find this series compelling in that regard too.

    Characters with shades of gray, absolutely! That’s one of the reasons that I like Dmitri so much, and how she handled his book.

    I also do like the good guys vs evil guys, but with the characters of shades of gray. One small move in a different direction and perhaps they could have been each other. Choices from complex characters, and where they take them, always interest me.

    You are right about the spoiler, of course, I was lessening it in my own mind, I think, because it wasn’t as graphic. With Elena’s memories of her sisters I think it was harsher too because we had to live the horror through her child eyes, multiple times.

  18. Janine
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 13:13:38

    @Angela:

    Characters with shades of gray, absolutely! That’s one of the reasons that I like Dmitri so much, and how she handled his book.

    Agreed.

    I also do like the good guys vs evil guys, but with the characters of shades of gray. One small move in a different direction and perhaps they could have been each other. Choices from complex characters, and where they take them, always interest me.

    I agree with this as well. It’s not that I mind good guys vs. bad guys as a whole, I just don’t get caught up in the story when the good guys are so good that they have no flaws of their own, and the bad guys are Snidely Whiplash types. Thankfully that is not the case in these books.

    You are right about the spoiler, of course, I was lessening it in my own mind, I think, because it wasn’t as graphic. With Elena’s memories of her sisters I think it was harsher too because we had to live the horror through her child eyes, multiple times.

    Yes. For me too. IMO the events were just as bad in Archangel’s Blade but the description was less graphic and I think that was one of the things that helped me deal with it better.

  19. Angela
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 15:15:55

    @Janine:

    It’s not that I mind good guys vs. bad guys as a whole, I just don’t get caught up in the story when the good guys are so good that they have no flaws of their own, and the bad guys are Snidely Whiplash types.

    This, exactly this!

    I’ve gotta say this is why I follow your reviews, my tastes mirror yours in many ways and I’ve found a lot of new-to-me authors this way. :)

  20. Janine
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 15:44:15

    Thank you, that is really nice to hear.

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