This book has been on my radar for ages, going all the way back to page four of my TBR list. Yes, page four was ages ago. Let's not think about that.
It's a book I had to be in the mood to read, though, and earlier this week was the day. I'd just finished a slog through a non-fiction book that was both enlightening and irritating, and I wanted something completely different, completely engaging, and completely romance novel. Angel's Blood delivered.
In Elena's world, vampires and angels not only exist, they are at the top of the hierarchy. Vampires are Made by angels, and angels are ruled by the ten archangels, beautiful, immortal and very deadly. When a vampire goes rogue, or reneges on his/her Contract -- that is, that in exchange for being Made they must give the first 100 years of their new life to the angel that Made them -- it's the Guild Hunters who are called to bring the vampire back. Elena is the best. So it is Elena who gets the very unusual call from Raphael, the Archangel of New York, when a special job comes up. This isn't a job like any other, and it will very likely be the end of her -- if Raphael isn't the end of her first.
I really enjoyed this book. It's not for the faint-hearted -- there are some rather gruesome scenes, lots of violence -- and it's a tense ride right to the end. This is why I had to be in the mood. But it also has humour, strong lead characters, an interesting premise, and a very interesting alternate modern setting. I liked the way the plot unfolded, not too fast but definitely not too slow, either. And I liked the romance. I know this won't be for everyone, because it's definately one of those "kill you or kiss you" romances. I tend to prefer the "friends to more than" romances, but every once in a while I quite enjoy the "kill you or kiss you" relationship, particularly when the balance here is almost even. Elena is a force to be reckoned with.
One of the things I liked about the book was that though Elena's a typical lone-wolf heroine, she's got a pack that backs her up. She has real friendships and those friends pull her out of scrapes, and she goes to lengths to keep them safe, too. Raphael is the same, although it took longer for me to recognize this. As to the relationship between Raphael and Elena, I thought it sizzled. Again, it's one fraught with danger so some won't enjoy it, but the chemistry was fantastic, and the relationship was complex. Sometimes with books like this you end up wondering how the protagonists could possibly stay together more than a month; here, I didn't end up feeling that way at all. And many of the other characters brought something to the table I'm not used to experiencing or enjoying: uncertainty about their motivations, their morality, and whether or not I should like them. There are a few in the book who I wanted badly to like, but they were unpredictable, and that was deliberate. Angel and vampire politics are byzantine, lethal, and inhuman, which added to both the tension of the plot and the overall atmosphere of the world. In addition to the complexity of the secondary characters, we also have a very complex, hidden-in-plain-sight society opening up before us as the book goes on.
There were a few small things that bothered me; occasionally the expositional dialogue was a little clumsy, and every once in a while something happened that was just this side of my suspension of disbelief, but I was moving through the book so quickly that I ignored these quite handily. The ending was... interesting. I can't say much more than that without giving things away. I spoiled it for myself by reading the summary of the next book in the series, Archangel's Kiss, so just... don't do that. I think I would have enjoyed the ending a lot more if I hadn't known. It's an ending that works well with the reader in the dark, and not as well if the reader knows what's going to happen.
Will I read Archangel's Kiss? Probably -- I'll wait again until I'm in the mood, though. There are a whole pile of loose ends at the end of Angel's Blood, but it does stand on its own as an entire story. No cliffhanger ending, but some rather compelling character and upcoming plot questions. Recommended for adult fans of paranormal/suspense romances, for sure! I'll be keeping an eye out for more Nalini Singh as well.