Thursday, March 10

Review: Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh

Wooohooo, a buddy review!! Starting from this week, I'm telling you - no, I assure you, Breezing Through is back in business :) To start off the ball, we've decided to go with one of our favorite authors, Ms Singh. A big thank you to Tabitha from ... Tabz Book Blog for embarking in this adventure LOL! I love Ms Singh's books, but discussing them is always a challenge because her books are so complex! Also, big thank you for her patience, because when buddy reviews are this long, it always takes me a while to get in gear and put them together - the task is oh, very daunting ^_^;

So we've put a lot of efforts in this buddy review, feel free to comment and discuss with us! :) Enjoy!

*Warning: The are spoilers in this review. Read at your own risk!*

Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in January 2011

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…

A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders. The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.

An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed...
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Guild Hunter, Book #3

The Story: After more than a year, Elena Deveraux finally returns home to New York City. However, as the first angel-made in centuries, her life has completely changed. For one, she needs to adjust to her new life and find the balance between being an angel and a mortal... As if it wasn't enough, Elena has to deal with her enemies who have no qualms going after her loved ones and the awakening of an Ancient... who might be Caliane, Raphael's mother who left in for dead...

Nath: What did you think of Archangel's Consort, Tabitha? :)

Tabitha: I enjoyed this latest installment of the Guild Hunter series. I loved seeing Raphael so protective of Elena, putting her safety even above his own immortality. Case in point, he knows that Elena has made him weaker to heal and more susceptible to injuries but there were no hints of regrets. Even knowing that the surest way for anyone to hurt him is to hurt Elena he agreed to her request to remove the guards. Though it wasn't only Raphael conceding; both he and Elena learned to compromise with each other.

Nath: I'm not disagreeing with you as I did enjoy seeing Raphael so protective of Elena too; it's just who he is. And I think what Elena brings to Raphael is above what he lost and in that case, why have regrets? :) However, I felt that the dynamics between Raphael and Elena dragged down the book a little. There were some issues in their relationship that was brought up over and over again and at the end, it was too much. I got it the first time about the possessiveness they felt for each other, the bodyguard and freedom issues and even how much they wanted each other and felt Ms Singh didn't have to keep hammering it down. I get that she was trying to convey the sensuality and the depth of the relationship, but it seems to me she missed her mark, because these definitively lessened my enjoyment of Archangel’s Consort.

Tabitha: Yep, I agree, there were issues in their relationship that were mentioned far too often. But I think the repetitiveness was hammered to show the progression of their relationship and the emphasis on two strong people finding their footing with each other in a relationship that neither ever expected. That's not to say the repetitiveness was warranted; and it lessened my enjoyment of the book too but I think I might've forgiven it a bit more easily than you did.

Nath: I agree on the emphasis, but I'm not sure about the progression. You know what worked better for me instead? It was the little things like Elena preparing Raphael a sandwich or inviting him to join her to Sara's. Those were cute scenes showing that each had to adapt. Much better than the "Mine and you better remember it! Hubba, hubba!"

Tabitha: LOL. I liked those scenes too. For me, Elena preparing Raphael a sandwich and her inviting him to accompany her to visit her friend shows the progression that I speak of. Not just in their relationship but the extension of their family because Sara is Elena’s family.

Nath: Exactly!

I have to say, what I really liked about Archangel's Kiss was that the story took place at the Refuge, where Elena didn't have to deal with her friends and all, where she could focus only on being an angel... So coming back to New York City, I didn't really know what to expect. I did like seeing Elena getting together with her friends again, seeing their reactions.

Tabitha: Same here, I enjoyed seeing her friends’ reactions. Also, the moment when Elena realized her best friend bought the house next door? Now that's what I call a dear friend!

Although now that Elena is an angel I thought she would be conflicted and torn about sharing secrets with her human friends. But when the time came Elena didn't hesitate to withhold angel information and easily admitted that her loyalty is to Ralph. That scene made me smile and also surprise me a bit because I thought there would be some conflict about her loyalty and the other Archangels putting Raphael in the middle.

Nath: To me, there was never a doubt where her allegiance should go. Although, I guess it really depends on the information... such as Caliane waking up. I could see her sharing that information with Sara, who is also the Guild Director, but with Detective Santiago? Nah. I don't see how this information could have helped the detective and seriously, there are secrets about angels that are not good to share, to be known. As such, I don't think there was much conflict.

