Sunday, May 9, 2010

a new theme in urban fantasy; non-religious angels and archangels from nalini singh

Hard on the heels of Lyndsay Sands' Argeneau vampire novels comes a new series from New Zealander Nalini Singh from the same publisher and with the same overall marketing concept – supernatural romance.
Luckily in Singh's books, the vampires have been replaced by angels and archangels. Oh, there are vampires as well, and vampire hunters – who work for the angels because in this world vampires are actually made by angels.
How the angels got to be involved in our everyday world and where they originally came from and whether or not they have any relation to god, is never explained. One simply accepts that in Singh's world, the angels make vampires, the vamps work for the angels and the archangels run everything.
So, once you're over that bit of illogic, the story unfolds from the perspective of a Guild Hunter, Elena Deveraux.
Elena is a 'born Hunter', which means that she's a bit stronger, a bit faster and has an uncanny ability to track vampires by scent alone. She's beautiful (of course), tough and oh-so-slightly emotionally damaged. Just how damaged becomes more and more apparent as her adventure unfolds.
Being one of the best at what she does, Elena ends up with a contract to hunt down a being for the Archangel of New York, Raphael. Yep, some of the names are reminiscent of real life.
Raphael (of course) is heart-thumpingly handsome, aloof, awe-inspiring – he's got golden-tipped wings after all – and dangerous. He once broke every bone in a vampire's body and left him in the middle of the city for days; the vampire was still alive.
So, Elena naturally finds herself attracted to Raphael, but she's damn sure she's not going to give in and become Raphael's lover and human pet. At least, that's what she keeps telling herself.
As for the job she's been hired to do, Elena discovers that it's not a normal vampire hunt, this one is far more dangerous and secretive – if any of her friends or family find out who she's actually hunting, Raphael will kill them.
Angel's Blood introduces Singh's new fantasy world with detail, action, emotional turbulence and romance. These are urban fantasy romance novels after all. However, unlike Lyndsay Sands' series, these books have a lot more action... dare I say, a lot more bite.
Raphael is not some "ordinary bloke wrapped in a fantasy skin", he is a contradiction of awesomely powerful being, vulnerable man and inscrutable ruler. He is ruthless and he is violent, but he is immensely loyal and has an enormous capacity to love – even if that love is so powerful as to smother those who receive it.
Elena is tough, independent, resourceful and desperate to hang on to not only her humanity, but also the terrible things in her past that have made her who she is. Like Raphael, she is a mix of good and bad, full of contradictions, but these are the qualities that make Singh's characters more complex and more interesting for the reader.
Unlike Sands' stories, Angel's Blood and Archangel's Kiss are not single-book stories, nor are they all wrapped up happily ever after plot endings. Singh's books are much more of the traditional fantasy format, with each book adding to the story. The books are also much more interesting in general.
I love a good vampire story as much as the next fantasy reader, but even I have become a little bored with the ubiquitous nature of vampires in popular culture. Angels as non-religious, non-pious beings who have sex, scheme, manipulate and fall in love are new.
Thankfully Singh has a great turn of phrase as well; she is a good writer. The recurring theme of Elena's nightmares and how it's written, for example, adds a sense of tension across the plot lines of both books, with an eventual denouement in Archangel's Kiss. A tightness of prose that is missing in many of this genre's newest authors.
So, if you're looking for something new in the genre of urban fantasy, give Singh's series a go. You won't be bored, and you may even find yourself a new favourite author.

Angel's Blood and Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh are published by Gollancz and are available from good book stores and online.

Read my review of Lyndsay Sands' latest novel: Clich├ęs abound in Lyndsay Sands' latest Argeneau novel

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