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Friday, April 8, 2011

Nalini Singh: GUILD HUNTER SERIES




Author:  Nalini Singh
Series:  GUILD HUNTER 
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR) in an Urban Fantasy (UF) setting
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley
    "Angel's Pawn" (e-book novella, 3/2009)
   “Angels’ Judgment” in Must Love Hellhounds (novella, 9/2010)
    Angels’ Blood (3/2009)
    Archangel’s Kiss (2/2010)
    Archangel’s Consort (1/2011)
    Archangel's Blade (9/2011)
    "Angel's Wolf" in Angels of Darkness anthology (novella, 10/2011)
     Angels' Flight (collection of four GUILD HUNTER novellas, 2/2012)
     Archangel's Storm (9/2012)
     Archangel's Legion (10/2013)  
     Archangel's Shadows (10/2014)
     Novel 8 (Fall 2015) (possibly the final book)

     This post was revised and updated on 11/15/14 to include a review of Archangel's Shadows, the seventh novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the earlier books and novellas in the series.  

          NOVEL 7:  Archangel's Shadows           
     This book finishes the Ashwina/Janvier love story that began in the novella, "Angel's Pawn." Ash is a Guild Hunter with a dark family secret, and Janvier is a sexy Cajun vampire who is currently working for Raphael and Dmitri as an independent warrior. Although Ash is human, she has a magical gift (or curse): the ability to sense the secrets of anyone she touches. Although Ash and Janvier are obviously in lust/love with each other, Ash's tragic secret keeps her from fully committing to the relationship. She keeps that secret from both Janvier and the reader throughout most of the book, and when it is finally revealed, the long, drawn-out build-up feels overblown. As in all paranormal romances, there are many, many angst-filled interior monologues as both lovers pine for one another and reflect on past tragedies in their lives.

     Singh uses third person narration, alternating the points of view among Ash, Janvier, Dmitri, Elena, and Raphael, but the bulk of the story features Ash and Janvier. The primary plot (beyond the romance) concerns a series of murders in which the corpses are left as desiccated husks, similar to what Lijuan did during her invasion of New York. The population of New York City is still in shock after the huge supernatural war that just occurred, so the murders serve to keep fear alive amongst both humans and supernaturals. Additionally, a new drug has hit the vampire community, a drug that increases sexual ecstasy, but which has side effects that are dangerous to the user and sometimes fatal to innocent bystanders. Ash, who is in the final stages of recovery from her severe war wounds, partners up with Janvier to track down the perpetrator of the crimes, following the clues and interviewing suspects in the usual police procedural manner. 


     Meanwhile, Elena befriends the Legion troops who came to their rescue during the war. She also gets to know Naasir, the mysterious, feral vampire warrior who manifests cat-like qualities. Naasir is definitely the comic relief in this novel as he attempts to learn how to get along in polite society—not always successfully. (For example, his hostess gift to Elena is a carnivorous plant that tries to bite her.) At the end of the book, Naasir decides that he is ready to find his mate, and I'm looking forward to the novel or novella that tells that story. One final new experience for Elena: an unexpected visit from her mother-in-law, a woman who has previously described Elena as Raphael's pet and as an insect.   


     This is another strong addition to the series, particularly because Ash and Janvier are such an interesting couple. At times, Janvier's unconditional love for Ash seems a bit too perfect and argument-free to be real, but he is such an entertaining character that it doesn't really matter. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Archangel's Shadows.  


          WORLD-BUILDING           
     In this World, society looks relatively realistic, except that angels are the absolute rulers, with the archangels having the ultimate power in every aspect of life. Vampires also exist, but their lives have some surprising twists. Mortals who want to achieve immortality through vampirism must petition the angels for this privilege, since only angels can Make mortals into vampires. First, mortals must undergo a DNA test to ensure that they will live through the change, and then they must sign a 100-year contract of servitude to the angel who changes them. Only a thousand mortals a year can be Made, and even with the century of servitude, there is a waiting list in the tens of thousands. Everyone wants immortality, no matter what the cost 

     As you can imagine, some new vamps have second thoughts about that long, long period of indenture, so they try to escape. The heroine of the first four books of the series is Elena Deveraux, a born Hunter who tracks down and captures vampires who have run away from their angel masters. Elena works for the New York Guild of Hunters, which, in turn, works for the angels. Elena is a typical UF type of heroine, with her sarcastic attitude, take-no-prisoners street cred, and damaged childhood. As the series opens, Elena is the top Hunter in the Guild, but she suffers constantly from flashbacks to the horrible and bloody murders of her sisters by a rogue vampire. She also has nightmares about her mother's suicide and still agonizes over her detestable father's renunciation. (He threw Elena and her possessions out on the street when she insisted on following through with her innate Hunter heritage.)

