Gollancz, p/b, Â£7.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan
For those unfamiliar with Nalini Singhâ€™s creations, this is an alternative fantasy world. Top dogs are Angels, with Archangels in charge of large areas of the globe. Raphael is the Archangel of North America with his Tower headquarters overlooking Manhattan. These angels are not cute, benign creatures but are inhuman, compassionless and dangerous. You offend one at your peril. Angels Make vampires. It is in their nature to do so. New vampires are usually contracted to their Maker as a servant for a century of their new life. Sometimes a vampire decides he does not like his servitude and runs. Then a Guild Hunter is called in to bring them back for punishment. Most Guild Hunters are human.
In the first volume of this series (Angelsâ€™ Blood) Raphael, against his better judgment fell in love with the Hunter he had called in to help him resolve a situation. The dangerous cross-species romance is a feature of all Singhâ€™s novels both in this and the Psy-Changer series. Each time, she takes a new couple and puts them in jeopardy.
Dmitri is a familiar character, having been introduced in Angelsâ€™ Blood. He is a thousand year old vampire. He is Raphaelâ€™s second in command and his Blade, the enforcer in his domain. Their connection goes back a long way to Isis, the angel who made Dmitri. By any account, Dmitri would be described as a â€˜hard bastardâ€™. He is capable of immense cruelty, especially to women (in a mental rather than physical sense) and expects others do exactly what he tells them or face the consequences. He answers only to Raphael. When an immature vampireâ€™s head is fished out of the river, Dmitri asks for a Guild Hunter to assist in the investigation. Honor St. Nicholas is assigned.
Honorâ€™s mental state is fragile. She was kidnapped and held for two months in a cellar by a group of vampires who derived pleasure out of tormenting and feeding from her. Although some of them were killed or captured during her rescue, the instigators of the torture have not been identified and are still at large after ten months. She is terrified that they will be waiting for her. She doesnâ€™t want this assignment. She doesnâ€™t want to be alone in the same room as a vampire but she is goaded into using what little dignity she has left and takes the assignment. From the start, Dmitri both attracts and repels her.
Dmitriâ€™s initial reaction is try to find a way of seducing Honor without her reacting hysterically. She is a woman and a challenge. He decides to help her track down the vampires that held her captive to give her closure and to use her gratitude to help her open up to his seduction. Gradually he realizes he wants more than just another conquest. Memories of his wife and children before he was Made begin to surface and we see a different aspect of Dmitri and begin to understand why his outward persona is as tough as it is.
Those who choose to read Nalini Singhâ€™s novels donâ€™t do it just for the supernatural elements â€“ here angels and vampires â€“ but also for the erotic sexual element. As the relationship between Honor and Dmitri develops, so does the explicit nature of the text. For those who desire a plot driven story, there will be disappointment as the crises, though important for the characters, are allowed to take second place to lust. There are some complex scenarios within the novel but they are not allowed to really develop and engage with the reader. It is a question of knowing what kind of book you want to read before you choose this one.