Nalini Singh’s Angels’ Blood is the first book in her Guild Hunter series and flings you headlong into its dark, lush world. This futuristic Urban Fantasy series brings to mind all the wicked, decadent thoughts you hide in the deepest part of your soul. Set in an alternative version of Earth, the series revolves around two main characters, Raphael (an archangel) and Elena Deveraux (a vampire hunter). The romance is more subdued than in Singh’s Psy-Changeling world, yet equally seductive.
The Guild Hunter series is a fast and furious urban fantasy whose dynamic characters breathe life into this complex and multi-layered world of angels, vampires, and humans. Multiple subplots are rich in subterfuge and adventure as we immerse ourselves into the lives of this amazing individuals.
In this series, we meet the true rulers of the world: angels. But these are not the benevolent, good-natured cherubs often displayed in books and paintings; religion does not play a part in their evolution. These are gorgeous, ruthless gods and goddess who rule with an absolute power not tempered by humanity or even goodwill. The world is broken into providences, with each one ruled by an archangel. There are 10 archangels in the world and together they make up the Cadre.
The vampires in here are unusual as they are made, not born, from a special venom that angels must secrete to avoid going insane. Humans are tested; if found compatible, they are made into vampires. There is a price to pay for this immortality, though. The human must sign a contract of servitude to the angel making him, agreeing to serve for a specified amount of time.
Should that vampire decide to try and escape his contract, then a guild hunter is called in to hunt the vamp down. A guild hunter is a gifted human individual who can “scent” vampires. These humans are above normal in strength and stamina.
The ruling angel of New York City and its surrounding areas is Raphael. Considered one of the most powerful of the archangels, Raphael is both feared and worshipped. Long since separated from his humanity, he is unprepared for his response when he meets guild hunter Elena Deveraux.
Elena Deveraux is a natural-born vampire hunter. She hunts rogue vampires and delivers them back to the angels who own them. Strong, courageous, and intelligent, her turbulent past has shaped her into the warrior she is today.
When an archangel goes rogue and embarks on a horrific killing spree, Raphael calls on the Guild for their best hunter. Elena is given the assignment and prepares herself to meet the archangel of Manhattan. Elena has a self deprecating sense of humor and her inner monologues provide some lighthearted moments.
“This was the kind of job that made legends out of hunters. Of course, to be a legend, you generally had to be dead.”
Raphael is everything and nothing that Elena has ever dealt with before; dangerous, arrogant, and more tempting than the apple was to Eve. Elena knows by taking this case, she stands on edge with death shadowing her every move.
“You don’t fear me.”
She wasn’t stupid enough to lie. “I’m petrified. But I figure you didn’t make me come all this way just so you could push me off the roof.”
Raphael is furious, then intrigued that this human dares to challenge him. Elena has dealt with arrogant men all her life and knows she can never allow herself to bend to Raphael’s will. Mortals break when angels play with them. But the attraction between them is too intense to ignore and Elena finds herself playing a very dangerous game.
“Oh, this is a special blend for you.” Taking one of the fingers she hadn’t licked, he rubbed it along her lips. “What we usually shed is apparently comparable to the most delicious of chocolates or the finest of wines. Decadent, rich, and very expensive.”
She told herself she wasn’t going to lick the glitter off her lips. “And this blend?” The taste was inside her mouth without her having any knowledge of taking it in. And Raphael was incredibly close, his wings creating a white gold wall all around them his hands strong and warm on her hips. “What’s so special about it?”
“This blend,” he murmured, bending his head, “is about sex.”
She put her hands on his chest but it wasn’t a protest. After the blood, the fear, she needed to touch him, to know this glorious creature existed. “Another form of mind control?”
He shook his head, his mouth a hairbreadth from hers. “It’s only fair.”
“Fair?” She flicked her tongue along his lower lip. It made his hands clench on her hips.
“If I licked you between your thighs, your taste would have the same aphrodisiac effect on me.”
The main conflict of this story is electrifying and scary as Elena and Raphael hunt the archangel gone insane. The lines between good and evil are blurred as we race to the conclusion, while non-stop action and edge-of-your-seat suspense keeps the story line ripe with tension. The ending is unbelievably heart stopping and romantic as we are left wondering what will happen to Raphael and Elena.
Book two, Archangel’s Kiss, picks up one year from where Angels’ Blood leaves off. We begin to see the series evolve into more of a paranormal romance. Raphael’s and Elena’s relationship takes more of a center stage, although it doesn’t overwhelm the main storyline.
