Archangel’s Storm, by Nalini Singh

9738483[1]-001Sensual Tale of Love and Vengeance

Nalini Singh is one of my automatic ‘go to’ paranormal authors, where I know that I can be guaranteed an awesome read. I have been following her series of Guild Hunter Novels and also her Psy/Changeling Series for some time now and they are both amongst my favourite paranormal series. The Guild Hunter Series novels, the first of which was Angels’ Blood, take place on an earth where the Cadre of Ten Archangels, supported by vampires, rule across the various continents. These angels however, are far from angelic. They are thousands of years old and have become jaded in their immortality, indulging in great power games to stave off their boredom and trying to avoid the madness that can overcome them.

In Archangel’s Storm, Jason, the taciturn spymaster for Archangel Raphael, is sent on a mission to the court of Archangel Neha. Neha’s consort Eris has been murdered and her rage threatens cataclysmic devastation unless Jason uses all his skills to unearth the killer. Neha, like many of the Cadre’s Ten, is deadly and capricious and to earn her trust necessary to complete his mission, Jason is compelled to tie himself to her bloodline through a blood bond to the princess Mahiya. Jason believes that Mahija will pose no threat to his investigations. However, Mahija has secrets and an agenda of her own and neither she nor Jason is willing to trust each other. Neha’s court is dangerous however, and there is a great deal more than politics at play as the body count continues to rise. As Jason and Mahija are thrown together they are blindsided by an unexpected passion they feel for one another. Yet can Jason, who has kept his emotions tightly controlled after a horrific childhood experience, find it within himself to let Mahija in, and will Mahija survive the machinations of the Archangel and her court and other dark forces that are at play?

Mahija and Jason, like all of the author’s heroines and heroes are a great couple. Mahija has been abused both physically and mentally by Neha, her aunt. Her crime being that she was born out of a liaison between Neha’s sister Nivriti and Neha’s consort Eris. Neha murdered Nivriti as soon as she birthed Mahija, who has paid for her mother’s sin on many occasions. Despite her tortured past, she has not allowed her aunt to poison her mind. Indeed, she has an inner strength and optimism, despite her outward facade of compliance, which many see as weakness. Jason soon sees through this outward show however and connects with the strong but vulnerable woman within.

Such was the extent of Jason’s childhood trauma, that he has closed his mind to any close emotional attachments. He tells Mahija that he can never offer her a long term relationship. However, I loved that Mahija little by little, through her acceptance of what Jason was willing to give, managed to break down the barriers that he had put up for his own protection. It was beautiful to watch how the relationship developed between them and there were plenty of sensual and erotic lovemaking scenes, which the author excels in.

I also enjoyed the character of the Archangel Neha, who we meet in previous books. Although not at all likable, she is complex and unpredictable, with her own code of honour, which Jason and Mahija must play on to survive. It was also gratifying to meet other characters integral to the Guild Hunter world, such as Archangel Raphael and his consort Elena, the vampire Dmitri and his new wife, the Guild Hunter Honor and other characters such as the vampire Venom.

Nalini Singh has a fantastic ability to create a beautiful love story at the heart of each of her Guild Hunter novels, setting them within the framework of the overall story arc, neither of which detracts from the other. Her novels also contain vivid and beautiful descriptions of the magical world she creates. In this novel, for example, many of the buildings comprising Neha’s court she has based on forts in Rajasthan, India. This beauty contrasts vividly with the violence which she does not shy away from featuring in great detail. Her descriptions of broken bones, blood and internal organs ripped from body cavities is not for the squeamish, but reflect events which can occur in the world she has created.

I recommend this novel for lovers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Whilst I feel that it could be read as a ‘standalone’, the reader would gain maximum enjoyment by reading the Guild Hunter Series novels in sequence.

