By Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley Jove
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott
Any long-running series has the potential to go stale, to become repetitive and give the reader a sense of “been there, read this already.” Nalini Singh juggles two series and manages to keep both fresh. In Archangel’s Viper, the tenth installment of her Guild Hunter series, the heroine, Holly Chang, is a character from the series’ first book, Archangel’s Blood.
In that book, Holly and a group of her friends were kidnapped by an insane archangel, Uram. He tortured and killed Holly’s friends in front of her and forced Holly to drink his blood. The experience not only left Holly traumatized and suicidal but transformed her into something uniquely Other. Archangels have the ability to create, or Make, vampires. They are not, however, supposed to change anyone who doesn’t choose to be altered.
Complicating matters is that Uram did not intend to Make Holly, so he didn’t follow the protocols for that process. His abuse changed her into something neither vampire nor human and gave her tiny fangs, inhuman speed and reflexes, and toxic blood. Closely watched and trained by the archangel Rafael’s personal guard, known as the Seven, and supported by her family, Holly has clawed her way to acceptance of her new life. She even has a job, serving as Raphael’s ears in the shadowy parts of New York City. There’s a catch, though. Something of Uram remains within her, a darkness that grows steadily stronger. If that darkness becomes ascendant and turns her into a menace, one of the Seven will end her life.
Word of Holly’s uniqueness has spread, and someone has put out a bounty on her. Protecting her is Venom, a vampire who’s one of the Seven. Neither of them is happy about the attraction between them, so they deal with it by aggravating and needling each other. As the stresses on Holly escalate, however, Venom takes care of her, revealing kindness she hadn’t suspected was in him.
The meals he fixes for her open a door to his past and lead him to tell her that he grew up in an inn on the Silk Road, the great network of trading paths in the ancient world. He learned to cook in the inn’s kitchens.
It’s common knowledge that Viper was made a vampire by the archangel Neha, who’s known as the Mistress of Poisons. He has snake-like, slitted eyes with nictitating membranes and toxic, venomous blood. Because most people find his eyes off-putting, he wears sunglasses almost all the time. Holly, however, likes his eyes, which secretly delights him.
As they work together to solve the dual problems of the bounty on Holly and the dark power growing stronger within her, she realizes that his outward confidence covers the fact that he is as isolated by his uniqueness as she is by hers. The attraction between them steadily deepens, but the darkness within her is gaining power and has the potential to kill her.
Much of the Guild Hunter series has focused on the politics of the world’s archangels, who’re known as the Cadre. As with the Psy/Changeling series, however, Singh has created a world with so much depth and texture that she has many different ways to focus her stories.
Archangel’s Viper explores the seamier side of life in New York and of vampires’ existence. It isn’t all fabulous due to enhanced lifespans and physical abilities. Some vampires are no better able to cope with life than their mortal counterparts.
Both Holly and Venom are complex characters. She struggles to find her place in the world while he is secure in his role, but each has personal demons that haunt them.
The action sequences are well done and utilize the characters’ paranormal abilities believably. The story moves at a good pace. Familiar characters make brief appearances in ways that mesh well with the overall plot.
I highly recommend Archangel’s Viper. Five stars.
I also have to say the cover is just smokin’ hot. Not that one reads a book for its cover. Just sayin’.