The battle against the rogue archangel Uram has left both Raphael and Elena serious injured. It also physically changed Elena. She has awakened from a year-long coma to find she has become an angel. Unsure exactly why or how it happened, Elena is now a novelty that has everyone coming out of the woodwork to see and judge. Not everyone is happy Elena is still alive, and she also has to fight to maintain her independence and individuality against a dominant alpha archangel who will consume all of her if she lets it happen.
“Tell me something, Raphael?”
He was already turning, heading to the door. “What is it you’d like to know, Guild Hunter?”
She hid her smile at his slip. “What do I call you? Husband? Mate? Boyfriend?”
Stopping with his hand on the doorknob, he shot her an inscrutable look. “You can call me ’Master.’”
What I truly loved about this installment is we see more character development and a more in-depth look at the hierarchy and day-to-day lives of the angels and the vampires. We meet more of the angels who mean most to Raphael. My favorite? Illium. A cocky British angel whom Elena has nicknamed Bluebell, due to his blue-tipped wings. There is a special bond between Elena and Illium that Raphael tolerates. He knows that Illium loves Elena and would protect her with his own life.
Even as she spoke, silver blue flashed on her other side and then Illium was standing beside her, his wing touching Elena’s in an intimacy that made Raphael raise an eyebrow. Illium’s lips curved in a wicked smile that did little to hide the intensity of his emotions. “I would not watch you die again, Sire.” His veins stood out against his skin as he gripped the wrist of one hand with the other.
Raphael met those eyes of gold that had stood beside him for centuries. “If I had done so, I would have gone knowing you would keep my heart safe.”
Illium’s gaze went to Elena. “Always.“
We also learn more about Raphael through his private thoughts. He is slowly learning how to deal with his hunter; to give and ask, rather than simply taking. You have no doubt as you watch them together that he does love her in his own way and will destroy anyone who attempts to take her from him
“They didn’t understand that she held his heart, held it so utterly that there was nothing he wouldn’t do, no line he wouldn’t cross to keep her safe.”
As Elena and Raphael are learning to ‘dance as angels,’ they are also preparing for Elena to meet Lijuin, an ancient archangel whose unconscionable deeds will put Elena and all those she loves in deadly peril. Lijuin uses Elena’s memories against her Elena begins to remember what happened to her family so many years ago. The main conflict heats up as friends and foes unite within Lijuin’s fortress to stop, once and for all, the Queen of the Dead.
Book three, Archangel’s Consort, is a turning point both romantically and arc-wise. Elena and Raphael are back in Manhattan. They have evolved to the point where they anticipate each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use them to strengthen their love. Elena is firmly situated in Raphael’s heart and life as his consort. The arrogant Raphael still attempts to manage Elena, but she has become more secure in herself and in his love.
“For the first time in forever, he was stunned to silence. Not by her words, but by the tenderness in her hands, the worry in her eyes. He was an archangel. He’d been wounded far, far worse and shrugged it off. But then, there had been no woman with sun kissed by the sunset and eyes of storm gray to tear into him for daring to get himself hurt.”
Elena attempts to balance her new life by resuming her Guild Hunter activities. She is called to her father’s side when a young girl is ruthlessly attacked by a vampire. Elena learns that her stepsister shares her hunter gifts. This revelation reopens ugly wounds as Elena must come to terms with the fact that her father shunned her for a gift that she inherited from him. As the bloodlust that precipitated the attack begins to claim one vampire after another, and the Cadre begins to suffer from after-effects of the battle against Lijuin, all the signs point to an awakening. An awaking that is terrifying in its consequences. Raphael’s mother is rising from a deep sleep and she wants her son. The only thing standing in her way is Elena—a weakness Raphael’s mother will not tolerate.
We have more interaction with Elena’s friends, Ransom and Sara, here. The light-hearted banter and Elena’s inner monologues featured in Angels’ Blood are more front-and-center here.
"Illium, with his wings of silver-kissed blue and a face designed to seduce both males and females, not to mention his ability to do the most impossible acrobatics in the air, would provide a worthy diversion. The fact that he’d decided to ditch half his clothing was just icing on the cake.”
Archangel’s Blade, the fourth book in the series (out Sept. 6, 2011), presents a new protagonist, Dmitri. Dmitri is a vampire turned against his will hundreds of years ago. He now stands by Raphael’s side willingly as his right-hand man, protecting all that is precious to him. When a severed head is found, the distinctive marks on it call to Dmitri, reminding him of things best forgotten. But when the hunter assigned to the case attracts his—and the killer’s attention, Dmitri realizes that the past never stays buried and he will have to allow its resurrection if he wants his hunter to live.
Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter’s series overwhelms you with beauty and sensuality and the sheer emotional gravity of the characters. The world grows and changes as the characters grow and change.
So tell me, what series takes you so far into their world that the thought of leaving it is unimaginable?