Death's Angel (12/2012)
Warrior's Angel (11/2014; e-book or audiobook only)
NOVEL 5: Samael
The Culmination is approaching. For Samuel Lambent is actually Samael—the Fallen One. He’s been dreaming of her, craving her, side-lined by an intense obsession that has all but consumed him. And now that he has actually seen Angel, the long lost fifth and final archess, he will stop short of absolutely nothing to obtain her, going so far as to break fundamental covenants… and make the ultimate sacrifice.
Angel watches the skies above with an anxious eye. She knows what the tempest means. The Fallen One has found her. His impossible influence and power stretch across vast miles, and his eyes call to her. Within their tumultuous gray is something her heart understands, no matter how it may not wish to.
There is a promise in Samael’s gaze. And it is that promise that keeps her running. For if he claims her. If she gives in… the Culmination will ensue. Life on Earth as she knows it will come to an end. Angel will have surrendered everything. All for the fierce and unforgivable love of the Fallen One.
In the final chapters of Samael, Killough-Walden basically admits that nothing about the premise of the mythology of the first four books (and half of this one) is true, and for me, that felt like a complete betrayal. It's as if she created two very different mythologies: one that informed the action of the first four and 1/2 novels, and one that contradicts that original mythology and is explained quickly and incoherently in the final 20% of this book. Both mythologies have the same romantic match-ups between the archangels and the archesses, but beyond that, they are completely different from one another. We don't see the final mythology acted out; we just have it explained to us by two characters who admit to the rest of the characters that what they thought was truth was, in reality, all lies. This is not an honest way to end a series, and it is definitely not a satisfying finale.
During the early chapters, Sam pursues Angel, while the Archangel group tries to keep them apart. Hesperos, king of the incubi, gets involved early on, but his character soon disappears from the action. Gregori is the true villain in this book. He wants to catch up with Angel so that he can kill her and stop the Culmination. Gregori has a grudge against the Old Man, and he is determined to get revenge.
Of course, Sam catches Angel and the next chapters have them teleporting all over the globe trying to stay out of Gregori's clutches. They stop in several places, including Sam's underwater mansion and Angel's tree-house home. Each place they visit is described in great, luxurious detail—pages and pages of detail—for no apparent reason. In the case of the underwater home, the couple stops off only long enough to change clothes, so why go on and on and on and on about the decor. This is not Architectural Digest or Martha Stewart Living, for goodness sake.
Also cluttered with useless detail are the fight scenes, particularly towards the end, when the author presents a massive showdown scene that has all of the archangels and their archesses battling a huge army of various types of fangy monsters. Instead of providing an overview of the action, Killough-Walden describes each and every angel and archess, the creatures they fight, and exactly how they fight each creature. What a waste of page space. After reading a few repetitive paragraphs, I just flipped right through most of that section of the book.
As you can tell from my review, I found this to be a disappointing finale to a mediocre series. If you have been reading and enjoying the previous books, you'll probably want to read this one just to see what the Culmination is and how it all turns out. I warn you, though, that everything you have believed about he series so far is not true, so get ready for some major shakeups in the final 20% of the novel. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Samael on the book's Amazon.com page, where you can click either on the cover art or the "Audible Narration" icon.
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.
The series follows the adventures and love stories of the four archangels and their friends and enemies.
> 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—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 require 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 whom 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
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 mind. 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 and extremely powerful villain steps up. 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 out. Instead of writing within the world-building rules and restraints she originally created, she just changes those rules and removes restraints as needed to advance the plot. A better writer would have worked within the mythology, following the rules and having the characters behave 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 expect, but he's otherwise one-dimensionally perfect in every way—just like all the rest of the favored four—good-hearted, brave, courageous, blindingly handsome, 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? Then 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? Her life choices make absolutely no 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.
NOVEL 4: Warrior's Angel
Michael and Rhiannon meet in the first scene, a huge battle that takes place in Central Park. Just as Michael realizes that Rhiannon is his archess, she is fatally wounded by a dragon. Almost immediately, the wicked Samael appears on the scene, promising to heal Rhiannon—but at a steep price. Michael begs Samael to save Rhiannon: "Take what you wil…whatever you want, it's yours…Just…save her." Samael heals the archess and then tells Michael what his punishment will be: "Everything you love, everything you worship, all that you hold dear, oh Favored One…you lose here and now. All that you loathe and fear and unfairly judge shall become your burden." The next thing we know, Rhiannon is waking up back in her apartment with no memory of what happened to her. When Michael awakens, he does remember everything that happened and realizes that Samael has turned him into a mutant being: part archangel, part vampire, and part Nightmare (i.e., incubus). This all sounds very bad for Michael, and for a moment, I thought we were going to have a great story involving Michael's attempts to deal with his new blood-sucking, lust-driven persona, but that's not the way that Killough-Walden takes the story. Instead, she does the same thing she always does. She makes Michael a perfect man/angel who calmly analyzes his situation and finds only good things in his reincarnation. Although the author briefly implies that Michael's big makeover will have a major negative effect on his relationship with his archess, that is not the case. The romance rolls along smoothly, with no real problems between the lovers, which means that it isn't very interesting.
As the story plays out, Rhiannon falls head over heels for Michael—and vice versa—and they team up to fight off the bad supernaturals who are constantly after them. In particular, a gang of rogue gargoyles set their sights on Rhiannon and are determined to have her, either dead or alive. A slender secondary story line focuses on Mimi, a young girl who lives with her aunt in Mr. V's apartment building. Playing her usual role in the story is Angel, the mysterious woman who seems to know all about the archesses and the archangels and has a mysterious relationship with Samael. (The Angel-Samael story will be told in the next novel.)
Missing from the book is the single ingredient that livened up the previous novels: the interaction among the angelic brothers. Michael is on his own throughout the book until the very last scene when his family comes to his rescue. After his initial appearance at the very beginning of the book, Samael, too, is largely absent from the action, and when he does show up (as one of Mr. V's clients) his presence serves no real purpose—just a vague threatening presence with no follow-through. The villains in this story are the gargoyles and Grigori, both of whom cause a great deal of trouble for Rhiannon, Michael, and Mimi.
The weakest part of this series has always been that the cotton-candy-sweet lead characters are always super-virtuous, good-hearted, optimistic, brave, altruistic champions with the depth of a thin cardboard cut-out. The villainous Samael, on the other hand, is a flawed, fascinating, and much more highly developed character than any of the heroes and heroines in the series.
The plot of this book is loosely woven, with more than a few gaps and awkward transitions. In that early Central Park battle, for example, Michael wonders why so many phantoms have been showing up lately, and he wonders if Gregori, their treacherous boss, is up to something. He also wonders why dragons and phantoms are teaming up against them. Unfortunately, all we get in this book are Michael's "wonderings"—no actual facts about what is going on. The lead couple just fights one battle after another, with no knowledge as to what the end game is or who is behind the constant attacks by the phantoms and dragons. As a result, the book seems incomplete and unpolished, as if it were a quickly written first draft.
If you loved the earlier books, you'll probably like this one, but for me, it's just one more mediocre book in a below-average series. Nice cover art, though. Click HERE to go to this book's amazon.com page where you can click on the cover art or the "Listen" icon to read or listen to an excerpt.