Cover art by kind permission of Patrick Knowles

Author Nalini Singh’s website

www.orionbooks.co.uk

www.gollancz.co.uk

 

 

Rapture by J.R. Ward

 Rapture (A Novel of the Fallen Angeles, book 4)
Compelling Urban Fantasy

Rapture is the fourth book in J.R. Ward’s Fallen Angel’s series, which focuses on the battle between good and evil for the souls of seven chosen humans. The chief protagonists are Jim Heron, a fallen angel, representing Heaven and Devina, a demon, who bats for Hell. I will try not to give away any spoilers in this review, in relation to events in previous books.

The soul up for grabs is Matthias’, Jim’s boss when he was human and worked for XOps. We met Matthias earlier on in the series and he has now been sent back to Earth and given a chance to redeem or eternally dam himself. Jim, aided by co fallen angel Adrian are doing all they can to influence him to make the right decision when he comes to the crucial cross-roads – except, as in previous books, it is not always obvious where that crossroads will be or what the decision is. Devina, on the other hand, is doing all she can to ensure that Matthias makes a very different decision, so that she wins this round.

Mels Carmichael, a reporter at the Caldwell Courier Journal, runs into Matthias when he stumbles in front of her car. Feeling guilty, she seeks him out in hospital to find out the extent of his injuries and apologize. Matthais is suffering from amnesia and Mels offers to help him find out who he is and they form an instant attraction that quickly turns to passion. As Matthias’ memory slowly returns he realises what he must do to redeem himself and seeks to distance himself from Mels to protect her from the dangers that begin to present themselves. Devina plots to thwart any signs of salvation for Matthias’ soul, taking actions against him and Mels and also measures to undermine Jim’s sanity so that he is less effective in supporting Matthias.

Matthias’ character is fundamentally alpha, even when faced with mental and physical challenges, loyal to his friends and devoted to his woman, to the extent of thinking that he is not good enough for her. He is also coldly efficient when it comes to dealing with his enemies or anyone he thinks is a threat to those he cares for. I loved the fact that even though he is suffering from amnesia he soon realised what his previous work had likely been and that he even seeks to protect Mels from himself. However, he is vulnerable due to past events in the series. Mels too is a strong, capable character, who can look after herself. However, she too has vulnerabilities since the death of her father, a cop and Matthais makes her feel more alive than she has felt for a long time. She is attracted to him, despite some initial suspicions and quickly finds herself drawn to his side and that of Jim and Adrian. She becomes more and more embroiled in his life, although she is ignorant of Jim and Adrian’s true nature and the wider forces at play.

Jim is becoming more confident with his powers, although he is not immune to Devina’s machinations, with the  intent of tormenting him, due to his reaction to events in previous books. His ongoing preoccupation with what is happening in Devina’s ‘Well of Souls’ linfluences his actions at the end of the book. Adrian is in self-destruct mode for much of the novel, as he too has been affected by previous events. Jim fears that Adrian cannot be trusted to keep his eye on the mission and provide the appropriate back – up. Both Jim and Adrian grow to both like and respect Mels and Matthias and the development of Jim’s relationship with Matthias, his former boss, is a powerful factor within the novel. Jim realises early on that Mels is the key to Matthias’ salvation and both angels do all they can to foster a relationship between the two.

Fewer scenes in the book take place in Heaven and Hell,  than in previous books, though the references are certainly there and Nigel, Jim and Adrian’s boss, does make a few key appearances. Ward does not shy away from describing violent scenes within the story and the horror that is Devina and we also have rather gruesome depictions of her actions. Devina’s character is as complex as ever and it is clear that her fascination with Jim is not going away. I liked the way Ward continues to highlight Devina’s weaknesses with her visits to the therapist.

I am a fan of this series and also Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Vampire series. I love how the author teases us with the occasional references to places and people who form part of the Black Dagger world. To me this adds both depth and breadth to both series and I am eager to see at what point, if any the two worlds will collide in earnest. I would recommend Rapture to all readers who are already following this series and to all those who love reading about the paranormal or urban fantasy and who love a complex plot and characters. Although the book could be read alone I feel that the reader would find it even more enjoyable if they had read the others in the series, which I also recommend.

Reviewed by Tina Williams