ARCHANGEL'S BLADE (Guild Hunter #4)
Available September 6th
Received from publisher for review
Dmitri has been archangel Raphael's second for centuries and knows both the pleasures and the cruelties that accompany a nearly-immortal life. For years and years he's lived with the pain of his past and his Making, all the while indulging in the potent sensuality of his vampire nature and honing his unique ability to lure and entice women with a sexually intoxicating scent.
He's never allowed himself to feel anything other than physical pleasure with a woman, brutal memories keeping his interest in the opposite sex strictly superficial. So when Honor walks into his office on assignment from the Guild, he's prepared to simply seduce her as he has so many before her, then move on.
He quickly realizes however, that Honor is as damaged as he is, struggling to cope with her own nightmares at the hands of his kind, and he finds himself uncomfortably protective of her. Though she has an underlying fear of him, Honor accepts his help to hunt down those who did her harm, and the two of them together find themselves facing pasts they hoped never to confront again.
The world of archangels and vampires Ms. Singh has created has always been darkly romantic, tinged with sadness but also with hope as the strength of a bond between mortal and immortal warms the emotional freeze an extraordinarily long life has caused. Though we fully expect the continuation of this haunting and memorable darkness despite the switch in protagonists from the first three books, what we aren't necessarily prepared for is the visceral and powerful reaction we have to Dmitri and Honor's story. We enter into Archangel's Blade wondering how Ms. Singh is going to turn a man who had his throat slit by Elena in book one and liked it into a romantic hero we can fully support and care for, but true to style, she weaves a tale of melancholic beauty that shows us the remnants of humanity buried beneath the callousness and depravity of his vampirism.
Honor is a woman who has survived unfathomable abuse at the whims of the same breed of monster with whom she is forced to work when assigned a case with Dmitri, her mental and emotional scarring running far deeper than the surface marks on her body. Despite her fear, she holds her own against Dmitri's sexual taunts, her confidence at times understandably wavering but never fully abandoning her. As she gradually builds herself back up from her status as a victim, she simultaneously begins to chip away at Dmitri's impressive otherworldly shields. At first the savagery done to her and its lingering effects make us unsure of how things will go when paired with a vampire who has a penchant for pain with his pleasure, but Honor has an enviable strength of will that has us rooting for her happiness with Dmitri every step of the way.
Dmitri, though strikingly similar to the archangel to whom he has pledged his life and loyalty in his stunning and intimidating lethality, manages to inspire our affection on a more intense scale than we would have thought possible before reading. He doesn't necessarily change who he is to be with Honor, that inhuman indifference and seeming emotional vacancy still a large part of their relationship, but he does allow the sexual sensations he's thrived on for hundreds of years to seep below the skin in Honor's case, letting touches previously used only to satisfy desire evolve into touches that reflect a fundamental need for one person in particular. There's something exceedingly powerful about watching a man such as Dmitri show fleeting glimpses of vulnerability, his few quiet moments of genuine emotion enough to bring us to our knees as we are overwhelmed by the strength of feeling he must harbor for Honor in order to even temporarily shed his immortal skin.
The only mild complaint with this story is the revelation with regard to Dmitri and Honor's pasts in the concluding pages. It's hinted at throughout the book, but we secretly hope things might end up a little differently than where they appear to be heading. The revelation is a very nice and comforting idea, however, it seems (to me) to rob both Dmitri and Honor of the growth they fought for and earned as they each faced monstrous personal demons in order to be the person they wanted to be both for themselves and for each other. What happens provides them with a reason to easily accept their love for one another, giving them an excuse to more readily open their hearts to the other instead of letting them continue the epic battle and emotional struggle to create new lives where the stain of their pasts, though ever-present, fades in the face of their hope for the future. With that being said, Archangel's Blade is still an outstanding addition to the series, an emotional juggernaut that battles its way through the outer layers of our hearts and doesn't stop until it finds a home deep in the tender center.