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Angel's Blood - Nalini Singh

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Genre: Mystery / Author: Nalini Singh / Publication Date: 2010 / Publisher: Gollancz

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      21.04.2012 14:24
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      An OK read but I won't be trying any more in the series.

      In an alternative reality where the top of the food chain isn't human but angel, Elena works as a hunter employed by the Guild to find and return escaped vampires to their rightful masters, the angels. The angels have the ability to 'make' vampires and as long as they are under the care and control of an angel, they can exist quite peacefully but when they go rogue and escape that control, the vampires go on a blood filled rampage. The Guild exists as a sort of bounty hunter agency responsible for returning any absconding vampires to their angel or where that isn't possible, the vampire is despatched quickly and efficiently. It's a system which seems to work well and in general both humans and vampires are wary of the all-powerful and immortal angels.

      As the top vampire hunter in the Guild, Elena is summoned by Raphael, the Archangel of New York and requested to search for an archangel who has gone rogue and is killing indiscriminately. The archangels all belong to a body known as the Cadre, a sort of glorified Board of Directors who control all angel-kind along with the vampires who serve them. In the main, humans are beneath their notice except when required to seek out vampire rogues. Though many fear Raphael, Elena refuses to be cowed by the beautiful yet fearsome being who could kill her within the blink of an eye and despite her initial wariness, she finds herself drawn to him. She's unsure whether her powers of detection are up to the task of seeking out an angel but refusing Raphael isn't an option and together hunter and angel begin the search. Once on the trail, things don't become any easier because many of the archangels and angels are playing a political game which could see Raphael, as well as Elena, lose everything including their lives and the intense feeling which is growing between them.

      Not being of a religious persuasion and despite loving the urban fantasy/paranormal genre, I've always steered clear of those novels featuring angels. I've absolutely no wish to read about harp playing holier-than-thou types falling in love with very mediocre humans but I've enjoyed several of Nalini Singh's psy/changeling novels and when I spotted this book in a charity shop, I thought I'd give it a go. On reflection, my gut feeling about angels was correct, although the beings featured in Ms Singh's books are definitely not of the harp playing variety and there's absolutely nothing holy about them either. There actually a rather unpleasant bunch of individuals.

      As this is the first book in the series, there is a good deal of space taken up in explanation of the angel/vampire/human world in which it's set. This didn't slow the story down too much as the details given were pretty sketchy to begin with and were then incorporated into the narrative as the book progressed. For me, the success of any urban fantasy or, in this case, paranormal romance depends entirely on being able to buy into the world that the author creates and though the world may be a fantastical one, many authors do manage to convey a great deal of credibility. I'm sure the world created here will appeal to many, however, I found it very difficult to take it at all seriously for several reasons, the main one being the angels themselves.

      Even though these angels are as unlike those which appear in the Bible as it's possible to be, they just don't come across as the kind of creatures that anyone would want to associate with. Raphael, we're told, has no humanity and has previously punished wrong-doers by dropping them from a great height thus breaking every bone in their body and then leaving them crushed and mangled to die. I therefore found it almost impossible to believe that (a) Elena would find such a creature even the remotest bit appealing and (b) that Raphael would be the slightest bit attracted to Elena. As a hunter-born, as a child she witnessed the horrific death of her mother and two older sisters at the hands of a serial killing rogue vampire and it seemed to me that she spent most of the book worrying about this event and the fact that it led to her father's rejection of her and her hunter abilities, though she's at a loss to understand the reason why he blames her. Quite frankly, by the time she'd worried about her father's rejection for the umpteenth time, I really couldn't have given a monkey's as to the why or the wherefore.

      Another angel characteristic which I found it very difficult to swallow was their wings. It all just seemed a little bit ridiculous. These beings are big, well over six feet tall and, of course, buff with it so they'd need absolutely huge wings to enable flight and the author does speak about their wings trailing on the ground but I felt that she hadn't really thought through the practicalities of winged beings. Raphael wears normal clothes, so how does he fit them round his wings? He sleeps on a normal, though big, bed and yet surely such highly evolved creatures would have come up with different sleeping arrangements. They should be roosting on cliff ledges or in trees rather than lying on furniture designed by and for humans.

      Of the three species dealt with in this book, I found the vampires far more interesting and appealing than either the angel or human protagonists and this is especially true of Dimitri, Raphael's main vampire servant, for the simple reason that Dimitri and the other vampires were at least enigmatic and far better realised. Dimitri, had a back story which though barely touched upon was at least intriguing. The angels were just too much of a good (or bad) thing, depending on your point of view, and the humans were simply boring.

      As far as plot development goes, I couldn't help but think that Elena and Raphael could have found the rogue archangel a good deal faster if they hadn't spent so much time flirting and, eventually, bonking. Again, as with the sleeping arrangements, the practicalities of angel sex weren't satisfactorily explained. Although we're dealing with an angel/human union here, one would expect angels to have devised a way of mating similar to birds as a means of preventing their wings from getting in the way but, oh no, Raphael doesn't seem to have any problem with his feathered appendages, or at least not when it comes to rolling about on a bed in order to get his end away. Maybe I'm being a little hyper-critical but if an author is going to write about mythical beings, they really should address the practicalities involved.

      You've probably gathered that I found this book a very disappointing read and I doubt very much if I'll be following the further adventures of Elena and Raphael. If the next book had dealt with Dimitri's story, I might have been slightly tempted but only very slightly.

      What this book does is highlight the huge gulf between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Uban fantasies tend to have a well thought out alterative reality inhabited by believable characters whereas paranormal romance, and this book in particular, has the emphasis firmly on the romantic elements and to hell with whether the world building detail makes any sense.

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