Angels' Blood
by Nalini Singh, fantasy (2009)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22692-6

Angels' Blood is the start of what seems like a genuine series that will feature recurring characters. I like how Ms Nalini has used the concept of archangels and turned it around so that the archangels here are more like Godfathers of an international Mafia network, forcing humans to trot the line using their powers and their legion of vampire minions. But other than that, this particular book seems to suffer from a surfeit of romantic urban fantasy clichés. I'm hoping for a little more, to be honest.

Elieanora "Elena" Deveraux is a vampire hunter. She's not Buffy, though, her job may have its hazards but she's basically a bounty hunter that catches and returns rogue vampires to their archangel masters. In this story, she is asked by the archangel that controls the United States of America, Raphael, to retrieve the biggest vampire of them all: an archangel called Uram who has gone rogue in a most spectacular manner. By the way, I have to love how the only halfway "nice" archangels are from North and South America. Uram controls Russia - and you'd think the Cold War is forgotten already, huh? Don't get me started about the Chinese, Middle-Eastern, and Indian archangels.

As I've mentioned, this baby is full to the brim with romantic urban fantasy stereotypes: a feisty heroine who isn't as rational and kick-ass as she or the author would like me to believe, a ridiculously alpha hero, plenty of irrational female villains, and more. I have to say this, though: Ms Nalini puts everything together very well. I am very intrigued by the story to keep turning the pages even as my eyes roll up when the other beautiful female in the story just has to predictably turn out to be a psychotic nymphomaniac type. The story hooks me in because of the engaging narration, the build-up, and the intriguing setting.

The romance, unfortunately, leaves me bored silly. Raphael and Elena have this "Anita and Jean-Claude before the skanky takes over" feel to their whole relationship, only, Anita Blake had five books to explore her feelings for Jean-Claude while Ms Nalini unrealistically rushes Elena into bed with Raphael in just one book. I can understand why Raphael would fall in love with Elena gradually as the story progresses, but I can't imagine why Elena would feel the same about him. He behaves like a villain more often than not, threatening and coercing Elena into doing things she doesn't want to do when he's not dropping her down from skies and telling her that she's going to put out to him. Elena's greatest compliment for Raphael is that he's not killing babies and children like Uram. And yet I'm to buy that she can somehow feel attracted to this guy? Poor Elena comes off like a slave to her hormones here, and I rather pity her. The poor baby doesn't have much control over the things that happen to her in this story, and the author doesn't even give Elena a break when it comes to Elena's sex life.

Still, no matter. Even if the romance bores me to tears, I find myself intrigued enough by the dangling subplots and the setting to want to give the next book a try. I still feel that Angels' Blood is too much of a mish-mash of romantic urban fantasy clichés, but this book entertains me enough to allow me to give it a guarded recommendation to folks who are still hung-up over the first few Anita Blake books.

Rating: 80

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