Tabitha: I don't mean sharing secrets with the Detective in particular. I know some things would have to be shared with Sara. I just meant that it is nice to hear her clearly voice that her allegiance is to Raphael.

Nath: Oh.

Tabitha: You know, the focus of Archangel’s Consort seems to be about family. There was the surprising revelation about Elena's father and her younger half-sister and then the awakening of Ralph's mother. I was really looking forward to "meeting" Caliane and how she has changed, if any, from the mad angel who threw her son and broke all the bones in his body. Some parts of Ralph's reminiscence of his mother were poignant and had me hoping, wanting, his mother not to be insane. Those scenes made Ralph appear more human and as he shares it with Elena there was a vulnerability to him that pulled the intimacy between them even tighter, stronger, and hotter. The dancing scene? Whoa x10. It was weird but a good weird for that tough Archangel.

Nath: LOL, for me it was when Elena said that a lot of women had problems with their mother-in-laws!!! I wished I could have seen Raphael’s face, it must have been sooo priceless! LOL.

Tabitha: I was laughing over that scene too and trying to picture his reaction as well! Truly priceless. Lol.

Nath: Otherwise, I didn’t really care much about Caliane ^_^; From the beginning, it felt like there was more to it than just Caliane waking up. I think the problem for me is that Caliane was so abstract. Raphael was so worried about how she would come out of it and I didn't really care ^_^; It does show though how strong mother and son’s relationships are, whether they’re good or bad. Not just Raphael and Caliane, but the Hummingbird, Ilium and Raphael.

Tabitha: What do you think of the scene with Ilium and his mother? I was expecting more but I felt sort of lost afterwards.

Nath: It seems like a kind of Alzheimer :( Definitively due to living too long, losing track of time. In a way, it’s her own kind of craziness… I wonder if she shouldn't go to sleep... or is that only the Cadres or archangels? Like you, I was expecting a bit more from it as well, but I guess it was there to show that Raphael has another mother, another family.

In any case, I’m more interested to see how Caliane's awakening is going to affect the power. Is she really not going to get involved in politics?

Tabitha: The other archangels would force her hand even if she doesn't want to. Personally, I think she will in later books. This book was dragging as it was so it made more sense for Caliane to settle her people first and at the same time to regroup her strength since she was forced to wake up before she was ready.

Nath: You're right. Even if she doesn't want to, nobody will leave her alone on account of being the oldest. Interesting politic plots to come :) I do wonder though if she'll adapt to how the world is right now... but I guess that’s also for the future books.

As for Elena’s family, I’m surprised at how much Archangel’s Consort focused on hers. From the blurb, I thought her “reunion” with her own family would be overshadowed by the Caliane storyline… Although that was a bit na├»ve considering how complex her relationship with her family is. Still, it didn’t go in the direction I expected.

Also, it’s been a while since I read the first two books and I was a bit fuzzy on her family. I didn't realize that her mother committed suicide; I thought she died at the same time as Elena's older sisters. I didn't even remember that Elena had half-sisters! Ah well. I'm pretty sure there is something more about Jeffrey's treatment of Elena. By the way, I would have liked to see more interactions between Elena and Evelyn.

Tabitha: I would've liked to see more of Elena's father's reaction to her being an angel. When he sees her for the first time with angel wings, his response was a bit disappointing for me. I mean, he can't be any more of a jerk than he is now but yet I was looking for something bigger than how he reacted.

Nath: I agree with you, I would have liked to see Jeffrey reacts to his daughter being an angel... but in this case, I think it was taken away a little as Elena was too quick on the trigger ^_^;

The thing is, if Jeffrey is smart and he seems to be, I think he must know that Elena will take care of the family. So in that aspect, he doesn't have to worry as much. Also, you know how Jeffrey says that among his children, Elena is the most like him? I think he is right. Seriously, I'm hoping that all Jeffrey did had a good reason behind it, because I'm really hoping that they'll come to term...

Tabitha: A part of me wants them to reconcile...but I'm not sure I can ever like him. Or want to read much about him. I have more interest in her half-sister, Evelyn, than in Jeffrey and Beth.

