REVIEW: Archangel’s Prophecy by Nalini Singh
Dear Ms. Singh,
As a longtime reader of your Guild Hunter series, I was looking forward to this book. In one of the earlier books, snippets of a prophecy were revealed and it seemed to foretell the destruction of Lijuan, the horrific archangel of China who has gone to sleep, but only in order to recoup her strength so that she can then come back and take over the world.
Archangel’s Prophecy begins with part of the same prophecy, which contains the lines “One must die for one to live” and “the birds always know.”
Early in the book, Elena spots birds behaving unlike themselves. She is tracking a runaway vampire who has broken his contract to the Adirondacks when a sinkhole opens, filled with lava, and swallows him. The Cascade is back.
Harrison, husband to Elena’s sister Beth and father to her niece Maggie, is attacked, his mouth carved into a wider grin. Luckily, Beth and Maggie are visiting with Elena and Beth’s grandparents, Majda and Jean-Baptiste. Elena’s father Jeffrey, and her half-sister, Eve, arrive before the killer can finish the job. The killer escapes, but Jeffrey calls Elena.
After arriving and securing the scene, Elena calls Laric, who arrives and treats Harrison’s wound. Jason also helps out, letting Harrison drink his powerful blood so that he will heal faster. Though unable to speak, Harrison indicates that Maggie and Beth are in danger, but Elena, Eve and Jeffrey find them unharmed. Still, with their lives under threat, Elena is determined to investigate the case in order to save them.
More frightening still are the changes in Elena wrought by the cascade. Elena begins to see owls that aren’t there, and to hear the voice of an ancient telling her that “One must die for one to live,” and that it’s written in the stars that Elena is the one who will die.
Elena begins losing weight, no matter how much she eats. Cuts appear on her body, her chest itches, and her left wing weakens, dragging behind her when she’s not making an effort to keep it raised. Soon, she starts shedding feathers and healing at the rate of a human, not an angel. None of the healers know how to save her.
As her death inches closer, Raphael must struggle against the urge to wrap her in cotton wool, but he’s learned that doing so will only suffocate her. He acquires a new, Cascade-born ability that allows him to travel at supersonic speed, but the ability isn’t under his control.
The Legion tell Elena that she is “becoming,” but what she’s becoming isn’t clear, though the voice in her head speaks of a vessel. To save her sister and niece, and distract herself from the danger to herself, Elena buries herself in Harrison’s case. With Janvier and Ashwini’s help, she connects the attempt on his life to other killings. Related knowledge is buried in her brain, but she can’t remember what it is.
Will Elena manage to save Beth and Maggie before her time runs out? Will Raphael, faced with the impending loss of Elena and given more power from the Cascade, be able to protect his humanity? Will Elena survive the fulfilling of the ancient prophecy, or will she be the one to die? And who is the one who is prophesied to live at the cost of Elena’s life?
Archangel’s Prophecy is a high-stakes book and as such, I found it very page turning. Some of my favorite moments were Elena’s interactions with Jeffrey, Eve, Majda and Jean-Baptiste. I loved Elena’s kindness to Eve, her half-sister and guild hunting trainee. Jeffrey’s pain around Jean-Baptiste and especially Majda, who looks so much like his beloved dead wife, was understandable and moving. Best of all, Jeffrey shows that he loves Elena.
Raphael and Elena’s interactions were also satisfying, and highly romantic. The book shows how much Elena and Raphael have grown. It demonstrates how well Raphael has learned not to overprotect Elena—even with her weakened by the changes in her body, he understands her need to pursue Harrison’s would-be killer to protect her sister and niece. If anything, he is almost too hands-off.
Elena’s determination to protect Raphael’s humanity and life no matter the cost is touching. Near the end, Raphael makes a huge sacrifice for Elena which I found very romantic. Meanwhile, Elena’s fate hangs in the balance, and as her condition worsens, her safety doesn’t feel at all assured.
There are some good scenes with Jessamy and Galen, too, and Ashwini proves herself a true friend.
At the same time, I also found other aspects of the book frustrating. High among these is that the Cascade behaves differently in this book than it has in the earlier books in the series, almost like a person. It is bent upon Elena’s death, and on turning Raphael into a dark monster. This was both annoying and inconsistent.
The main danger in the story, Elena’s body being transformed into a host for another being, felt a little too similar to Holly’s situation in Archangel’s Viper.
There’s not much development on the Illium / Aodhan front, or rather, it feels like some development took place off-page. Last thing I remember, they were on the outs, but now it seems like they’ve moved past it, without us seeing how that took place. Aodhan is away, but Illium speaks of him as if they are already a couple so that instead of showing us their courtship, it’s presented as almost a done deal. Other readers might differ on this, though.
The subplot with Harrison at first seems separate from what’s going on with Elena, but the two threads end up tying together in a way that doesn’t feel entirely organic, since one has to do with an age-old prophecy and the other is very much of the here and now.
But the thing that bothered me most was the ending. Toward the end, I was turning the page faster and faster, to learn what would become of Raphael and Elena–only to come to a cliffhanger ending. And it was not a cliffhanger that resolved enough other stuff to feel satisfying. I ended up feeling thwarted—all that turning of the pages, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to know at the end.
Readers of this series, Archangel’s Prophecy is *not* a book you can skip over. Much like Angels’ Blood and Archangel’s Legion, it is a game changer. Nevertheless, I feel ambivalent about it. C+/B-.