Gail Read Angels’ Blood Then Drank… Oh Dear (Miss Carriger Recommends)

From the start, I wasn’t sure I would like this book.

Was I right?

Righto, Gentle Reader, here’s a book review for you, bit of a drunken rambling one, I find I like them best. For January I chose Angels’ Blood (Guild Hunter Book 1) by Nalini Singh for my Coop de Book.

I don’t often pick a book for the Coop without reading it first. I take my charge as your taste curator seriously.

However, this one has been on my TBR pile for ages, so I chose it with no little hesitancy. Here’s how it got onto that pile…

Two reasons:

  1. This author keeps coming up on also boughts for my books.
  2. One of my dear friends is my personal book curator, and has been recommending Singh for several years now. I should say, in said friend’s defense, that she specified not the angel series. But I picked up Angel’s Blood cheap, so that’s what I had to try.

So what did I think of this book?

I wasn’t totally wowed. I did like it, it kept me up late reading, which is a sign of excellent pacing. However, I’m not particularly tempted to read anymore in the series. Honestly? I think it is just that my taste as a reader no longer bends in the pure paranormal romance (AKA PNR) department.

So, yes, I would call this straight-up classic PNR (as opposed to Urban Fantasy – AKA UF). The difference, for me, lies in 3 things:

  1. The driving force of the narrative
  2. Whether the book ends on an HEA or not
  3. The ratio of romance to action

A PNR will be driven by a will they/won’t they romance narrative, be at least 50% romance if not more, and end happily. A UF may do all those things, but you aren’t guaranteed it, certainly not in the first book.

For example?

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series? UF.

This book? PNR.

So Angels’ Blood gives us a plot driven by a romance but with a nice lot of action, a couple of nice sexy-times, great pacing, and fighting that is bloody and occasionally quite graphic, and everything ends happily. Classic PNR.

What did I like?

I liked the world building very much, and the one thing that might drive me to read on in this series is an interest in understanding and exploring the alternate reality of an archangel dominated world.

There are at least 10 books in the series. But this first book does standalone, and it has a happily ever after. There seem to be 4 other books with these main characters, and the remaining 5 books feature side characters. Which if you know me, is an approach to series writing that I very much appreciate as an author and a reader.

One of the things I most enjoyed is the way the immortality of the angel characters leaps off the page. I get the impression that they are indeed quite old.

What gave me pause?

This is no fault of Singh’s but I think I just don’t gravitate towards classic PNR anymore. If I’m going to read a PNR, I’d rather it be queer.

Which brings me onto the next thing that I, personally, was looking for in these books, queer characters. In this one, at least, there were none. There’s a wide scope of characters of color, which I appreciate, but I want gender fluidity, gay characters, and everything in between. So I notice and I miss this when not there. Not even a hint.

It is always rough to criticize a book for what it doesn’t have, as an author I entirely understand that not every story allows for a full scope of inclusion. Even if you really want to write characters in, sometimes the plot does not allow for it. It may even be that in the next book in this series, a character we are already familiar with turns out to be bi or gay. But I can’t help how I feel.

There were a few issues with the writing itself that bothered me: a lot of repetition in phrasing and information. It might be that this is first book-itis, or it might be that this is one of her early works and these kinks iron out as she matures as an author. (And yes I say this knowing she has more books than me and has been writing longer.) All of us authors have ticks that we struggle with, and all of us make mistakes. It’s just that I noticed quite a bit of repetition, and that is not something that I normally would notice. I’m frankly just not a very careful reader.

““He’s an archangel. I scent vampires,” she pointed out for what felt like the millionth time, but neither archangel nor vampire was listening.”

This, for example, also felt like the millionth time to me. I actually yelled, “Yes, I KNOW!” at the book.

Singh also has predilection for long detailed descriptions of mundane tasks like showering and brushing hair and putting in hair ties and… I know some readers enjoy this level of detail ~ how else do you explain the popularity of Epic Fantasy? ~ but I’m not one of those readers.

“Socks and boots went on next, before she picked up a hair-brush. Running it quickly through her hair, she tugged the wet mass back into a tight ponytail and spent the next few minutes stocking up on weapons from her secret stash.”

Final Thoughts

There are a number of tropes I’m not wild about (family sins, special sexy appearance, solo sacrifice) and some I like (warrior woman badass, enduring friendships, found family) and some endemic to PNR that I consider cop outs (eternity together, you were made for me).

All in all, I understand the appeal of the book and the author’s writing, her pacing really is excellent, and that is a very difficult skill to master. I may give her Psy-Changeling series a try on the basis of liking her world building and pace style, but I will be quizzing my friend who recommended her to me to find out if those books have queer characters or not, and that will be the deciding factor.

Do you want to see my newest cover art first? Chirrup members get to see Competence this weekend, because I love them bestest. Sign up here.

Coop de Book: Gail’s monthly read along for Feb is Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.


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Posted by Gail Carriger

5 Responses

  1. Brittney said:

    I’ve read all of this series and her Psy-Changeling one and I still have mixed feelings about both. I’m with you. I love the world building, especially on the other series. I’m a huge sucker for worldbuilding and quite frankly that is the only thing keeping me reading this one. I like that this series keeps coming back to Elena and Raphael so we can both develope them a little more and focus more on the overall plot than on the romance. The other series has a new romance every book and I really wish she would just skip the romance and focus more on the world building. If you are looking for gay characters you are not going to find them in her books. Overall I’d much rather read something from Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, or you but in a pinch I will read these.

  2. Teel said:

    As soon as I saw Nalini Singh’s name at the top of the post, the word “repetitious” just jumped into my head.

    I was tickled to see you picked up on that too. I haven’t read a lot of Singh’s works for that reason. They all just sound of the same. The angel stories show up in anthologies fairly often, and I find them heavy going.

    But since your “curator friend” says they are good, I might sample a non-Angel NS story someday.

  3. Diane_D said:

    I personaly DO enjoy Ms. Singh’s books, both series’, some stories more than others. GH is less-often PNR (following a different central couple to their HEA in each book). I don’t recall having noticed the repetitiousness issue (though I’ll be watching hereafter), but mundane detail doesn’t bother me in a book that also has plenty of excitement and emotion.
    Now, as for queer characters, she’s been coy for years over fan speculation re. whether Aodhan and Illium will wind up as more than best friends, but I doubt she’ll go that route. Some of the more jaded old GH immortals are rather perverse in their hedonistic sexual pursuits, including same-sex, but that’s rarely shown in its positive aspects, I’m afraid, though there’s at least one healer, openly bisexual in recent GH books, who’s definitely a “good guy”. I think that may be about it for GH.
    Silver Silence, the latest Psy-Changeling novel, did include a gay secondary couple, FWIW. I think there may have been some other minor mentions, earlier, but nothing central.

  4. Hazel said:

    Whilst I really enjoy the Psy Changeling series, I have only just realised that it is entirely heterosexual. I gave up on the Guild Hunter series ages ago, repetition being something that bugged me too. I’m with Brittney, I strongly recommend Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, I love it so much, the first book was 4 out of 5 for me but the series is 5 out of 5. It also features queer couples as important side characters that appear throughout.

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