Nath: I don’t think that Ms Singh will ever be able to redeem Jeffrey’s character. After all, what he did was horrible, but if there was a good reason behind it, it could soften the blow for Elena. Because as mother and son’s bonds are strong, father and daughter as well. I also agree with you, I’m definitively looking forward to Evelyn in the future.

What did you think of the storyline?

Tabitha: The discovery and subsequent awakening of the ancient mother was a bit long drawn. But I have to say that one of my favorite parts involved Caliane waking up to fight. For me, it was an aw moment that she woke up when she did. And the first meeting of mother and son was sweet in a ways.

Nath: Nod nod. I thought the plot was interesting, because once again, things are not as they appeared regarding the awakening of the Ancient. However, I agree with you, it was long drawn and combined with the repetitiveness mentioned above, it threw off the pacing. This series is better when it is fast-paced, but there were too many lulls in Archangel’s Consort.

Tabitha: In addition, this was a darker and even more complex read than the last two books. Honestly, I'm not sure where the story arc is heading. At first, I thought there goes another mad Archangel but the ending (fight) scenes had me even more puzzled and shocked.

Nath: I'm not sure if the storyline was darker. More complex, yes, but darker? I feel it was more personal... and because of that, I'm not sure where the story arc is heading either. Especially since I heard the next book would focus on Dmitri. I do think it's a good idea though to change the focus of the series for a little while. I think that Raphael and Elena's relationship and Elena's growth as an angel need to evolve a little bit away from the spotlight.

Tabitha: I say it was darker because it delved into the personal and darker aspects of Elena and Raphael's past. But yeah, while I'm not fond of Dmitri I think it would be a nice change to have the book focus elsewhere from Elena and Raphael. But how much of Elena and Raphael and the other Archangels would we see and could there be in Dmitri's book without putting the couple back in the limelight?

Nath: I'm not a fan of Dmitri either and it’s mostly have to do with the way he antagonizes Elena ^_^; However, there's a lot that we don't know about him, so there's hope. And I do believe we'll see a lot of Raphael, after all, Dmitri is his second... it'll also be interesting to see the bond between Raphael and his Seven.

Speaking of the Seven, what did you think of Elena's relationship with them?

Tabitha: Hmm, aside from Ilium I don't think Elena has much of a relationship with the other members of the Seven. Aside from Ilium the others watch over her more so out of duty to Raphael. Though I have to admit that before this book the other members didn't really interest me and I didn't pay much attention to them. But now I'm looking forward to finding out more about Venom and Jason since we're also getting more glimpses of each of them now.

Nath: It seems to me Ms Singh has spent a lot of time fleshing their characters for subsequent books... but I agree with you, Elena doesn’t have much of a relationship. Mostly because they see her as a weakness, which she is... but I think many are starting to respect her and that's a good way to further relationships. I like it though that Ms Singh hasn’t facilitated that aspect for Elena, because she’s the heroine and everyone has to like her – kind of in a Mary Sue way, and being chummy with everyone would just be too weird. This makes it more realistic… I’m sure as she grows more powerful and they come to an understanding, the friendship will come. You already see it a little with Aodhan.

Tabitha: I do see more of the Seven starting to respect Elena now as before they were indifferent, even insufferable to her. They were concerned for Raphael's well-being; obviously, of him becoming weaker because of her but as we saw at the end of Archangel's Consort she's not his weakest link but quite the opposite!

Nath: Well I think that it’s understandable, because that’s their job, protecting Raphael… But true, it’ll be interesting to see when they realize that Elena is bringing something else to Raphael… However, that won’t happen if Elena persists with the bodyguard issue!! That part really annoyed me, sigh. I understand that Elena needs her freedom and that she was used to be on her own, but I thought she was being a little too stubborn. She said she understood the situation - that she was vulnerable and was Raphael's weakness, but she didn’t act like she understood the ramification. Seriously, I was surprised that Raphael compromised. Glad, but surprised.

Tabitha: Oh yeah, Elena was foolish to remove the guards entirely. When she called Raphael to pick her up showed how easily her life could've been compromised.