     This series focuses largely on the romances between the lead characters. The stories are mostly set in New York City and the plots do have a UF feel to them. Books 1, 2, and 3 follow the romance of Elena and Raphael, while book 4 and the novellas tell the SMR stories of other angels and vampires. We get back to Elena and Raphael in the sixth novel.   

     Here is a list of the romantic couples who star in each book and novella: 

          >  "Angels’ Judgment" novella: Sara & Deacon
          >  "Angel's Pawn" novella: Ashwina & Janvier
          >  Angels’ Blood: novel:  Elena & Raphael
          >  Archangel’s Kissnovel:  Elena & Raphael
          >  Archangel’s Consort: novel:  Elena & Raphael
          >  Archangel's Bladenovel:  Honor & Dmitri
           "Angel's Wolf" novella: Nimra & Noel
           "Angel's Dance" novella: Jessamy & Galen  
           Archangel's Storm: novel:  Mahiya & Jason
           Archangel's Legion: novel:  Elena & Raphael  
           Archangel's Shadows: novel: Ashwina & Janvier  

     Click HERE to go to Singh's "Behind the Scenes" web page for the GUILDHUNTER SERIES.   

     If you'd like to read another great series by Naomi Singh, try her PSY-CHANGELING series. That series focuses on one couple per book, but it maintains a compelling story arc that constantly weaves the characters' lives into the ever-changing world of an alternate San Francisco. These romances stay fresh because each relationship is so different. The primary groups of supernaturals in that series are shape shifters, vampires, and powerful psychics (the Psy).

            NOVEL 1:  Angels' Blood           
     As the series begins, Elena is hired by Raphael, New York's head archangel, to hunt down a rogue archangel who is killing humans. Raphael soon becomes Elena’s nemesis as well as her love interest. Raphael is a thousand years old and is one of most powerful of all the archangels. He is the ultimate arrogant alpha, acknowledging his own supreme power and allowing not even a single spark of humanity to buffer his crueltyat least not until he meets Elena. Elena, of course, hates Raphael at first sight, but inevitably becomes more and more attracted to him each time they meet. Angels’ Blood ends with the couple facing off with the rogue in a battle that changes both their lives. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

            NOVEL 2:  Archangel's Kiss           
     This book continues the couple's story as Elena learns some new skills before she and Raphael take off for a danger-filled trip to Beijing. In the meantime, someone is murdering vampires and angels and leaving clues that the ultimate victim will be Elena. (As we all know, the life of a paranormal heroine is never without threat.) This book culminates in an apocalyptic battle that destroys an Asian city. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

     By the way, the cover art for this book is a dead ringer for the iconic image of Selene (Kate Beckinsale) that appears in two of the Underworld movies


            NOVEL 3:  Archangel's Consort           
     In book 3, Elena and Raphael have settled down in their new relationship, but—wouldn't you know it—an ancient evil being is rising to threaten their happinessand it's related to Raphael. The villainess from the previous book continues to be a threat in this adventure. Between training sessions with Raphael's security guards, solving the murders of some vamps, and making lots of love to Raphael, Elena keeps herself quite busy. Like the previous book, this one ends with a battle between archangels.   

     The angels-as-world-rulers concept is new and different, and the story lines have been interesting and satisfying so far. I have enjoyed the first three books, but I have to admit that my interest is beginning to wane. By now, I'm ready for some stories about the supporting characters, both angels and Hunters. There are only so many ways in which Elena and Raphael can banter, have sex, and battle an enemy or two before things start getting repetitive
Click HERE to read an excerpt.

            NOVEL 4:  Archangel's Blade           

     It's like the author read my mind! In book 4, Singh moves away from Elena and Raphael's story and focuses on Dmitri, leader of the Seven, Raphael's elite guard unit. Dmitri has always been an enigmaa complex and brooding character, seemingly addicted to the dark world of pleasure/pain sex with a never-ending series of beautiful women. Dmitri has never understood how Raphael could fall in love with Elena, a weak human who has become a weak angel, and he has always made Elena's life as miserable as possible. Now, however, Dmitri meets Honor, an emotionally and physically damaged Guild Hunter who was recently kidnapped and held captive by a small group of blood-lusting vampires who raped and tortured her over a period of several months. Honor has been cowering in the Guild House, still too traumatized to face the outside world. 

