REVIEW: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
Dear Ms. Singh,
Archangel’s Viper, the tenth book in your Guild Hunter series, begins with a two paragraph prologue in which an unidentified woman gives birth to a child. Something about the child causes the healer to back away.
In the next chapter, Holly Chang, once known as Sorrow, parts from her sister, Mia, and then drives to the airport to pick up Venom on Janvier’s orders.
It’s been two years since Venom was reassigned to another location, and in that time, Holly has grown stronger and begun to adjust to some of the alterations the bloodthirsty archangel Uram made in her body four years ago, before Raphael killed him. Holly is no longer terrified and lost, and can now trade sassy banter with Venom, who playfully nicknames her “Kitty” and “Hollyberry.”
But if she gives the impression of being well-adjusted, that is only an impression and not the full truth. The reality is that when Uram altered her, he left behind a remnant of his own madness—and under Holly’s stronger exterior, that remnant is now growing.
On the way to the tower from the airport, an attempt to kidnap Holly takes place. Venom and Holly defeat the would-be kidnappers, and the interrogation that follows reveals that a bounty has been placed on Holly. Since Raphael and Elena are still away at the Cadre meeting in Lumia (Archangel’s Viper takes place almost entirely concurrently with the previous book in the series, Archangel’s Heart), it is Dmitri who must be informed.
When he hears of the bounty, Dmitri orders an investigation. After some bickering, it’s decided that Holly and Venom will lead it. The two discover that the bounty on Holly is large—five million dollars—but that whoever issued it has kept his or her identity secret.
Working together makes Venom and Holly more conscious of the attraction between them, and after Holly attacks Venom and he defends himself, they spar in an exciting match. There are commonalities they share; each is unlike any other vampire and the way they move isn’t human, but that makes them well-suited.
At the same time, neither wants their attraction to develop into anything more. Holly chafes at giving Venom any more advantages over her, while Venom views Holly as a vulnerable child.
Their attempts to track down the source of the bounty lead Venom and Holly to rescue an abused vampire named Daisy. A mysterious connection exists between Holly and Daisy, one which traces its roots to Uram. Meanwhile, the remnant Uram left within Holly grows stronger and threatens her safety. Can Holly survive what Uram has done to her?
Besides this main storyline, we also see a little more of the Legion, and get Illium’s side of the new conflict between him and Aodhan. There are also cameo appearances by Dmitri and Honor, as well as Janvier and Ashwini, and we learn more about Uram, Michaela, and what happened in the warehouse where Holly was transformed. Of course, we also come to know Venom better, and find out who he was before Neha made him into the unusual vampire he is now.
I enjoyed Archangel’s Viper; it was a fun book. I was a little disappointed that some of Holly’s healing process was glossed over, though. I may be forgetting something, but the last time I remember reading about her, she was still calling herself Sorrow and her future was in jeopardy. Now, her survival still hangs in the balance, but her fighting spirit is never in doubt. As much as I liked that, I wanted to understand better how and why this change came about.
Like most of the books in the Guild Hunter series, Archangel’s Viper is a combination of mystery and paranormal romance with a tinge of horror. Actually, there was more than a tinge of horror in this installment. I don’t want to spoil what is going on with Holly, but it was effectively creepy and scary. Perhaps a little too much so, because this aspect of the book was foregrounded so much in the middle of the novel that for a while there, the romance got sidelined.
The latter might also have had something to do with the fact that there were not one but two external conflicts – the bounty on Holly and the Uram-thing inside her. Another factor that muted the romance was that I didn’t really understand what Venom’s resistance to falling in love was about until quite late in the book. The romantic relationship conflict was therefore murky for much of the journey.
Thankfully, in the final quarter or so, this conflict came into focus and the romance became more prominent again. With all that was going on in Holly’s body due to Uram’s actions, I was a little too anxious to enjoy the sex scenes, but the tenderness between Holly and Venom was lovely, and once the menace was defeated, we got a sweet, satisfying conclusion.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that this is a multicultural romance, with a Chinese-American heroine and a hero who hails from India. I loved the little bits we got about Venom’s background (I will not reveal his real name, but we learn what it is) and wished that this part of the book had been even more developed. I wanted to know a bit more about his relationships with his family members.
Holly’s relationships with her family members, on the other hand, were developed more, and I really enjoyed her parents and Mia. They were loving and accepting which was exactly what Holly needed. I did wonder, though, how they bought Holly’s story about being a regular vampire when there were obvious physical differences between Holly and other vamps.
The sparring scene between Venom and Holly was a great illustration of those differences, and of how Venom understood Holly better than anyone else did. I appreciated that she was able to reciprocate that understanding, and made him feel accepted and loved in a way that he hadn’t before.
There is also a nice scene in which Holly visits the Legion, and it left me anxious to know more about them. The scenes between Venom and Illium were almost as intriguing, and shed a little more light on Illium and Aodhan’s relationship. At this point, if Aodhan and Illium aren’t paired romantically, I will be genuinely surprised.
I wonder if the next book in the series will be about Illium and Aodhan, or if we’ll get another Raphael / Elena book first. Either way, I am looking forward to what the future holds for the Guild Hunter series. B-/B.