Series: Guild Hunter, Book 4
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 348 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Dark, Seductive, and Powerfully Emotional
He is not a good man. At nearly a millennium in age, the vampire Dmitri is not a man at all, but a cold and conscienceless killer who lost his soul long ago and who now walks a razor's edge between being the sharpest weapon for the Archangel Raphael...and being a monster. And the sanguine seduction of the monster grows ever stronger.
More than capable of controlling Raphael's New York City territory for the Archangel in his absence, he places a call to the hunter's Guild when the decapitated head of a very new vampire is plucked from the Hudson. The vampire isn't one of Raphael's and the tattooed markings on the face look vaguely like a language of some sort. One that Dmitri doesn't recognize. Requesting assistance from the Guild is only logical given their resources.
The first scent of acrid fear and gritty determination he catches from Guild hunter Honor St. Nicholas, however, punches through his logic and rakes talons along his predatory need for blood and sex. The instant want of her is manageable, barely, and the seductive games he intends to play with her are those that he has honed over the centuries. Except Honor is damaged. Traumatized after two months of vampire-inflicted brutality that smacks hard against every single one of Dmitri's very few lines. She is unable to accept even the most casual of touches from him without an instant fear response that has him dodging her blades.
The rage that erupts in him like a volcano of furious reckoning at the knowledge that the torturing rapists still live is eclipsed only by a cold and deadly certainty that they will not be doing so for long. He is a monster unleashed and he is the thing that other monsters fear.
Honor's damaged soul stirs him in fascinating ways, disturbing ways, as they work together to solve the mystery of the too-young vampire deaths and investigate the grievous crime perpetrated against her. Memories long, long buried are like echoing footsteps along the path they follow towards not one, but two of the world's worst evildoers. They are awakening parts of Dmitri's soul he'd thought excised by the brutal selfishness of a master predator dead for centuries. Those memories may draw him back from the edge of true madness or they may just hasten his descent into blood and death. And much to Dmitri's surprise, he realizes that it is one human woman who will tip the balance either way...either by loving him...or betraying a past she couldn't possibly know.
I have to admit, not even my love for Singh's writing was enough to make me rush to read this latest addition to my beloved Guild Hunter series. I was aware that there would be a reincarnation theme in the plot and I am not in any way a fan of that theme. I haven't read one yet that didn't, to varying degrees, seem to devalue the current life of the character who is or has a reincarnated soul. In the worst cases, the disregard of a character's present individuality has also been an issue. For that reason I try to avoid the theme.
Avoiding Singh, however, is an impossibility. I just dig her work too much. But I admit, I delayed.
And I also admit, for almost all of the book I was kicking myself for that delay, because I was both pleasantly surprised and more than a little elated at how deft and crafty Singh was in addressing and dealing with that theme. It wasn't until the very end that I felt the familiar twinges of dislike and it was only related to one scene. I can live with that...though I do wish that one scene had been different. The power of the writing and the almost effortless emotional firestorm the book generates made up for it, though. I love Singh's characters and the keenly brilliant world she's created for them.
I'm probably one of the minority who has never particularly liked Dmitri. I haven't since his unrelenting negativity about Elena became common knowledge. That being said, I don't have to like a character to love a character, and both Dmitri's complexity and the dangerous line he walks between monster and man has held me enthralled on a visceral intellectual level. In short, he's fascinating, and I have nothing but admiration for how Singh so masterfully maintained his utter lack of humanity even as she was crafting his very sympathetic history.
The chemistry between Dmitri and Honor burned at the fingers holding my Kindle as I was reading and I thoroughly admired Honor's strength in the face of abominable defilement. She was sharp, bright, and had a core of decency that soothed the sharp edges of Dmitri's almost sociopathic nature...until the story served to blunt much of that sociopathy and Dmitri's darkness started to wane just a touch. I enjoyed them together very much, even though I felt a lack of the dark humor that so charmed me in the relationship evolution between Raphael and Elena.
This may sound odd, but I don't really read either of Singh's highly popular series for the story being told so much as for the characters and the depth of emotion found in every one of her books. I do, obviously, still pay attention to those stories. Some appeal to me more than others. This one fell about middle ground for me. I found it more cohesive and less strained than the previous book in the series, Archangel's Consort, but not as thorough and well-developed as the second book, Archangel's Kiss.
Flashbacks were handled well, and the plot thread concerning the search for the monsters responsible for Honor's torture - as well as her slow and painful recovery - was very well done, though I thought it ended on a slightly anticlimactic note. I also felt the plot thread dealing with the dead newbie vamps and all subsequent issues took on a too-ancillary role and wasn't a significant factor in the book until too close to the end to have much impact. The timing of that particular crisis, as well, at a time when Honor was perfectly situated to come into the picture in Dmitri's life, raised my eyebrow a bit. I couldn't help but feel that after nearly ten centuries to stew, Kallistos' actions were awfully convenient in stirring up Dmitri's past. That sort of convenience made that plotline feel contrived to me.
Despite the plot of the book not being completely successful for me and my dislike of the reincarnation theme, I thoroughly enjoyed Archangel's Blade and consider it a solid addition to the series. And I didn't even like Dmitri all that much. I can only imagine how much fun I'm going to have with some of the characters I'm either truly fond of, like Bluebell, or utterly fascinated by, like Aodhan. I have no doubt there is going to be just as much truly spectacular reading entertainment to be had as the series progresses as there has been to date.
Guild Hunter Series: