Sophie is an orphan with a horrible childhood (which is stereotypical for urban fantasy heroines), and it has left her an emotional wreck. She has repressed some of her worst memories, but they still eat away at her subconscious. As soon as Sophie meets Azrael, she falls in lust, unable to stop thinking and dreaming about him. When he shows up at a hockey game she is attending, she is thrilled just to be in his presence. She keeps fantasizing that he is a vampire, and she longs for him to bite her. When she moves to San Francisco, where she plans to attend Berkley on a dance scholarship, Azrael and his band just happen to be performing there, so their relationship continues—with Azrael still keeping her archess status a secret. Then, a catastrophic event forces Azrael to tell Sophie the truth, and shortly thereafter the evil Kevin (aka Abraxos) makes his move. He and his men kidnap Sophie, and the "snatch the archess" plot line kicks in—the same one that took up most of the plots of books 1 and 2. Interspersed are repetitious battles between the four favored archangels and various monsters, including the Adarians. In this book, though, a new villain steps up—one who is much more powerful than either the favored four archangels or the Adarians. His name is Gregori, and no one knows much about him until almost the end of the book. By then, we learn that he has his own nefarious reasons for kidnapping Sophie, and we know that he will play a huge role in the next book.
Once again, melodrama overflows in every part of the narrative and the dialogue. If these characters were actors on a stage, they would be rightly accused of hamming it up uncontrollably, 24/7. The mythology, which is already murky and complicated, gets some new convolutions. The author seems to confer new powers on characters every time her plot sequences require them. For example, now that Kevin and a few of his Adarians are vampires, all of a sudden he can not only travel through shadows, but can transport his men as well. If he couldn't, the author would have had to come up with a different way for Kevin to kidnap Sophie. All the way through, this author takes the easy way; instead of writing within the world-building rules and restraints she originally constructed, she just changes those rules and removes restraints as needed to advance the plot. A better writer would have worked within the mythology, following those rules and moving her characters accordingly. It takes much less skill to enhance a character's powers as needed to fit events than it does to rework the events to fit the limits of the character's powers.
The characters are rather flat. Azrael, being the Angel of Death, is just as grim as you'd imagine, but he's otherwise one-dimensionally perfect in every way—just like all the rest of the favored four—good-hearted, brave, courageous, with not a single dishonorable trait. As for Sophie: We're told that she grew up in poverty in cruel foster homes and could not afford to go to college. She has been working as a housekeeper in a hotel. Yet, she inherited money from her parents when she was 21, which she never touched until she reached her mid-twenties and won a scholarship to Berkley. Now, she says that she won't have to work because her inheritance will pay for all her living expenses in San Francisco. None of this rings true. In the first place, an inheritance of this size would have been set up as a trust with a guardian to administer it, with money being paid out over her childhood years for her upkeep. Second, why on earth would she be working as a hotel maid if she has access to her inheritance. We're told that she loves dancing, so why didn't she use that money for dance classes? In the third place, we are told that she, like the previous archesses, is generous to a fault—giving away her maid's income to beggars on the street. So why then, wouldn't she have used some of her inheritance for charitable purposes instead of turning her back on it? None of this makes sense. Although we are provided with several repetitions of one brutal scene from Sophie's back story, that's the single concrete fact that we learn about her childhood. The only other thing we know about Sophie is that she lusts for Azrael. Yet, even though she imagines that he is a vampire and fantasizes about his bite, when he confesses that he really is a vampire, she turns against him (primarily because the central relationship in a paranormal romance novel of this type requires angst, and plenty of it).
This series is definitely not working for me, but if you read and enjoyed the first two books, you will probably like this one, too, because it's more of the same. If you haven't read the previous book, don't start with this one because it builds on information about events that occurred in books 1 and 2. The next book will feature Michael, the warrior angel, and his archess, Rhiannon. Both Samael and Gregori are after her, so be prepared for even more kidnappings and battle scenes than usual.
