REVIEW: Archangel’s Resurrection by Nalini Singh
Dear Ms. Singh,
We met Alexander in Archangel’s Enigma, when he awakened after centuries of Sleeping to find that his son had been killed but he had a young grandson named after him, Xander. Zanaya is a more recent addition to the cast; though younger than Alexander, she woke from a longer sleep, around the time of Archangel’s War. But almost as soon as she did, we saw that she and Alexander had once loved, and that even centuries later that spark was still there. Archangel’s Resurrection, the fifteenth book in the Guild Hunter series, is the story of that love.
During the war, Zanaya was bitten by Lijuan and fell, and that’s more or less where this book starts. Alexander watches that moment in disbelief, unable to do more than catch the archangel he thinks of as his Zani and wonder if this is her end. He gives her into the hands of the half-Sleeping, half-awake archangel Cassandra. Though Cassandra is a foreseer, she can’t answer Alexander’s question about whether Zanaya will ever wake again. Alexander is devastated; his relationship with Zanaya was on-again, off-again but he has always counted on her being in the world and he doesn’t know if he can exist in it if she doesn’t.
A short chapter in Cassandra’s viewpoint follows, a murky prophecy where a sickly green infection colors the future and there is only one tiny chance, a diamond strand of small possibility for something better. Cassandra can’t change the future but she has influenced it, and so this is the only timeline in which Elena has survived. Hope remains, but it’s fragile, and the chapter ends with a cryptic prophecy: “Lovers fall and lovers rise. The river stops flowing. This time will be the end.”
We then flash back thousands of years earlier, to Alexander’s birth and childhood. Alexander is a much beloved child with caring parents and an affectionate older brother, Osiris. Unlike his shy parents or his brother who studies the world around him, Alexander is a boisterous, focused and strong for his age. He is enrolled in training and there he befriends Callie, a slightly older girl. She is of course, Caliane, who will grow up to be an archangel.
When his mother is assaulted by a more powerful angel who pursued her against her wishes, Alexander’s choice to seek help from an archangel’s general not only protects the family, it also brings him to the attention the general, Akhia-Solay, who places him under his command and provides him with further training and opportunities.
The incident is a defining one. The lesson Alexander takes from it is that power matters, that it’s worth holding and using to protect others and to fight for what’s right and just. Over the centuries that follow, Alexander rises in power, becoming an admired and handsome general. He takes lovers, but no one means the world to him and he doesn’t anticipate that anyone ever will. This expectation is confounded when he meets a black-skinned, silver-haired young angel named Zanaya.
Though young, Zanaya is already fierce and determined. She grew up in the hinterlands, where her father abandoned her mother after he tired of her. Zanaya’s mother became desolate and desperate, and Zanaya decided that she would let no man have that kind of power over her, that she would always belong to herself.
When she meets golden-haired, silver-eyed, three-thousand-years-old Alexander, Zanaya discovers she is not immune; his beauty, power and danger sing to her soul. And when he rejects her—not because he doesn’t feel the same way but because he can’t give in to the feeling for fear of reshaping someone too young—Zanaya decides that no matter what, she will end her obsession with him.
As the centuries pass, Alexander’s brother Osiris loses himself in his experiments and gets out of touch with the world. Caliane ascends yet she and Alexander remain friends. When the Archangel he serves, Esphares, begins to become unstable, it is Alexander who must make him see that he needs to retreat into Sleep. And then—unexpectedly, because he’d given up the notion that it would ever happen—Alexander also ascends.
Zanaya’s obsession doesn’t die, and when Alexander becomes an archangel, she is angrier than ever at the possibility that he’ll never be within reach. No matter how many lovers she takes, half of her will belong to man she’s never touched. But her best friend, Aureline, has the insight that Alexander feels just as strongly and is waiting for her to grow into her power.
When Alexander and Zanaya finally become lovers, their relationship is passionate and intense. Through more centuries, through Zanaya’s own eventual ascension, two things are always apparent: No matter how many times their fights tear them apart, Alexander and Zani will keep returning to each other, and the real bone of contention between them will always be Alexander’s need to protect Zanaya and Zanaya’s need to remain independent and strong, to belong to no one but herself.
When we return to the time of the cascade, we see Zanaya wake and joins the war effort. She and Alexander put their last fight on hold, more or less, and spend a few days together fighting Lijuan’s reborn with Michaela’s help and preparing to meet with the rest of the Cadre in New York.
Alexander wants to get back together, but Zanaya is skeptical that things will be any different this time. She promises Alexander that she’ll hear him out and they’ll talk after the battle, but then Lijuan bites her, perhaps fatally, and Alexander has to leave her with Cassandra. He mourns and rages and vows to love her again, forever this time, if he’s given the opportunity. But will Zanaya ever wake again, or will something else awaken in her place?
