REVIEW: Archangel’s War by Nalini Singh
Dear Ms. Singh,
Archangel’s War begins where Archangel’s Prophecy ended, with Elena in a strange chrysalis too small to hold her. Has Elena survived or is a repository of power for Raphael all that is left of her?
As the novel starts, Raphael, also dormant, mentally contacts his Seven and the Legion to tell them to clear the area. A huge explosion follows, and Raphael wakes next to what may be a remnant of Elena. Elena made Raphael promise to kill what’s left of her if her soul doesn’t survive, saying “I would rather die as Elena than live as a shadow.” Raphael and Elena have also made a pact to face everything together, even death. So Raphael waits to see if Elena has survived her transformation. If not, he will have to kill her, and then himself.
Of course, readers of the series can guess the answer to that question. Without Elena there would be no Guild Hunter series. She is the central character of the series. Nevertheless, the opening is suspenseful since we know that even if Elena has survived, she will have been changed.
It turns out that while Elena is a spirited as ever, intent on kicking the Cascade’s ass and saving Raphael and New York from whatever lies in store for them, she is also physically fragile, her skin paper thin and her body emaciated. Worse, she is wingless. To save her while she was trapped in the chrysalis, her body had to discard anything nonessential, anything she could survive without. The image of the midnight blue and dawn gold wings she once had is tattooed on her back, and she can almost feel their presence the way amputees sometimes feel their lost limbs.
Nourishment restores the rest of Elena’s body, but her mind remains troubled by the loss of her wings. She is also concerned about the anxiety her friends and loved ones experienced while her life hung by a thread. Her youngest sister, Eve, has been angry and acting out, and other family members, while outwardly calmer, were no less vulnerable and terrified. Nevertheless, Elena has survived, and she’s determined to face whatever comes next with courage.
And what comes next requires courage to face. Lijuan has been growing in power. No one knows if even the combined efforts of all the other archangels can defeat the being—goddess, in the eyes of some—now thought of as the archangel of death. A fog has rolled over China, and when it clears, those left behind are either dead or missing.
Across the world, ancient angels are awakening, posing a challenge to the survival of the Cadre, since it can be comprised of no more than ten. Further, one of these ancients is well known to Raphael, a figure from the past, and not one to be trusted.
Raphael is stalked by a power that whispers of godhood to him, and he must combat it. Every time he begins to see anyone as expendable, he fights that view with all of his strength, while Elena reinforces his humanity.
There are other changes in him and in Elena. Raphael literally gave Elena a piece of his archangel’s heart, and it remains to be seen how Elena’s body will process that archangelic power. Her body seems to have been scrambled to an extent, since in addition to the wings tattooed on her back there are tiny feathers at the tips of her hair, and a green Legion mark appears on her face.
Raphael, too, has undergone physical changes, both due to his sacrifice of a chunk of his heart and to the tiny pieces of Elena’s heart now floating in his bloodstream. His powers are changing as are Elena’s, and yet they must stand between Lijuan and New York.
The awakening of the ancients, the dangers and plagues unleashed by Lijuan, fluctuations in the climate and in the Cadre’s powers, all coalesce into one huge conflict—a war the like of which the world has not experienced in millennia. Will Elena, Raphael, their friends and their city survive? Or will some have to make the ultimate sacrifice?
In addition to introducing important new characters and elements, Archangel’s War has some things in common with Archangel’s Kiss and Archangel’s Legion.
In the former book, Elena came to consciousness in a new body and had to learn to adjust to being an angel. In this book, she emerges from a second coma and transformation and has to adjust again. She has lost her beautiful wings but acquired new powers.
The commonalities with Archangel’s Legion are that once again an epic conflict unfolds and again, the Legion plays a significant role in the war.
One of the enjoyable things is how this time the dynamics are different. Between those two earlier books and this one, Elena and Raphael have grown and so have their relationships—with each other, with the Legion, and with their network of friends, family members and allies.
I love how much Elena and Raphael have learned to trust each other and the other’s strengths, and how well they’ve gotten past the whole overprotective thing. In this book they are such a united front, despite facing many challenges, and it’s beautiful to see that. The love and worry their friends felt for them were touching, too.
While some of the reunion moments and power discoveries were familiar and/or easy to predict, not all of them were. Elena gets a few new abilities and one of them was truly delightful. And in terms of reunion scenes, a certain moment involving Dmitri brought a smile to my lips.
A couple of changes weren’t 100% convincing. A development with Illium’s mother, the Hummingbird, was welcome on the one hand but felt like it came out of nowhere. There’s very little in the Hummingbird’s past to foreshadow it.