Nath: Totally agree!! She has to realize the situation - I mean, she can't even do a vertical take off yet! Or what would have happened if Illium hadn't been there with the media chopper? Plus, you know, when she goes on a mission for the Guild, she usually has back-up. Why can't she consider the Seven assigned to her as back-up instead?

Tabitha: Yeah, she can't do vertical take offs and she can't even use her wings for long before tiring. Yet, she insists on the bodyguards backing off. To me, that was TSTL.

That's a good point you mentioned about her having back-up when she's on a mission. I think Elena needs to review her survival training lessons again. ^_^;

Nath: Definitively. Lucky though she’s smart in all the other areas :)

So, what is your grade for Archangel's Consort?

Tabitha: I was debating between B and B-...but the more I think on it the more I prefer the B-. I was looking forward to Raphael's mother awakening but too much dragged on before the showdown that turned out to be a let down...and then the post-fight meeting (with a certain archangel still attending) was a WTF for me. Sadly, I'm not sure I can re-read this book without skipping around a lot of the parts.

Nath: Nod nod. LOL, I’m so happy you’re as tough a grader as me :) It means I won’t get lynched alone LOL. Kidding :)

For me, it's a B. I think it was a good book, but not as good as Archangel's Kiss. The intrigue wasn't as interesting and the repetitive parts dragged it for me and threw the pacing off. Part of me wished it had focused more on the story and action, but another part of me is happy for the focus on personal aspects of Raphael and Elena. I liked seeing Elena returning to her world - perhaps could have used more scenes, and see where Raphael and Elene's relationship is.


Leslie said...

I still haven't read the book before this one so I was good and heeded your spoiler warning. :)

Based on the grades, do you two see the series getting weaker? Or was this just a bump in the road? I'm curious because so many love this series but personally I prefer her Psy/Changling series.

Thanks for the review ladies!

Hilcia said...

I read your review and thought it was a great one, ladies!

Based on your comments, I didn't think either one of you was too tough on this book. I had a tough time getting into Archangel's Kiss and had to put it aside for a while to maybe read later... don't know WHAT it is? I loved the first book and the novella.

I have the same question as Leslie -- do you think this series is getting weaker? After reading your review, I'm really surprised that Elena and Raphael are still dealing with some of these personal/ relationship issues, and that in-depth development of key secondary characters (the Seven) still has not happened after three long books. I was hoping Singh would have moved on to something else already.

nath said...

Leslie - I don't think the series is getting weaker, but at the same time, this is not a series that I loooove. I mean, if Ms Singh decided to stop writing it tomorrow, I wouldn't feel like something died, you know... The series and writing are solid, but it always feels like there's too much going on... and as a heroine, Elena doesn't quite cut it for me. I guess that is the problem.

Hilcia - Did you ever pick Archangel's Kiss again? :P

The problem with the Seven is that there are 7 of them ^_^; All with one task and scattered and all have quite a tortured past ^_^; Unlike the Psy-Changelings series where Lucas was surrounded by his Sentinels, in this one, Ms Sing has to work out having the 7 appear. I personally think we're all given clues as to their pasts, but on the emotional/personality front, we don't get much ^_^; They're all so stoic, you know...

Hilcia said...

Nath, I picked up the book recently and hmm... put it back in my TBR pile. Sigh... Elena, Elena... it took me a while to like her in the first book and then I DID like her. Then in AK, I again began the book by having a problem with her character. So since this is the 3rd book and SHE and Raphael are still the main characters, I'm sad to say that I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series. :(

I guess I was hoping that there would be others taking center stage by now -- Illium, Dimitri, Ashwini, etc. -- there's so much there to play with besides Raphael and Elena. Or maybe it's because I liked Ashwini so much more than Elena, lol!

Tabitha said...

Leslie - what Nath said. ^_^ I still enjoy the series but I think we need a break from Elena and Raphael a bit. I'm looking forward to a different POV even though, initially, Dimitri isn't a character I want to read about first. But I saw the book blurb for Dimitri's book and I might just pick up the book after all.

Hilcia - like you, I did pick up and put down AC as well. But I forced myself to read on because I didn't want to do what I did with Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews -- put it down and hasn't since picked it up. While I like Elena and Raphael as a pairing there wasn't enough of them to satisfy for more than two books. Do you plan on picking up Dimitri's book?