Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Angels of Darkness with Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn

The Angels of Darkness anthology was a must read for me, as it contains stories by three favorite authors, leaving only one new-to-me writer and series in the mix. It's a mixture of urban fantasy and paranormal romance with dark angels, guardians, vampires, and of course good and evil.

Nalini Singh's story Angel's Wolf fits in with her Hunter Guild series, and with its happily ever after it further solidifies my belief that this series is leaning more toward paranormal romance and moving away from urban fantasy. This is a romance between the vampire Noel who in an earlier installment was torn into a bloody pulp at the Refuge, and Nimra the Angel who rules the Louisiana territory.

Noel is assigned to Nimra's court to investigate an attempted assassination by someone close to her and while investigating her closest friends and allies the two fall in love. Noel falls rather quickly for this angel who begins the process of healing his deep psychological wounds, and Nimra is taken with the arrogant and rather forceful Noel. Although we are told that as an Angel Nimra is terrifying, there is really little proof to this claim. Instead Nimra is shown to be a rather sweet and quite human-like angel who needs love and gives love and tenderness to those who are under her care. Noel's character was more daunting in this story. The romance is enjoyable and engaging, but not terribly dark or exciting. Grade B-

Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews is an excellent beginning to a new series by this writing team. I love the world building in this novella with it's touch of science fiction, genetic experimentation and mutations, that allows for travel or ripping between the known universe and pieces of that universe. There's a war with humans unknowingly in the middle and in danger of extermination if the Ordinators win. This is the world that Karina and her daughter Emily are pulled into one sunny day on their way back from a school field trip -- a violent world of monsters, blood and war.

Karina is poisoned and dying when a monster and three men come to the rescue, she's given a choice: die or become a blood slave to the monster and she and her daughter Emily will live. She agrees. This story is full of interesting characters, including Karina whose rather violent and touching relationship with the monster that is Lucas develops as the story moves along. The world, characters and plot are all dark(ish) and rather violent. This is different from the Andrews writing team's two other series but I think it's just as great! I want more. Grade B+

Sharon Shinn's Nocturne, the story of an angel set in her religious-based world of angels, humans and the god Jovah focuses on two wounded souls. I enjoyed the interesting world building, which I think is explained well enough to pique the interest of a new reader like me. Moriah, the daughter of an angel and an angel-seeker is running and hiding from the angels and a powerful lord. She is working at a school tucked away from everything, out in the desert. She feels safe there even after her curiosity takes her to the head mistress house and Corban, a wounded angel. I really wish that the characters in this story had been as interesting as the world itself, but I'm afraid they just didn't work out for me. Corban pitied himself incessantly and I don't understand how Moriah could stand him after a while. And although there's actually a sex scene in this story, there's a sense of detachment to it and to the ending that left me cold. I do wonder, however, if other stories in this series are better. Grade C

Meljean Brook's novella Ascension is set in her Guardian world. I love the fact that Brook didn't waste the pages in this novella, as she develops a romance plus further explains the world building in this paranormal romance series. Marc Revoire is in charge of guarding the Midwest and senses that there's a demon at work in the small town of Riverbend. Radha comes to Riverbend to ensure that Marc is well after she last saw him alone and distraught as Caelum fell to pieces. Centuries ago, Radha and Marc shared a deep friendship but it all fell apart when they became lovers, and Radha hasn't spoken to Marc since. Now the two of them team up to find the demon and in the process work out their relationship.

I liked both characters in this novella and the way they talked through long standing issues that stood in the way of their passionate love for each other. More so, I'm quite happy about the fact that Brook finally explains the reason behind the Ascension that left the Guardians so vulnerable. In explaining his reasoning for staying behind, Marc also explains quite well some of the Rules and how they apply to Guardians -- it clarifies a few points in a simple and direct way. So, although I thought the demon hunting part of the story was a bit weak, this story as a whole worked for me. Grade B

Overall this is a good anthology with one story that really fits the title "Angels of Darkness" quite well, and three where the angels are not so dark. However, the excellent, creative world building found in all four stories makes this anthology worth the read. I enjoyed it.

Category: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: See below
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/October 4, 2011 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B-

Series:
"Angel's Wolf" (Guild Hunters, #4.5) by Nalini Singh
"Alphas: Origins" (Alphas Series, #0.5) by Ilona Andrews
"Nocturne" (Samaria Series) by Sharon Shinn
"Ascension" (The Guardians, #7.5) by Meljean Brook 

13 comments:

  1. I do wonder, however, if other stories in this series are better. Yes! I love her Samaria series - they're wonderfully romantic SF/F.

    Agree with your comments about Alphas - I cannot wait for more too. Not sure if/when they are releasing a novel though - do you know?

