Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Archangel's Storm" by Nalini Singh

5+ stars

Mahiya lives only half a live in Neha’s court. Niece of the Indian archangel and the living reminder of her consort’s betrayal. Because Mahiya’s parents are none other than Neha’s sister and Erin, consort to the archangel. Now, centuries later, Erin is dead and Neha, half-insane with grief and anger, threatens to release her power and destroy entire cities.
Jason, sent to her court to avert disaster, must find the murderer, but by doing so he has to prove his loyalty and bind himself to Mahiya, the archangel’s only remaining blood relative.

What amazes me the most about Nalini Singh, her books and especially „Archangel’s Storm“, the fifth installment in her “Guild Hunter” series, are her complex and original character constructions/developments. With a lot of authors you get the feeling that they have one male or female hero type, which they then recycle for all their books. They might give them a different hair or eye color, make them taller or smaller, but in the end it’s basically the same character. I’ve never felt like that with Nalini Singh before and I definitely haven’t felt like that while reading “Archangel’s Storm”.

Jason and Mahiya are such appealingly flawed, complex and unique characters it was a pleasure to get to know them a little bit more with every read page. Especially Jason is such an intriguing protagonist. We didn’t find out a lot about him in the previous books of the series, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I even had some worries that it might be too early for his own book (even though I promised never to doubt Nalini Singh again), but once again she proved to be a master of her craft. Jason stays a mystery until the end of the book, but at the same time you feel so much compassion and affection towards him. Nalini Singh did an awesome job of walking the fine line while creating his character. She manages to make him guarded, without making him appear cold, as well as give him a core of immense strength, while also showing a certain vulnerability. By the time I finished the last page of the book he was one of my favorite Singh protagonists.
Then there’s Mahiya. In the beginning of the book Neha described her as a “fragile trinket” and let me just tell you: She was wrong. Due to her heritage and the circumstances of her upbringing she has honed her talent of blending into the background, so a lot of people underestimated her, even I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of her courage, intelligence and determination. This heroine came as a bit of a surprise to me. A very pleasant one. She has a mature kind of innocence to her and although Neha has treated her with nothing but distaste, even cruelty, she managed to keep her core of compassion and… goodness. She didn’t turn bitter, actually, she refused to turn bitter and was determined to stay true to herself. Considering what was done to her it’s nothing but a miracle (at least in my opinion).

Together Jason and Mahiya were just amazing. If you’ve read (and enjoyed) this series up to this point then you know that Nalini Singh’s romantic (and other) relationships are almost a thing of art. Her gift of translating feelings and emotions into words is incredible and she used it perfectly for Jason and Mahiya.
Jason became her protector. In a world where everybody looked down on her, while Neha did everything to crush her spirit, this black winged angel respected and acknowledged her for who she truly was. He listened to her, he cared about her opinions and step by step he started to care even more for her. Mahiya might have been extremely dependent on him, but at the same time she stood her ground and refused to accept the fact that Jason seemed to stay somehow detached from the world around him. Those two characters were so right for each other, despite or maybe because of all their differences. There were so many things standing between them, their individual pasts, obstacles thrown at them from the outside, as well as Jason’s loyalty to Raphael. But still, together they became so much stronger and reading about it was simply beautiful. For me this following quote describes their relationship and interaction perfectly (this scene takes place earlier in the book, so don’t worry about spoilers):

“He was beyond fascinating. Dangerous and unpredictable and frighteningly intelligent. A threat. And yet she wanted to run her finger over the blade of him even if it made her bleed, wanted to dance too close to the flame, wanted to take a risk that could destroy her.”

The mystery part of the story was fascinating, to say the least. The hunt for Eris’ murderer, as well as a wave of additional murders, all connected to Neha, kept things interesting, even on the non-romantic level. There were so many unexpected twists and sudden plot changes and once more, as always when it comes to Singh’s plotting, I was unable to predict the outcome.

This is a haunting story, a compelling mystery plot and a love story so heartbreaking, but incredibly beautiful at the same time. The fact that I finished this book in less than a day should already tell you something. If you’re a fan of the series you simply HAVE to read it. If you’re new to Nalini Singh’s universe, start at the beginning with “Angel’s Blood”, you won’t regret it.
The fact that I have to wait a year for the next book in the series is heartbreaking as well. Quite some of the revelations and things that happened in this book made me hungry (ravenous!) for more and I’m ecstatic that Elena and Raphael will be the protagonists of the next book once more.

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