Of all the couples so far in the Guild Hunter series, Elena and Raphael are my favourite so while many people were disappointed that we were getting another book focusing on these two, I was thrilled. Unlike the previous books which were more plot-centric in the broader sense, Archangel’s Heart is a more contained book. In that, while it too is plot-centric, the focus is relatively narrow. The overall plot doesn’t necessarily progress much, but we do learn more Elena’s heritage and her mother’s side of the family.
I thoroughly enjoy the Guild Hunter books and Archangel’s Heart was just what I needed. Even though I started working on a project, I still took out time and finished it in two days flat. I could not put it down. Nalini Singh created such an amazing world and with every passing book, she keeps adding to it, making it richer and more detailed. Every book takes us to a new place and Archangel’s Heart was no different.
The book picks up after a two-year time jump. Lijuan was last spotted two years ago when she attempted to kill Alexander and killed his son and daughter-in-law. Things have also been peaceful with reference to the Cascade and everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. This time jump, in my opinion was a smart move, it gave the readers to catch up with all the major players while still moving along the plot. So we knew that Lijuan had been missing for a while with no news about whether she died or simply went to Sleep.
Most of the book takes place in Lumia, the stronghold of the Luminata, in Morocco. Once there, the action is contained within its walls. I will attempt to keep this spoiler-free but it’s unlikely that I’ll succeed because when I finished this last night, there were so many things I wanted to talk about. But more on that later. I was thrilled to learn more about Elena and her mother’s parents. And the book also shed some light into why, even among Hunters, Elena was as powerful as she was.
The stronghold of the Luminata, Lumia, was so well-realised and detailed that it was easy to get lost in its tunnels, or the Gallery which was truly astonishing and yet, even with all that art and beauty, the feeling of rot was unmistakable. Singh made it feel stifling, the absence of natural light, the endless tunnels, as if the wall were closing in on the characters. It was easy to relate to their feelings of claustrophobia.
As far as characters are concerned, the list of those who appeared in Archangel’s Heart was thin. It featured Illium briefly and Dimitri and Honor even more briefly. The rest of the Seven, with the exception of Aodhan were only mentioned. We also didn’t meet Elena’s sisters or Gwendolyn or even Sara and Deacon, which was disappointing, it’s always a pleasure meeting those two. In addition to Raphael and Elena, the book featured Aodhan very prominently, giving us more pieces of his past.
Raphael and Elena have reached that point in their relationship where they’re not thinking about sex every minute (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it just gets old after a point) Their love was each other is abundantly clear and it’s there for everyone to see. We also see a more playful side of Raphael that seems to rising to the surface more often. Elena has come to terms with the fact that she does live in two very different worlds. Their relationship is also more stable with them losing more of their ego when it comes to their relationship; feeling protective but not holding the other person back. One of the things I love about this couple is that there was never any angst or those pesky love triangles. Once they fell in love, that was it, they were fully committed to each other but because they were so different, it wasn’t smooth sailing, they each had to get used to the other person and learn to rely on them, something that was difficult for both of them.
Aodhan, with the exception of Venom is a Seven we know very little about, aside from what has been implied and hinted at. He went through something horrible in his past and has only just started to re-enter the world. Archangel’s Heart shed some more light and highlighted his relationship with Illium. Their bond is close enough that if we were to get an Aodhan-Illium pairing in the next book, it would not seem odd. But that’s unlikely mostly since Singh doesn’t write LGBT romances. Having said that, I don’t mind them being friends, it’s beautiful how they balance each other out so well.
Then there was the Cadre, we spent quite some time with them in Archangel’s Heart. We got to see them interact with each other in a more extended setting. I like Astaad and Titus, they are solid and play no games and their ties to Raphael are getting stronger. Elijah has become a trusted ally and a friend, someone Raphael can rely on should he ever need assistance, while at the same time Hannah and Elena are truly becoming friends and genuinely like spending time together. Neha still hasn’t forgiven Raphael for killing her daughter but we get the feeling that, while they were never friends, they still respected each other. Michaela was her usual self if a little understated. Charisemnon was odious as ever, I don’t know why he isn’t dead already. I actually prefer Lijuan to him.
I’ve always liked Favashi, as the youngest of the archangels, one cannot even imagine how hard she needs to work to hold her own amongst the others who are considerably older than her. I admire her steel and her strength and that she doesn’t back down. She and Alexander agreed to split Persia two years ago but you can tell their presence in such close proximity to each other is raising tensions on both sides. In addition, they are both archangels and therefore neither side will cede the territory to the other as that would be a sign of weakness. I don’t know why Singh keeps implying that maybe she’s not trustworthy when she hasn’t done anything that the others haven’t already. If anything, she openly opposed Lijuan when she used her powers which had so far been unconfirmed. I like her and I hope that Singh doesn’t turn her evil.
Caliane is present as well. She also seems to have gotten used to Elena and even respects her. Unfortunately that also meant that Tasha was present and while I did start to like her, she keeps trying to make Elena jealous, which thankfully doesn’t work. And finally, there was Alexander and his grandson, Xander who was pretty sweet and reminiscent of Izzy.
Beware, spoilers below:
The Luminata themselves were suspect from the beginning. They were supposed to be angels seeking luminescence or enlightenment but they were so secretive that it was hard to believe that story. Then there was their attitude, one of superiority and where archangels were concerned, that was a bad mix. Their view of humans was even worse than most of the archangels. Gian, the leader of the Luminata was slimey from the beginning and I never bought his nice-guy act. He seemed too good to be true. He deserved everything he got and then some.
I am so glad that we finally learnt more about Elena’s grandparents, Majda and Jean-Baptiste Etienne. The book kept implying that her grandmother had died because of Gian and I could not have been happier that not only were they alive but they were both vampires. Elena had already lost her mother and sisters but it was nice to know that she also regained some of her family. I am glad that they got a happy ending.
Archangel Hearts ends with confirmation that Lijuan has indeed gone to Sleep which opens up a few possibilities. Since an archangel’s Sleep can last for hundreds of years, we might get a new antagonist in the next book. Even if she doesn’t Sleep for too long and is only in Anshara, it’s still unlikely that we’ll see her in book 10. I also have a feeling that book 10 will focus on Illium as the main character while setting up Aodhan to take over in book 11. Phew! this review was longer than I anticipated….