The cold power that came to Raphael with the Legion mark was retconned a bit, too. In this book a different power tries to take hold of him, attempts to drive the humanity out of him. This time, Raphael is in a much different place, and his determination to reject those insidious whispers is great.
I don’t want to say too much about the last third of the book but there were some stupendous developments there. Included in the book were also interesting backstories for a number of both old and new plot threads: Caliane / Nadiel, Illium / Hummingbird, Alexander and I won’t say who. Even Cassandra gets one, and it’s intriguing. Additionally, there are some pivotal actions taken by Michaela, the Legion and Suyin.
A few minor issues:
On another, more fannish note, I wanted more about Elena’s relationship with her youngest sister. I love Eve and I want more of her. More Jean-Baptiste, Magda and Jeffrey would have been welcome too. I love most of Elena’s family relationships.
(Except her relationship with Beth; Beth is too one-note to interest me, and I’m often annoyed by her lack of independence and spirit. I’d love for her to grow and change further.)
A minor issue is that the book was a little *too* eventful. This is not something I usually complain about! But at the 60% mark I started to feel emotionally exhausted and there was still a lot of excitement to come.
The cliffhanger in Archangel’s Prophecy continued to chafe me. It had reverberations in Archangel’s War that brought back my feelings of frustration from that earlier reading experience. Not because much that was similar happened here, but because I was reminded of the earlier book. I’d kind of like to leave Prophecy behind and forget I read it, but of course the events of that book have to be dealt with.
Nevertheless, Archangel’s War is a strong, game-changing book and one many readers will love. The series feels like it’s back on track now, and since it’s one of my favorite paranormal romance series, I’m grateful. B.
Your B matches the grade I would give this. I finished it this morning and I liked it.
Archangel’s Prophecy was a disappointment for me because I do not like cliffhangers. If I had known, I would have waited to buy it/read it until this book came out and it wouldn’t have been a problem for me. The series needed the bridge book and they are both packed and would have been too long if together, but I still wish I had waited to read it.
I have always found Raphael a bit cold, but this book shows a warmer side. He works better for me with a bit of humanity.
Now that this book has been published and Archangel’s Prophecy has been resolved, I am ready for a book about a new couple. Series featuring the same couple in the lead are not my favorite, but I heard so many things about this series and I love the Psy/Changeling series and gave it a try. Now, it has me hooked, but my favorites are the books about the other characters.
@Lisa J: Right with you on Archangel’s Prophecy. Also I didn’t like the way the Cascade acted as if it had a consciousness and a deliberate purpose and wasn’t just a phenomenon in that book. The explanation in Archangel’s War that it wasn’t sentient because it was causing chaos didn’t hold water. Chaos is random rather than sentient, but causing chaos is a specific purpose and points to sentience.
For me Raphael has been getting warmer and more human with each book and here he was at his most human thus far.
I understand how you feel because I used to feel that way-that I’d rather read about new characters. But I think changing to that mid-series would be jarring. I do agree that Raphael and Elena are in a good place to stop, and I also wonder, now that they are a united front, if Singh can keep presenting them with only external-to-their-relationship obstacles and still keep their relationship evolving and interesting to readers. If a wedge was driven between them it wouldn’t work for me at this point, but seeing them face down threats from outside could get same-y after a while.
One possible way to keep things fresh is for Elena to get pregnant, and that possibility was hinted at.
My feeling is that Illium will ascend soon, and that could keep things interesting, but after his and Aodhan’s book/books (I wonder which it will be), I don’t see who will provide fodder for future books if the series isn’t focused around Raphael and Elena or perhaps another central couple. I’d love more about Eve, and maybe the Legion could provide new heroes? But that seems like something that would take some time—for them to evolve individual, distinct personalities. Also those bat wings are slightly creepy.
@Janine: Agreed on the Cascade. The Cascade made adjustments based on actions taken. It seems too deliberate not to be sentient.
You are right about Raphael becoming more human in each book. He seemed more approachable and understanding of others in this book.
It would have been jarring if the last two hadn’t been about Raphael and Elena, but I am ready for someone new. I think we will see a new couple. I am guessing it will be Illium and/or Aodhan. I know there is a lot of resistance to them being a couple. Although I would be okay with that, based on events in this book, I don’t see it happening. I think this book hinted who will be with Aodhan.
There were strong hints about Elena being/getting pregnant. In fact, when she threw up in one scene, I was sure pregnancy would be the reason. The reason given in the book seemed out of character to me for her.