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  2. I've been waiting for Alphas:Origins ever since Ilona and Gordon posted a snippet on their blog a year or two ago. At the time, I don't think they had any intention of actually writing a full story, so I was thrilled when I heard they were going to release it. I like my UF dark so I loved it and I can't wait for more.

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  3. I only read the Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh stories. I really wanted to see Nimra show her badass self... didn't quite get that; although, her powers seem cool. I would've like the book to get a little more into that. The IA story was very good. Karina becoming a Witherer was not a huge surprise. I kept expecting Emily to have some type of power as well. I will definitely be looking out for the next installment.

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  4. Li, that's great to know! Thank you. I did like the world building in that novella and am really curious about the other books. SF/F? That's interesting. :) I loved the Alphas novella. I wish I knew when the first book was coming out, but I've NO idea! I'll certainly look it up, though. :)

    JenM, me too! I remember reading the beginning of the novella a long time ago. It was worth the wait for me. Now let's hope the series is just as good! I also prefer the dark stuff... so this is perfect for me.

    Mariana, I kept waiting for Nimra to "show" us her dark, badass self... but hmm... nope, it was all pretty mild. Although, like you, I also thought her powers were cool. Loved Andrew's story... I made the mistake of reading it first and then everything else seemed tame in comparison. I expect that Emily will also have powers, but maybe later when she's older? Let's see. I can't wait for the first book.

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  5. I'm definitely reading this but am curious, maybe even apprehensive, as to how the Ilona Andrews team will manage 3 series. I don't want or feel like the Kate Daniels series is anywhere close to ending and the Edge series feels like it's picking up speed. I'm needy & I need both of those series. LOL

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  6. Leslie, isn't the Kate Daniels series winding down already? That was my understanding, that there are only a couple (two?) books left. So, I wasn't surprised or upset when that they've started this series at this point. I do agree that the Edge series is picking up speed and just in time too. :)

    I can't wait to read what you think of the Alphas novella. I really liked it -- although I suspect it may be too dark for some readers.

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  7. Great review, Hils!! :)

    I actually liked the NS entry in this one. I just enjoyed the romance and I liked that Nimra was nice LOL. A bit annoyed that Noel is a "tortured" hero. Sigh. They just all are in this series ^_^;

    Hmmmm, the Ilona Andrews entry didn't win me over yet. I liked the characters, but the storyline and world? For some reasons, the characters also reminded me a lot of The Edge series. Ah well, maybe once there are a couple of books out LOL.

    And finally, we agree on the MB entry :) I liked it :) Both are interesting characters and I like that it was focused on the development. and I agree with you it's great to see an explanation for the Ascension. No wonder most of Hugh's students didn't ;P

    Great job at reviewing, Hils!

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  8. Nath, I also liked the romance in Singh's novella, it was sweet. And lol, Noel was really, really tortured! It's interesting that the Andrews characters remind you of the Edgers... I didn't put the two together at all. But, as you say, we'll see in future installments. I liked how creative it was.

    And yes! I was really excited to see an explanation about the Ascencion! Finally! It definitely makes sense now... lol, on Hugh's students. You're right about that. ;P

    What did you think of Nocturne? Did you read it?

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  9. No, I didn't read Nocturne. Tried Ms Shinn a couple years back with her angels/archangels series and meh. Not for me.

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  10. LOL - I remember you not liking Shinn, Nath! Don't let that put you off, Hils...

    I wanted to jump in here because Nath asked me what I thought of ANGELS - and the point Nath made about Alphas reminding her of The Edge? I agree! It had a really similar feel and I don't know if either of you remember, but there was actually a reference to Alphas in BAYOU MOON - Cerise and William stumbled across this abandoned house and they saw this Alphas symbol on the door (or something similar... it's been a while).

    I haven't read the recent Meljean Brook books so I think I didn't really appreciate the reveals in her novella as much as both of you did!

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  11. Oh, this is too funny... Nath and Li! I will probably look into the first book of the Shinn series at some point, just to explore the world. ;P

    RE: Andrews. I think it's really interesting that you both saw similarities with the Edger world and characterizations in this novella. I really didn't see it when I read it. And that's also interesting about Bayou Moon, I don't remember that at all... but, for some reason these two worlds seem quite different to me, maybe it's the way I visualize them? Although I can see why some of the characters' actions might remind you of Cerize's family, lol!

    Li, yes! If or when you catch up with Brook's series, I think you'll really appreciate some of the information in this novella. :)

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  12. Oh right, now I remember about the Alphas mention in Bayou Moon.

    Hils, I don't think the worlds are the same... but I guess that the Alphas come to the normal dimensions from time to time to help the humans.

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  13. Nath, thanks for clarifying that for me. I need to look that up in Bayou Moon. I really don't remember that detail... lol! But you KNOW I'll find it. *g*

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