Besides this main storyline, there are a few other threads here. One is about Alexander’s brother Osiris, his descent into madness and its frightening consequences. Another is about Caliane and Alexander’s long, long friendship. Zanaya has her own best friend, Aureline, and Aureline and another angel’s relationship play out in the background. We see Alexander and Raphael’s respect for each other develop, and we see Alexander’s alliance with Titus across their shared border. And this wouldn’t be a Guild Hunter book without a creepy suspenseful subplot; there is one in the second half of the book.
Something else happens that has me very excited.
Spoiler (only sort of a spoiler): Show
It’s also in this part of the book that Alexander and Zanaya’s reunion takes place, and they have to resolve their differences and see if they can shape their future relationship to be more unified than it was in their tumultuous past. Can they compromise in a way that diminishes neither of them?
As characters in this series go, Alexander has never been a big favorite of mine. I’m only rarely interested in stodgy heroes, and Alexander is a bit of stuffed shirt. I do understand that a lot of his inflexibility comes with his immortality. He is truly an ancient. But I think it’s also his personality, because I can think of a couple of other ancients who don’t struggle with this character flaw to the same extent. I didn’t come out of this book a lot more excited about Alexander than I was going into it but I have nothing against him either.
I realize this isn’t a ringing endorsement, but happily, I am a reader for whom one satisfying character is enough to make enjoyable, and this book does have a character I can resoundingly endorse: Zanaya. I really loved her fierceness. She was badass, she took no prisoners, and she took none of Alexander’s crap either. The word spirited doesn’t begin to do her justice, but I also never felt that she was behaving with immature feistiness. In general, I was almost always on her side whenever they were in conflict. She was the one who was ultimately more grounded in life.
Their romance was turbulent at times and I have to admit, I never quite got what the glue was that kept them (particularly Zanaya) from moving on after one of their breakups. The best answer given in the book was that they were destined for each other from the moment they first saw each other. “Fate” is an answer works up to a point, and I think Nalini Singh sells it for the most part. I would still have liked a bit more, because I loved Zanaya so much that I wanted to be convinced that she would be happier with Alexander in the future than she would ever be with someone else. I’m not 100% there.
I do believe that about Alexander, though, that no one else could ever mean as much to him. In his soul and in his bones, Alexander is a one-woman man, regardless of breakups and other lovers. He is unswervingly Zanaya’s and in many ways that’s his saving grace. There was never a moment when I felt he didn’t appreciate how special Zanaya was or understand there was no one else like her. He got it. That part of it he got in spades.
This is very much the love of two archangels and the story makes it very clear that (as the author has said more than once, including in our recent interview here) these characters aren’t exactly human. I think this kind of relationship might not hold together between two human beings, but being Archangels, having that kind of power, gives these two the tenacity to make it work in the end.
Their past wasn’t easy, and I don’t think their life together will always be easy in the future, though I do think they’re both ready to have a mellower time for a while at least. I wish I had a clearer idea of the reason they’ll be a completely united front for the rest of their unnatural lifetimes— “this time he’d thought she was dead” isn’t quite enough for me—but I was willing to buy it because I liked Zanaya so much and I wanted happiness for her. And I do think Alexander will make a genuine effort and that he means what he says.
Now to the other characters in the series. Man, I missed them so much. When we last left the Guild Hunter world, Illium and Aodhan had gone from tight lifelong friends to romantic partners. I loved Archangel’s Light—it was easily one of the top two books I read last year—so I was really, really excited by the possibilities in their future and looking forward to another glimpse of them.
I’ll get out of the way what many Bluebell and Sparkle fans are wondering. No, there’s no further developments on in their relationship that we see in this book (but check out the exciting news about them in Monday’s interview). In fact we don’t see them at all in this book, we don’t see any of the Seven at all except for Naasir and that’s in flashback to his childhood. Even Elena only gets a few lines. That was the most disappointing thing for me about this book. But on the other hand, the sort-of spoiler I hid above makes me very excited about future books.
Besides Alexander and Zanaya, the familiar faces we do see are most of the Cadre (including, before the war, Michaela who I’m now convinced will be given her own book), especially Caliane, Raphael, Titus, and to a lesser extent Elijah. Xander, Alexander’s grandson, gets a fair bit of page time too, as does another character we haven’t seen since Archangel’s War and that I wasn’t sure we’d see again anytime soon. There is also a glimpse of Sharine that I really enjoyed.
However, this book is focused very tightly on Zanaya and Alexander, as a larger-than-life, millennia-spanning love story might have to be, and I did love the epic scope of it. It’s a story that’s told to a large extent through Alexander’s eyes rather than Zanaya’s, although we do get her POV. There were times I wished it was the other way around but that might just be because I like her so much.
Overall I enjoyed Archangel’s Resurrection, and now I’m dying for Guild Hunter #16. B-.