Monday, January 24, 2011

Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh

Elena is a vampire hunter and one of the best, due to her ability to sense vampires when they are nearby, a trick which makes finding them a lot easier. When the archangel Raphael contacts her he's not looking for someone to track down a lost vampire servant, instead he wants her to help kill a fallen angel. He believes she can learn to use her vampire-tracking power on an angel too, but Elena isn't at all sure this is a job she can handle. She takes the job; after all, who would refuse one of the most powerful and dangerous angels alive? However after a while Elena is wondering if Raphael might be more of a danger to her life (and/or sanity) than their target. He keeps pressuring her to join his bed, and she's not sure if she can say no. She's not even sure she wants to or how to tell, considering how entertaining he seems to find messing with her head and making her do things she doesn't want to do.

The "power=magic=control=sex=power" concept is very common in paranormal romance, but rarely is it done well and in a believable manner. Here it is. Raphael is shown as inhuman at the beginning, his main interest in Elena seems just to be about getting his power-trip from forcing a powerful hunter to do his bidding, slowly and surprisingly believably, becoming a relationship about something other than wrestling over who's tougher. I think the key thing that makes it seem possible is respect. Both characters learn to respect each other's abilities, weaknesses and pasts, in doing so they both learn to start letting go of the urge to try and run the whole world, which lets them realize that their relationship doesn't have to be about control and power. It's very rare for a paranormal romance to use character development so effectively, which makes this one a breath of fresh air into an often stagnant genre.

I wish the writing had been as good as the characters. It wasn't dreadful, but it felt sloppy and rushed in a number of spots. It was generally rather bland, I got the sense the author was trying not to make her writing a distraction or stand out, but instead it meant that when exciting stuff wasn't happening to keep the reader interested via the plot and/or characters, the writing had a tendency to drag and get rather dull.

Another problematic thing is that both main characters were so unlikable at the beginning and it was very difficult to empathize, like or be interesting in learning more about them until more than a third of the way through. I only stuck with it that far because of the interesting setting, a couple background characters and the fact that I had received it through Bookcrossing and wanted to write a proper review. Had it been a library book I would have put it down unfinished, which would have been unfortunate since it improved so much later on.

This is an interesting read, but one has to slog through a tough beginning to get to the "good stuff".

3 Stars

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