     When Sara, the Guild leader, sends Honor to the Tower to meet with Dmitri about a recent murder, Honor is terrified, as well she should be, because Dmitri is known to take whatever he wants from any woman to whom he is attracted. When Dmitri meets Honor, he is drawn to her, and when he learns the details of her attack, he focuses all of his energies on tracking down the guilty vampires and encouraging Honor to assist in their punishment. 


     The main plot line follows the couple's rocky road to their eventual HEA as they track down the kidnappers and work out the kinks in their relationship (and there are many). Additionally, Dmitri must solve the mystery of the disappearance of a young angel from the Reserve and the appearance of corpses with tattooed messages about an enemy from his past who he thought was dead and long forgotten. This is a great story, primarily because we've watched Dmitri slink erotically through all of the previous books, but never knew his back story, which is just as tragic as you always knew it would be. Honor is a strong woman, trying to fight her way back to a normal life and coping with her terrible thirst for revenge. Together, they make a terrific couple. Click HERE to read an excerpt.  


          COLLECTION OF NOVELLAS:  Angels' Flight           

In this collection, Singh gives us four GUILD HUNTER novellas, butand this is a BIG "but"only one of them is new. The other three have been previously published, either in anthologies or in e-book form, so I won't review them here. It's too bad that the publisher is trying to pass this book off as "new" when three-quarters of it is a rehash. If you own the anthologies in which two of the "old" stories are published, I suggest that you check this book out of the library if you want to read the new story: "Angel's Dance."  

     Click HERE to go to a web page with links to excerpts from each of the novellas in Angels' Flight:
"Angels' Pawn": a look at the early days in the lustful attraction between Ashwina (a Hunter) & Janvier (a bad-boy vampire) as they work together on a kidnapping case in Atlanta for the brutal angel ruler, Nazarach. 
"Angels' Judgment"the love story of Sara (the newly appointed Guild director) & Deacon (the Guild's terminatorcalled the Slayer) as they track down the murderer of several vampires. 
"Angel's Wolf"the love story of Nimra (the angel who rules the Louisiana territory) and Noel (a vampire who is one of Raphael's Seven). Click HERE to read my reviews of all of the novellas in the anthology in which this story first appeared.
     The new novella is entitled "Angel's Dance," and it tells the love story of Jessamy and Galen. Two-thousand-year-old Jessamy lives at the Retreat, where she is the angels' historian as well as the teacher of angel children. Jessamy was born with one deformed wing, so she has never been able to fly on her own like the other angels. She has embraced a lonely and somewhat reclusive life, living in an isolated house, never leaving the Retreat, and never allowing another angel to transport her through the air. Galen arrives at the Retreat to apply for the job as Raphael's weapons master. He has been the assistant weapons master for the angel Titus, but is looking for both job advancement and independence from his cold and uncaring mother, who lives only for her warrior life and never really wanted a child. Galen was not sent to the Retreat when he was a child, so he was never one of Jessamy's students. The two are instantly attracted to one another, but it takes awhile for them to admit itto themselves and to each other. The romance, of course, is the major plot line. 

     The secondary plot involves strife within the angel Alexander's realm, and at one point Jessamy is put in danger (only to be rescued by a fierce Galen). The scenes in which Jessamy allows Galen to fly her across the countryside are quite touching, as both angels learn to trust and love. Some conflict within the romance surfaces when other suitorsboth angels and vampiresrealize that Jessamy has come out of her shell and is open to a relationship. Not to worry, though, this couple is meant to be together. This is a typical GUILD HUNTER story, with plenty of angst and action and a bit more poignancy than some of the others. Click HERE to read an excerpt.    


          NOVEL 5:  Archangel's Storm           

     This book tells the love story of another one of Raphael's Seven (his trusted team of warrior chiefs): Jason, the Spymaster, who has the ability to melt into the shadows and become nearly invisible. As the story begins, Jason receives word of the murder of the Consort of a powerful archangel who can control snakes. Neha has never been the most stable of the Archangels, and she has recently been developing some new powers. Jason and Raphael are afraid that Neha's grief and anger at the murder will push her over the edge into madness and destruction, so Raphael sends Jason to track down the perpetrator. Neha agrees to allow Jason into her kingdom, but she demands that he swear a blood oath of protection to her niece, Mahiya, the illegitimate offspring of Neha's murdered husband and her sister, Nivriti. (These archangels can get a bit incestuous.)

     The romance plot follows Jason and Mahiya as they fall in love while trying to solve the murder. Both of them had horrible childhoods, and both have learned to be extremely self-reliant and untrusting. This results in all sorts of anguished interior monologues until they get things all sorted out. The action plot follows the investigation, as more murders take place and the couple must figure out how they're all related.