The greatest enemies of the archangels are the Adarians, led by Abraxos (aka General Kevin Trenton). (Seriously, the head villain is named Kevin!) The Adarians were created by the Old Man as archangels, but when they became too powerful, He dropped them on earth and turned his back on them. Over thousands of years, they have fought against the archangels. Now that the archesses are showing up, they want to capture the women for themselves.
> Uriel: Archangel of Vengeance (aka Christopher Daniels, a movie star who is famous for his role as a vampire heart throb)
> Azrael: Archangel of Death, a rock star who is called the Masked One because he keeps his face half covered with a black mask; he became a vampire when he fell to Earth; He was the very first vampire.
> Michael: Warrior Archangel, a police officer in New York City; he has the ability to heal others
> Gabriel: Messenger Archangel (aka Gabriel Black), a fire fighter in New York City;
Three other continuing characters are also involved in the stories:
> Max Gillihan: guardian to the archangels; his earthly job is to be Urial's agent
> Lilith: "sister" to the archangels, she is Samael's companion (platonic); she assists Samael but does not share his evilness (Click HERE for more information about Lilith in religious mythology.)
> Samael (aka Samuel Lambent): "He was an archangel who had once been the Old Man's favorite but who was displaced by Michael. He was also the thirteenth Adarian, but unlike the other twelve, he had not been discarded by the Old Man and sent to earth....For some reason the Old Man had kept him in their realm. He'd left only when the four favored left, in order to track down the archesses himself. Or at least that was the assumption." (p. 19, Messenger's Angel). Sam is much more powerful than his brothers and frequently interferes in the lives of both the archangels and the Adarians. (Click HERE for more information about Samael in traditional religious mythology.)
The premise for the series—archangels in search of their archesses—is interesting, but the world building is full of holes. It's as if the author made up the rules—and the many exceptions to the rules—as she went along. For example, Gabriel speaks with a heavy Scottish brogue most of the time, but then he abruptly, for no apparent reason, speaks regular English for a page or two. The narrator blows it off by saying that Gabriel just speaks like a Scot when he feels like it. Why on earth would you create a character with an annoying dialect and then just throw it away like that? Also, we are led to believe that the archangels have been on the Earth for thousands of years, but—unbelievably—they have never before heard of or had contact with the villainous Adarians who turn up near the end of the book, even though the Adarians have been on Earth just as long as the archangels. This defies logic. Here's another "exception": At one point in the story, Uriel is wearing a golden bracelet that nullifies his supernatural powers, but...he can still create and move through a portal to get into the archangels' magical mansion. So...I guess that the bracelet only nullifies the powers that the author doesn't need to move the story line along. The end result of all of the inconsistencies—which cause deep cracks in the foundations of the world-building—is that many parts of the mythology are rendered meaningless.
The characters vary in their degree of development. The lead characters are flat. Eleanor (a virgin, by the way) is the usual spunky heroine with slightly out-of-control powers, unsure how to react to the new and scary world she gets dropped into. Uriel comes across as a caring guy, up until the point that he essentially rapes Eleanor in their one big sex scene. A page or two later, Eleanor attempts to justify his actions by trying to make herself believe that it's O.K. that he took her virginity forcibly and painfully without a moment of foreplay—because that was what she really wanted deep down in her heart. Sounds like the sad rationalizing of a battered female to me. Personally, I found the scene to be horrifying.
Some of the secondary characters are far more interesting than the main characters, specifically, Azrael, Samael, and Lilith. All of them are much more complex than Uriel and Eleanor, with interesting behavior, mysterious back stories, and unfathomable motives. Thankfully, Samael isn't the stereotypical bad guy. Yes, he does some horrible things to Uriel and Eleanor, but he also does some unexpectedly kind-hearted things as well. Azrael, with his barely controlled vampiric nature and loner life, is the most interesting of the four archangels. I'll give this series a try, but I'm not optimistic. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Avenger's Angel on googlebooks.com
Click HERE to read an excerpt from Messenger's Angel on googlebooks.com.