Nalini Singh is one of the most talented romance writers writing today, and she offers a solidly entertaining, well-written, and satisfying 9th entry in the Guild Hunter series. Archangel’s Heart is not a book for people who have never read the series before, since it is not a one-off story like some of the Guild Hunter books, which feature couples other than Guild Hunter-turned-angel Elena and her archangel lover Raphael and do not generally carry along the larger narrative arc of the series. It is, however, a book for fans of the series who have followed Elena and Raphael’s relationship since the start, and does have its own self-contained plot while being part of the current narrative arc about the power struggle with the archangel Lijuan and the political machinations of the archangels.
Elena, Raphael, and Aodhan, one of Raphael’s Seven, leave their stronghold in New York City for the city of Lumia in Morocco, where a meeting of the Cadre of archangels has been called by the Luminata, an independent society of angelic monks who seek spiritual transcendence (or “luminescence”) in solitude, artistic contemplation, and martial arts. With the other archangels of the world, they will determine whether the Archangel of China Lijuan, an ongoing villain of the series, is Sleeping or dead. If she is, then they will divide her territory among themselves.
In Lumia, Elena and Raphael discover a deeply unsettled city that lives in fear under the ruling hand of the Luminata. Elena’s unique features call to mind the looks of a woman named Majda who once lived in Lumia and may have been her grandmother. Majda’s fate is shrouded in secrecy and seems intertwined with the angel Gian, the head of the Luminata, and the corruption that underlies his rule.
As a general note, the Elena and Raphael books are more successful as fantasy than as romances for me. Raphael is one of the less interesting of Ms. Singh’s heroes, being so remote and distant from humanity that he can never quite feel as passionate and loving as the hot-blooded romantic heroes that the author writes so well in other books. It is probably a testament to the author’s skill that readers can infer this as intentional, since he was previously in danger of being too removed from humanity before meeting Elena.
One of Ms. Singh’s authorial quirks is present and more distracting than usual in this book, with so many descriptions like this: eyes of blue, skin of gold, hair of darkest midnight. It pulled me out of the story more than once to puzzle over the more formal and less immediate tone.
However, these are just small nitpicks in a pretty good book. The romance between Raphael and Elena is understated but still pleasant, and as always, Ms. Singh offers compelling world-building. Although Elena is in Morocco in her role as archangel’s consort rather than as a Guild Hunter, her personal interest in digging up some family history is where this story really shines.