Books about the Legion would be great, but I agree more time to evolve would be needed. (Having jut dealt with a bat in my house, bat wings are more than creepy.) The same is probably true for Eve. It would be great to see more of the Guild Hunters, Andreas, maybe one of the healers.
@Lisa J: On the Cascade: Exactly.
I had the same thought when Elena threw up! But time will tell.
And re. Illium / Aodhan, I think a lot of readers will feel the rug has been pulled out if they’re not paired. I’d enjoy a book about them and I’ll have some sympathy for those readers in the even that we don’t get an Illium / Aodhan pairing. But one advantage of going the other way would be that then we’d get two more books about Raphael’s seven. I don’t really have a strong feeling about it one way or the other.
I’m curious who you think Aodhan might be paired with. can you post some about it under some lines below a spoiler warning?
@Lisa J: I’m thinking of more possibilities now. Vivek is one (though I don’t love this author’s handling of disabilities) and Suyin is another.
The most romantic moment for me in this book was between Cassandra and Q (sorry some of the names are hard to remember how to spell). I would have loved to read about I and his father, I really wanted to see it.
For some reason many readers see a potential romance between A and S ( I did see it ). I still think A and I should have a book , but I am not sure Nalini will write it. Another interesting couple in this book was Alexander and his previous lover, would love to read that book too.
I agree with Janine regarding Raphael and Elena, it’s becoming somewhat redundant them against the world, I would love to see some internal conflict if they get another book. I think pregnancy is a real possibility and that may create some tension between the characters. I think ibam ready for some other characters to take the main role in the future books. My wish for future books (if anyone cares ) : Cassandra /Q, Alexander with someone, Laidy C and Nadiel , I&A
@Natasha: That was a super romantic moment!
Did you guys have a favorite buddy moment? Mine involved Elena and Illium late in the book (I can’t say more because spoilers).
Re. Alexander, agreed, but that would be a very different kind of heroine than NS usually writes.
Do you think Nadiel is alive, Natasha? I wondered about whether that could be true.
What did you guys think about the Hummingbird?
@LisaJ: I agree. I wish I had waited too. I just received Archangel’s War from the library, but I’m going to read Archangel’s Prophecy first because I barely remember anything but that irksome cliffhanger.
Great review, Janine!
I think, if I look at her other series, once the Big Issue (Cascade, Silence) things were revolving around in previous novels is resolved, she will continue to address it in next books as something that left the world in disarray and that there is no easy solution and needs improving. I can see this happening in several ways:
I don’t know how to put things under spoilers, so turn away now if you don’t want to be spoiled
On a smaller scale. For example, I believe Aodhan will be paired with Suyan and that book can be entirely focused on China because we already know she will have troubles rebuilding and holding her territory. I am not a huge fan of this pairing, but I had a feeling this is where we are going since the first time we met her. But even if I’m wong, I can see the book about China, someone trying to usurp her or such.
Same with Favashi. Michaela and Keir, maybe?
On a larger scale, the issue can be Cadre and more than 10 Archangels being awake and also (probably) those even older, First angels who made the world and who are causally mentioned as getting restless under the Refuge. These books can still be focused on Raphael and Elena or feature someone else.
@Janine: Lila’s guess for Aodahn is my thought exactly. There were multiple comments about their coloring together. Also, he was sent with her as a guard while she sets up her house and guards.
Janine , I did not think Nadiel was alive untill you put that idea into my head. Oy vey! I want this book like right now !!!! It would be awsome. What do you mean Alexander will need a different kind if heroine ? I wonder what happened with his son’s mother . I really do not want Aodhin pairing with S , I think it would be very boring. I am not a fan of MM romances but I think A and I deserve a joint book , however, I don’t think Nalini will write it .
Regarding Hammingbitd, I have mixed fillings. Was she getting better before the big news? Was her rage snapped her out of her funk? What exactly happened with her and A ? On one hand he looks like a dissent Archangel, on the other hand he looks like a piece of work. Why did he leave at the first place ? Was it intentional? Was he going mad ? I feel like with him it can go ether way . I was hoping for a confrontation between Hammingbird and A, wanted to see if her knife practice paid off . I think his redemption and her forgiveness paired with I emotions would be a great book.
@mel burns: That was the main thing that stuck in my memory, too. That and Elena losing her wings.
SPOILERS (from here on out)
I think the overarching issue might be not having enough archangels rather than too many. At least to begin with.
I agree there will be a book dealing with Suyin and China, and I will be interested in Aodhan no matter what, but can you jog my memory—what happened with Suyin and Aodhan in Archangel’s Engima?
