Nalini Singh is in my top three favorite authors of all time. I’m convinced that if someone could get her to author the phonebook, I’d read it just for the character development. So when I heard she was writing a new series, I immediately wrote to Marisa requesting the book. The new series delivers on every level, building an incredibly complex, dark world.
Elena Devereaux is a born vampire hunter. This distinguishes her from “made” vampire slayers in that she can “scent” vampires. Her sense of smell is about ten times better than a normal human being, making her very, very good at her job and in high demand. The world is ruled by a Cadre of Ten archangels. Each rules an area of the world, meting out justice and keeping order in their world. They are the supreme beings who are practically omnipotent. Vampires are actually made by the angels, in a very limited supply. One must go through rigorous testing in order to be “Made” into a vampire. Once one is Made, one becomes immortal and must pay off a contract of servitude to the angel who made you. Some vampires choose to skip out on their contract, which is where Elena comes in. She works for the Guild Hunters, a group who seeks out and captures those vampires not honoring their contracts.
One day Elena is notified by her boss that she has been requested for a new contract and that she must report to Angel Tower in the center of Manhattan to meet with Raphael, the archangel who rules North America. Elena is appropriately terrified, and reluctantly goes to the meeting. She has seen evidence of Raphael’s ruthlessness in several public punishments that he’s meted out to those who have defied his rule. He is an ancient, and has very little humanity left. He is practically omnipotent and operates with a very different moral compass than humankind. When she arrives for the meeting, Raphael tests her, asking her to identify two vampires by scent. She complies and passes the test. At that time, she is told that she her assignment is to track an archangel who has gone rogue. Naturally, she’s stumped. She can’t smell angels, and frankly, Raphael is so luminously beautiful, magnetic, and intimidating that she’d very much prefer to forget the meeting ever took place and decline the contract. Of course, that’s not an option, Raphael wants her on the job.
Raphael has very little humanity. His power is overwhelming, and he truly has no compunction about using it to get what he wants. After all, a human lifespan is but a moment in angel time. His strength is beyond human imagination, and his morals have been influenced by the eons he’s survived. He is utterly ruthless and lives by a very different code than the humans he rules. He is intrigued by Elena, who speaks her mind, and is often insubordinate. She has the ability to push him from her mind when he attempts to influence her. She challenges him at every stop, even as she knows that he could end her existence at any time without exerting a moment of effort. In short, she is a new and fascinating plaything. Elena is unpredictable, driven and utterly fascinating. And as Raphael spends more time with her, he begins to care for his new plaything. For her part, Elena is just trying to survive the search, knowing that she will probably die in the course of this assignment. And she is trying desperately to fight the overwhelming attraction she feels for Raphael. Will Elena be able to track down an archangel who possesses all of the same tools Raphael has? And more importantly, can she survive the search?
I’m not sure there are enough superlatives for me to use to describe this series. Singh has created a fascinating yet completely credible world where Angels, Vampires and Man coexist. She has always excelled at creating alpha males (as anyone who has read her Psy/Changeling series can attest), but Raphael is a whole different level. He embodies power, and is utterly ruthless. He is absolutely NOT human and is not constrained by human morality. And yet, as the book unfolds, we find that he does have a code of honor, and an incredibly complex history. It is his softening as a hero that makes the story so compulsively readable. Ms. Singh does a wonderful job of making us understand Raphael’s motivations and more than that, how extraordinary it is that he comes to care for Elena. As for Elena, she is a fantastic heroine. She is estranged from her family, and yet has a strong network of close friends who support her. She has a smart mouth and a temper that gets the best of her from time to time. And yet, she is well matched to Raphael.
It is fair to say that this book is extremely dark. There is much blood-shed and it is definitely not for the squeamish reader. The romance is strong (and very hot), but the character driven world building is the book’s strongest asset. There are a multitude of secondary characters whose stories I’d like to see told, so all I can do is implore Nalini Singh to write faster! I feel sure that I’ll end up re-reading this book over and over waiting for the next entry in the Guild Hunter series.