     This is another great addition to the series. Jason has appeared in other books, but mostly in the background, shadowing in and out as he carries out his Spymaster duties. Now we get his full backstory and watch him achieve a happiness he never thought possible. Mahiya is O.K. as a heroine. She is never put into a position in which she has to fight, but she definitely has the brainpower and the backbone to stand up to Jason.


     A new threat to the Archangels' world—the Cascade—is introduced near the end of this book, and it will no doubt be the focus of future plots. All I will provide here is a quotation from this book that calls the Cascade "a confluence of time and certain critical events that has ignited a power surge in the Cadre....There is no way to predict the outcome..." (p. 199) I always look forward to the new books in this series, and this new twist will add welcome complexity to the series story arc. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Archangel's Storm.  


          NOVEL 6:  Archangel's Legion           

     In this novel, we're back to the Raphael-Elena relationship as the lead couple of this series faces yet another dangerous and violent threat. As the story begins, a mysterious storm hits Manhattan, a tempest that causes angels to fall from the sky. Then, almost immediately, a virulent virus turns up among the vampire population. Obviously, both events have been caused by an enemybut who? Meanwhile, Raphael, the Archangel of New York, begins to have strange dreams and to feel a strong and ancient flow of power that threatens to overcome the humanity that he has achieved through his bond with his consort, Elena Deveraux. 

      As the story moves along, the Hudson River flows with blood, flocks of magical birds appear in the sky, and the archangels of the world attain new and deadly powers. All of these events are connected in some manner to the Cascade, a time of drastic change that has occurred in the world in the past and has always brought with it chaos and dramatic changes. "The Cascade…was a confluence of time and certain critical events that led to a surge of power in the Cadre. All of the archangels would grow in strength, some might be touched with madness, but none would remain the same. Neither would the world, for the archangels were part of its very fabric." (p. 7)


     The romance part of the plot follows the lead couple as they fight to keep their bond intact despite the new power that is invading Raphael's mind and soul. Also, Elena continues to be troubled by nightmares about her mother's suicide and her father's cruelty. Add to that an ex-girlfriend of Raphael's who shows up at this most inopportune time, and you get some bumps in a relationship that has never been entirely smooth.


     The action plot centers around solving the mystery of the vampire virus and the falling angels. Then the situation gets even worse when another archangel mounts a direct attack on Manhattan, specifically on Raphael's Towerthe center of his power.


     Interwoven through the main plot lines are other story threads: the increasing hostilities between Elena's father and his youngest daughter (Elena's half-sister); the return of the angel Aodhan to public life; and Elena's changing relationships with her former Guild colleagues and with several members of Raphael's Seven (his elite Guards).


     Singh's plots are always multi-layered and fascinating to read. The back stories of the supporting characters add complexity and interest, and the action scenes are fast-paced and compelling. My only complaint is the plethora of bedroom scenes and melodramatic protestations of love between Raphael and Elena. (For example: "Eternity would mean nothing without you. For no power on this earth would I trade my Elena." p. 129) This is the fourth novel in which they are the lead lovers, and we've seen so, so many love scenes between them that (for me, anyway) they have become repetitive and boring. I have the same feeling when I read the love scenes between Cat and Bones in the later books in Jeaniene Frost's NIGHT HUNTRESS series. The early stages of romance are much more interesting and sexy than the later stages. After Raphael and Elena (or Cat and Bones) are together over the course of several novels, their sexual antics are just not all that interesting any more. It's like peeking through the bedroom window of a long-married couple. Why would you bother? I'd rather read the fresh and angst-filled love stories about the supporting characters, like Illium or Aodhan or Ransom. Or what about putting the final touches on the Ashwina/Janvier story. 


     You'll have to wait until the end of the book to discover the meaning of "legion" in the book's title, but it definitely signals some new adventures for future books. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Archangel's Legion.

3 comments:

  1. “Angel’s Wolf” in the ANGELS OF DARKNESS Anthology (Noel) is scheduled to be released 10/04/2011.

    “Angel’s Dance” in ANGELS’ FLIGHT Anthology (Galen & Jessamy) is scheduled to be released 02/28/2012.

    Also per the author's web site, she is contracted to do 4 more books past Book 4, "Archangel's Blade."

    ReplyDelete
  2. The link to the author's web site is:
    http://www.nalinisingh.com

    This is a wonderful author. I highly recommend.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Book 5, Archangel's Storm, is about Jason and is scheduled to be released 09/04/2012.

    ReplyDelete