Do you think Michaela can be a heroine? I suppose if she wakes up again she can be changed; anything is possible, but right now I don’t see it. It could make an interesting book, though!
More ancients can wake and I expect some will, but I’d still like a book or two dealing with too few archangels because that’s not something we’ve seen before.
@Lisa J: Ah, yes, thank you! But then I wonder why all the teasing about Aodhan and Illium. Though maybe the author she was testing the waters. In Archangel’s Heart, Aodhan mentioned that angels sometimes had same-sex relationships, so I thought this was where he was heading.
@Natasha: I wondered about that only because there was *so much* about Nadiel in this book. And also multiple hints that Caliane might become unstable. I thought that was interesting and could be some kind of foreshadowing for her. Even if Nadiel comes back (which I think could be pulled off) I do wonder if theirs would be a good pairing. Raphael told Elena that Caliane didn’t remember it, but Nadiel had some flaws. As well, that they couldn’t be together for very long since both were archangels. So I just wondered if there would be a storyline about them, rather than a pairing. But you never know. Anything can happen.
@Natasha: I don’t think there will be a pairing with Illium’s father (sorry, can’t remember his name) and the Hummingbird. I think he did something else terrible in his past and that he will be the villain. Maybe only to start with, the way Caliane seemed to be at first, but I think more likely a true villain.
I was of two minds about the Hummingbird. On the one hand it’s great to see her recover but on the other hand it read like a personality transplant. By this I mean that she didn’t just recover but acquired a different personality than the one we were told she had even before, in the old days when she was healthy.
I think she could get her own book but I’m not sure. But I hope we see her knife practice pay off and I think it’s likely.
Re. Alexander, I just mean that she is a very different type than NS usually writes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a NS heroine who is conscious of her sexual power over men and uses it that way. However, I did wonder if she was the mother of Alexander’s son and just let Alexander have him when they split up or when she went dormant. She seemed very casual and almost capricious when they first met in this book.
Janine, initially I wanted Calline and Nadielle book from the past, how they started etc. Now that you put a different idea into my head (LOL) I would like to have a book at present. I thought it was interesting when Raphaelle was saying that Nadielle was not a perfect partner , it would make an interesting read . I would love to read a book with two Archsngels as main characters.
As for Alexander and Z I think she considered him as a young toy, for her it was not a serious relationship. At least that is how I understood it, it was different for him I think. I actually do not necessary want to read their story. But I would love to read a book with Alexander as a main character .
@Natasha: I got the same impression re. Alexander and the other angel.
Just finished Aw and phew!!.now i need another series to get as emotionally invested in as i wait for the next release Help with ideas!!
@Vanessa: Have you read Singh’s Psy/Changeling series? Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy books? Patricia Briggs? Sorry I don’t have more out-of-the-box suggestions. I read a lot more fantasy than UF or PNR. Some of our readers may know more and I hope they chime in.
@janine psy/changeling are most def another obsession, haven’t tried the others though i have come accross patricia briggs but never got around to reading her work.. I’m not biased book wise just into good quality writing, well thought out storylines and some sarcastic humor thrown in for good measure
@Vanessa: I would absolutely recommend Ilona Andrews to you if you haven’t read them (they are a husband and wife writing team). Hidden Legacy is the best of their series IMO. The first three books are adrenaline-fueled rides with a thrilling romance at their center. Book four just came out and has a different couple at its center. It left me hankering for more. Start with book one, Burn for Me and proceed from there. It’s very important to read these books in order.
After that I would recommend Patricia Briggs, both Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega are strong (and interrelated) series about werewolves. I prefer Alpha and Omega because it’s more romance-y. Here it’s very important to start with the novella “Alpha and Omega” or you’ll be lost as far as the beginning of the romance. The novella is included in the anthology On the Prowl but it can also be purchased on its own in digital format. I think I’ve read this novella nine or ten times by now. It’s “a little bit perfect” as a friend of mine said. The series continues with a full-length novel, Cry Wolf, and then continues on with more books. Here too, I recommend reading the books in order since they have one romantic relationship at their center.
@janine Thank you, will do! And most def get back to you once i do ive started with ilona andrews…
@Vanessa: Thanks! I would love that. If the thread is closed to comments by then, you can reach me by email: janineballard at gmail dot com.
The Murderbot books by Martha Wells
The Others series by Anne Bishop
The Linesman series by SK Dunstall
@Kareni: Murderbot! ::flails arms in happiness::
@Vanessa: You are quite welcome! Incidentally, I’ll strongly second Janine’s recommendation of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs.