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Joint Review: Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh

Title: Archangel’s Kiss

Author: Nalini Singh

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Berkeley (US) / Gollancz (UK)
Publication Date: February 2010 (US) / March 2010 (UK)
Paperback: 352 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Book 2 in the ongoing Guild Hunter series

How Did We Get This Book: Review copies from author & publisher

Why Did We Read This Book: Both of us loved Angels’ Blood, the first book in the series. Ana is a confessed Nalini Singh-aholic, and Thea is on her way to becoming one too. The question should be, rather, what took us so long to read this book?

Summary: (from NaliniSingh.com)
Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed—an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn—but her fragile body needs time to heal before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, is used to being in control—even when it comes to the woman he considers his own. But Elena has never done well with authority…

They’ve barely begun to understand each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing—and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena…


First Impressions:

Thea: Anyone that reads our reviews knows that I have an aversion to romance novels, especially of the mushy, sexually explicit variety. I’ve read some pretty bad Paranormal Romance in particular that makes my eyes roll up to the back of my head, where they can see my brain, which is pissed off at having to read the offending material in the first place. I can deal with mush and sex, but not when it is at the expense of a cohesive and believable story. Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter books are the clear exception to my PNR-dislike, because, quite frankly, her writing rules. The thing that drew me in with Angels’ Blood was how textured and real her characters felt – how Raphael is actually a terrifying, cruel immortal and has no mortal feelings. How Elena is fragile and insignificant in the grand scope of the supernatural world – and she not only knows this but respects it. The biggest problem I have with a lot of PNR (and a lot of UF to be honest) is how there are these supposed millennia-old immortal/super-sexy/supposedly dangerous dudes – but they act like they are in their twenties or thirties, and they are all big softies with hearts of gold, and even if they committed atrocities that was all in the distant past and they are atoning for it, and they are saved from an eternity of brooding by this fiesty hot little human thang (who of course turns out to be some super powerful fey princess/most powerful/magical creature in the universe) who has a scent and a way of sassing that is IRRESISTIBLE to said leading male. In Angels’ Blood and Archangel’s Kiss, Ms. Sing creates a world where deadly creatures are actually deadly, and her heroine Elena is valued because of her human heart and her frailty – even as an immortal, she is a young one and easy to kill. I LOVED that about this book. I love that the relationship between Raphael and Elena is far from “happily ever after” and that their story is continued here. I loved it all enough that I didn’t even mind all the renegade nipples, running rampant throughout the book. Well, I didn’t mind much.

Ana: I read Archangel’s Kiss a few weeks ago which makes it my first official 2010 book. I came to it in the middle of a serious reading slump after I tried and couldn’t finish about 6 books. Nalini Singh once more saves me from the brink of despair. Her writing is kick-ass as usual, the particular world-building of the Guild Hunter book as interesting as ever and the relationship between Raphael and Elena is not only smoking hot (unlike Thea, I tend to like the sexually explicit content when it is well done and part of the story. And oh boy. Can Nalini Singh deliver on that area) but also fascinating.

On the Plot:

Thea: While Angels’ Blood had more of a death-defying, high stakes plot, Archangel’s Kiss is more subdued. There’s an overarching problem of some cruel angel that siccing his/her vampires on Raphael’s vampires, maiming and sending a taunting message meant to threaten Elena’s safety. There’s also the distant, looming test for Elena on the horizon as Lijuan, the most ancient and powerful of the archangels, has broken her disinterested seclusion in China and has extended an invitation to Raphael and his new “pet” hunter. Lijuan’s age and power, however, have changed her into something beyond immortal. She has evolved and has power over death itself, creating her own amusements in the form of an army of the dead reborn – an army that feeds on the flesh of the living to sustain itself. And Lijuan likes to feed her pets – with Elena in mind. While there are these two conflicts going on, the bulk of the novel involves Elena trying to get back her strength and become accustomed to her strange new body, especially after a year of lying in a coma. The focus in this second book is not so much on another rip-roaring adventure (though there is a fair amount of action and a dramatic conclusion) than it is a character-centric book. The highest points of Archangel’s Kiss are in the growing understanding and relationship between Elena and Raphael, as Elena learns what it means to be “immortal” and yet so incredibly weak.

Again, I found myself in awe of Nalini Singh’s worldbuilding skills. Her hierarchy of humans, vampires, angels and archangels is staggering in its complexity and in how utterly believable it all is. As I said before, these immortals are dangerous, cruel creatures and they act as such. I LOVED that Raphael’s Seven would try to kill Elena if she slipped in her vigilance – not because they hate Elena, but because her very presence weakens their leader. She is a liability, plain and simple, and I liked this aspect of the story (but more on that with characters later!). From a writing perspective, I only had a few minor complaints – there was a high level of repetition (especially regarding Elena’s suppressed memories, resurfacing) that needn’t have been there, and a whole bunch of not-sex/almost-sex scenes that I’m admittedly not a fan of (but, of course, this is personal taste! As Ana would say, it’s “hawt” but I’m an emotionally immature reader). Overall though, Ms. Singh’s writing level is awesome, and I found myself swept away in this wonderful novel.

Ana: As Thea says, plot-wise, there are several threads that run parallel in Archangel’s Kiss. The angels and archangels are scheming as ever and with a seat open in the Cadre of Ten, one is stepping up step up to fill up that place. This is expected and almost all Archangels are ok with it. Thea mentioned that the creatures created by Nalini Singh are cruel and terrifying immortals. This is even clearer in Archangel’s Kiss: as the mystery of who wants to be part of the Cadre builds up what seems to be the problem is not necessarily that people are being killed in a cruel manner. And that is fascinating even if albeit a bit uncomfortable.

The problem stems from the manner which this is being done, the overstepping of the boundaries and the fact that children are being targeted. Similarly when it comes to Lijuan’s age and power – a plotline that one day might be applicable to Raphael – the importance comes from the connection (or lack of) with what is like to an archangel versus being human – hence the relationship between Raphael and Elena being the central theme of the series.

I mentioned that Archangel’s Kiss saved me from a reading slump and it was so. But I did have a couple of problems with it. I actually agree with Thea that there was a high level of repetition -one more “mine” from Raphael and I would explode. Having said that, I absolutely adored the book.

On the Characters:

Thea: Here’s where things really get going. Archangel’s Kiss is very much a character-centric novel, exploring Elena and Raphael even more as characters, and building on their relationship together. Following the dramatic ending of Angels’ Blood, Elena has been Made an Angel and now is immortal. Except…immortality isn’t everything you think it is. She heals more quickly and will never grow old or fall to illness, but Elena is still at the very bottom of the power totem pole. She barely has the strength to walk (as she has been in a coma for a year), and she must learn how to carry and use her new wings. I absolutely loved that Elena isn’t automatically All Better (nor is she SUPER!POWERFUL!) because she’s an Angel – in fact, in many ways she’s even weaker and in a worse position as an immortal than she was as a hunter. As a mortal, Elena knew exactly who she was. She wasn’t a mark for an angelic power play, and she never had to worry about becoming overpowered or a slave to Raphael’s possessive will. But, as an Angel and as Raphael’s mate, she is essentially a walking bullseye for those who want to hurt or take Raphael down – which means even Raphael’s loyal servants want her killed, because she weakens him; she makes him vulnerable. But isn’t that the coolest thing? That’s what love does – it makes one vulnerable to be hurt, but that trust and vulnerability make it all the more special. And THAT is why I love this couple. Elena is strong willed and refuses to be Raphael’s slave, and Raphael – utterly inhuman Raphael – learns and respects this. It’s a beautiful dynamic.

Beyond the leading pair, all of the other characters are textured, diverse, and brilliant in their own ways. In particular, Ilium (one of Raphael’s Seven, the only one to love Elena) and Michaela (another powerful archangel in the Cadre of Ten) are standouts. Michaela’s character is one that you cannot help but despise, especially in her cruel, cold venom towards Elena, but the brilliance of Ms. Singh’s writing is that she shows another, more relatable side to this villain too. And I can dig that.

Ana: I have to agree with Thea again. I think that this is where Archangel’s Kiss truly shines. As Elena awakens from a year- long coma that changed her forever and is faced with a whole new set of challenges. She basically has to learn a new life. Heck she even starts to attend school for Angels. I love how different both Raphael and Elena are from who they used to be and how they both have evolved as characters. And it couldn’t be any different. Not only one year has passed but their love for each other and their personalities have influenced each other. They are BOTH softer people they once were and I think that is a good thing. Not only does Elena make Raphael vulnerable (and how amazing are the last lines of the book- Raphael gets the bests last liners!) but he makes her too. But at the same time, they haven’t completely changed their personalities: Raphael is still cold and ruthless and finds it hard to HAVE to respect Elena’s wishes for independence. It is a working, developing and yes, beautiful dynamics.

I really hope that this hasn’t be the last we see of them. Now that she has become an immortal angel, I want to see what happens with her role as a Hunter and how this dynamics will play when they return to New York.

As for the secondary characters, I am completely fascinated by Michaela who both terrifies and befuddles me. When I think she is completely evil and potty she does something that makes me feel sorry for her. This is the mark of a good villain. And then there is Illium (or Bluebell) and his blue eyelashes and the hint of a sad past AND NALINI SINGH YOU MUST TELL US MORE ABOUT ILLIUM.

I can’t stand Dimitri though – is it just me, dear readers?

Final Thoughts, Observations and Rating:

Thea: I truly enjoyed Archangel’s Kiss – heck, I loved it. It’s not as powerful as Angels’ Blood, but it is a solid, captivating second installment in the ongoing Guild Hunter series. I loved the deeper look at angels, their laws, their powers and their politics, just as I devoured the ongoing romance between two very moving protagonists. I cannot wait for the next book in the series – and the return to the world of mere mortals!

Ana: Although not as refreshingly powerful and original (have I lost that first spark?) as Angels’ Blood, Archangel’s Kiss delivers in every possible ways to make this a great Paranormal Romance series that even the naysayers can safely pick up: a solid world-building, good writing, a great character-driven central arc and an amazing romance.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From the official excerpt:

Elena gripped the balcony railing and stared down at the gorge that fell away with jagged promise beneath. From here, the rocks looked like sharp teeth, ready to bite and tear and rip. She tightened her hold as the icy wind threatened to tumble her into their unforgiving jaws. “A year ago,” she murmured, “I didn’t know the Refuge existed, and today, here I stand.”

A sprawling city of marble and glass spread out in every direction, its elegant lines exquisite under the razor-sharp burn of the sun. Dark-leafed trees provided soothing patches of green on both sides of the gorge that cut a massive divide through the city, while snow-capped mountains ruled the sky line. There were no roads, no high-rises, nothing to disturb the otherworldly grace of it.

Yet, for all its beauty, there was something alien about this place, a vague sense that darkness lurked beneath the gilded surface. Drawing in a breath laced with the biting freshness of the mountain winds, she looked up . . . at the angels. So many angels. Their wings filled the skies above this city that seemed to have grown out of the rock itself.

The angelstruck, those mortals who were literally en thralled by the sight of angelic wings, would weep to be in this place filled with the beings they worshipped. But Elena had seen an archangel laugh as he plucked the eyes out of a vampire’s skull, as he pretended to eat, then crush the pulpy mass. This, she thought with a shiver, was not her idea of heaven.

A rustle of wings from behind her, a squeeze from the pow erful hands on her hips. “You’re tiring, Elena. Come inside.”

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Additional Thoughts: Angels are everywhere these days – in books, in films, in video games… For example, last week Legion came out in theaters (which we haven’t seen yet, but Thea is feeling the urge even if it does look silly).

Do you have any favorite portrayals of angels in film or literature?


Thea: 7 – Very Good. (But leaning toward an 8 )

Ana:8 Excellent

Reading Next: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor


  • KMont
    January 29, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Woohoo, great review, ladies!

    I don’t care for Dimitri. Not because he’s not a good character; he acts a little sleazy to me. Full of himself. This of course could work great though were he to get a book/short story and a heroine to pit against him. 😀

    As for Legion, heard a radio review by my fave movie reviewer this morning and he said God was pissed at all the humans and their love for the song Pants on the Ground, which almost made me spit out my coffee. He also said it’s better as a DVD rental. But should one of you see it and review it here, I would love to see those opinions too.

  • KMont
    January 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

    *Do you have any favorite portrayals of angels in film or literature? *

    Somehow I missed this question initially Yep, shocking. 😉

    A good question for me, actually because I’ve not had much luck so far with angels is fiction. I’m trying to remember movies, but all I can think of is that one Christopher Walkin was in and it was kind of a hot mess. Oh I know!

    Dogma. ‘Nough said.

    As for fiction, Singh’s is the only one that’s working for me at the moment and I think it’s because she went another route besides a Biblical one. I think it’s my Catholic schooling that disallows my belief system suspension when trying to wrap my head around a biblical angel that wants to sex up a human woman. Totally would go for it should an author make it work, though. It’s possible.

  • KMont
    January 29, 2010 at 7:23 am

    I just realized it looks like I was saying Walkin was in Dogma, which is not what I meant lol. Just meant that Dogma would be my fave movie w/angels. Geeze. Glad it’s Friday!

  • Kati
    January 29, 2010 at 7:29 am


    I love Nalini Singh. Seriously, she’s never written a book I haven’t adored. I loaded this one on my shiny new eReader and will be diving in this weekend. Fantastic review, ladies!

  • Sandy(Strlady)
    January 29, 2010 at 7:34 am

    i haven’t started reading this series yet (notice I said yet) but I have the first book in my TBR pile. I guess I’ll need to pick this one up as well.

    Favorite portrayal of angels in a movie… City of Angels. Loved the way the angels were portrayed. Was upset with the ending but was memsmerized by all the angels just hanging around.

  • Rose Lerner
    January 29, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I think my favorite angels are probably the ones in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman…but I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of great ones!

  • Rose Lerner
    January 29, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Oops! I should have said “by Neil Gaiman AND TERRY PRATCHETT.” Sorry Terry Pratchett! You know I love you!

  • Gerd D.
    January 29, 2010 at 7:40 am

    @KMont: “Dogma”, good call, didn’t think of that!

    “Date with an Angel”, a nice, simple RomCom with Emanuelle Beart as Angel, loved it.
    “God’s Army” (Prophecy?), with Chris Walken as angel Gabriel, cult!
    I almost don’t dare to say it … Roma Downey. *sigh*
    “Rendezvous with an Angel” (I think that’s the title), Cary Grant and David Niven if I recall that movie correct, haven’t seen it in a while but used to love it.

    I can’t actually think of any literature featuring Angels (‘cept the Bible naturally).

  • Gerd D.
    January 29, 2010 at 7:49 am

    The Cary Grant/Dvid Niven movie is called “The Bishop’s Wife”
    Sorry, only had the German title on my mind.

  • KMont
    January 29, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Doh! I spelled Walken’s name wrong! I did not adhere to the “When in doubt – Google” rule. *facepalm*

    Sandy, good call on City of Angels! I agree on how the angels were portrayed.

  • Ana
    January 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

    You know, I couldn’t stand City of Angels? 😳

    But I LOVE Dogma (actually I am a Kevin Smith fan girl – at least of his early movies)

    Rose Lerner – Thea and I love Good Omens! Such a fabulous book!

  • Tiffany M.
    January 29, 2010 at 8:30 am

    For literature, I liked Sharon Shinn’s angels in the Samaria series. I also liked the fallen angel in Jeri Smith-Ready’s Requiem for the Devil. There have been a few other books with angels, but nothing that stands out too much…maybe The Book of Joby (for the characterization of angels).

    For film/television, I really like Cas from Supernatural. *shrug* Oh, and I thought Constantine was awesome (though not a film for everyone) and loved the “insane” Gabriel.

  • MaryK
    January 29, 2010 at 9:22 am


    My copy hasn’t even shipped yet.

  • Kt9345
    January 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Just found your blog and I love it! I’m a middle school teacher and totally love that you two read YA Lit, which of course can be read and enjoyed by EVERYONE! Just bought Angel’s Blood last night, based on your reviews and am reading it now…will let you know my thoughts. You all have even inspired me to try to start a reading blog within my own classroom to share great books with my students. Thank you!

  • Kt9345
    January 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Oh yes, saw Legion the day it came out….and would not have minded waiting for the DVD. Morally, there are some premises the movie is based on that I don’t personally agree with, especially about the nature/character of God. And the plot leaves you questioning the how’s and why’s of certain points…..overall, I’d give it a B-. Wait on the DVD.

  • Kay
    January 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I have never read Nalini Singh, but now after reading this review I am tempted to! I’m more like Thea when it comes to romance, but this sounds like a novel I could really enjoy. Thanks!

  • Adrienne
    January 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I got to say, I have fallen for the book Fallen..loved it. City of Ashes was also a good angel series. I do love those fallen angels..they are always so naughty 😉

  • Negine
    January 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I LOVE your blog! you guys totally rock your reviews:-) I must say that my favorite book featuring angels has to be the Guild Hunter series…I would definitely call myself a Nalini Singh-aholic 😀 Adore her writing & characters..my other favorite “fallen” angel themed book is Jeri Smith-Ready’s Requiem for the Devil, witty & thought provoking..her WVMP series is fabulous too (no angels but OCD vampires)

    as for movies…Dogma..hands down..the best!
    there really hasn’t been any original angel themed movies…they should make Angels Blood into a movie 😀

  • AnimeJune
    January 29, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Interesting review!

    I don’t think I’ll be reading Singh again in the near future – but, wow, it sounds like Thea has the same opinion of a certain Fey-Tairen-Soul series as I do *wink wink*.

  • Kara
    January 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments are the best angel (sub-plot) books ever.

  • Angie
    January 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Favorite angel series–Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books, hands down. Each one shines.

    I’m very happy you both loved this one. I read ANGEL’S BLOOD back when you guys rec’d it and am up for the sequel if it’s that good. 🙂

  • katiebabs
    January 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Raphael is a flying sex on a stick.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this latest from Nalini. I want my own Illium.

  • Veronica F.
    January 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Loved Angel’s Blood and can’t wait for Archangel’s Kiss to come out Feb 2nd so I didn’t read the review yet. I didn’t even wanna chance a spoiler, even a minute detail.
    I want Illium too, Katiebabs!lol
    As for other favorite angel portrayals, I’ve always loved Clarence and It’s a Wonderful Life
    and Patrick Swayze in Ghost! (does that one count?)
    I hated the book Hush,Hush but look forward to trying out Fallen; if nothing else Nalini singh’s angels are great- loving her books 😀

  • Ava
    January 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    You guys completely got me hooked on Nalini Singh. And I loved Angel’s Blood. I can’t wait for this one.

    I think my favorite angel is Carter, from the Georgina series. He’s just so entertaining. But there has been a lot of angels in the industry lately. There was a mini series on abcfamily a while ago called Fallen about Nephilim and angels. That was decent. I’m glad this fad is replacing the vampires. Don’t get me wrong I like vampires just as much as the next person but come on, I need a serious break from them. Stephanie Meyer really opened a can of worms.

  • Tiah
    January 29, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I cannot wait to read this. I just started both series from Nalini Singh and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. I though they were going to be your typical story line but far from it. She is an amazing author.

    I could do with a little less Dimitri myself also.

  • Marie
    January 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Bring on Raphael’s Cadre! I think I would take any one of them!!! Love all of Nalini’s books; she’s definately an autobuy!

    Regarding angels…Sharon Shinn’s “Samaria” angels and Leo from “Charmed”…

  • Celia
    February 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I’m there with you – I don’t like Dmitri much! Also, I felt that this was a strong book, but the first one just rocked my socks off so much more…

    So I’ll be waiting with baited breath for book #3, with a stronger Elena!

    And my favorite angels right now (aside from Ms. Singh’s) are probably Sharon Shinn’s from the Samaria series. Great stuff.

  • pamelia
    February 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I loves me some Dmitri, BUT I could’ve done with a little less description of his “Sin and diamonds and fur scent” or whatever it was wafting around every three pages. That’s one of my least favorite repetitives in this book. It got a little on my nerves, but I still really really liked this book. I’m thinking there might be a future storyline btwn Dmitri and Holly Chang (the almost-made survivor of Uram’s attacks.)
    I second (or third) the Sharon Shinn “Samaria” books recommendation and the Jeri-Smith Ready “Requiem for the Devil” recommendation (although he’s a little beyond the fallen angel status IMHO) it’s one of my favorite books. And yay for Dogma and I even have a soft spot in my geeky heart for Prophecy (the creepy Christopher Walken as Gabriel movie) if only for Walken and a VERY memorable appearance by Viggo Mortenson as Lucifer (be still my terrified beating heart!)

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  • chica85
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    angel’s blood is really awesome!! 🙂 i became nalini’s fan after reading this book. verrry nice!

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