Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter,#10
Released: September 26, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: Sliding his sunglasses back on, Venom looked at Holly. “You my chauffeur?” “I’m the woman you don’t want to piss off unless you plan to walk all the way to the Tower.” … “Are you wearing satin pants?” “No, I have better taste than that.”
I suppose I can’t start this by gnashing my teeth, punching the air wildly with the reverberations of “BUT THIS IS VENOM FOR GODSSAKES” crashing through my head.
I’m reviewing a Guild Hunter novel and I’m not squeeing.
Someone feel my forehead. I may be unwell. Before I devolve into a ranty puddle of petulance and “awww maaaaan!”- it’s important to appreciate and acknowledge how solid a novel Archangel’s Viper is in its entirety. The story telling is exceptional, though it leaned way more urban fiction (dynamic, awesome action and superb plot) but unbelievably low on heat, the steam was marginal. Things never heated beyond tepid – Holly and Venom didn’t seal the deal until very late in the novel and when they finally did get busy, I didn’t get to see much more than some heady kisses and insinuations.
Heady kisses, acknowledged ardor, and that’s about it. I’m sorry. I’ve waited ten books for Venom’s cock and you mean to tell me, I still have to imagine how he uses it! Unfair! *kicks things*
THIS IS VENOM. I cant help but feel cheated. Its like I was promised a juicy steak and got tofurkey. Have you had tofurkey? No, well, I didn’t get Venom in all his serpentine sexual glory either. *kicks other stuff.*
Nalini promised! She did! In every otherworldly wink of his unique eyes, every sensual, suggestive and inviting sinuous movement, every languid flex of his spine and amazing boneless fluidity. I was promised over and over with every hint of how pleasurable time with Venom would be- I was promised!
My consolation: Cute, smart banter and teasing; an awakening of their mutual love, but this…this was not at all Singh’s usual serving of “whoa baby, fans self.”
Besides the fact the cover dude looks like the guy at the luxury Art Deco furniture store in Miami, Venom wasn’t the Venom I stacked my hopes, dreams and libido on. I had to actively work to get past my disappointment in how un-potent Venom came across in his own novel- a novel I’ve been championing for years (and I have the Twitter rants to prove it). Le sigh. Let’s get into it. Afterall, this is Singh and if she tamed her pen in the bedroom, she unleashed every bit of skill and talent on the action and danger facing Holly, Venom and the territory at large.
Holly has a bounty on her head. Someone wants her bad enough that foolish dregs and dangerous vampires have her in their crosshairs. Holly isn’t the Sorrow we met before. First of all, the obvious, she’s grown stronger, connected with her family and no longer shrouds herself in her old namesake, Sorrow (thank goodness). Her evolution and back story is well done. I can picture her so clearly and she was a great heroine. Accessible in a way I enjoyed. Her fears and actions and motivations all made sense to me. I can’t think of anytime I was frustrated with her, rather I quite thrilled in following her journey because what in the evil spirit possession is going ON with her! I can’t touch the intrigue. It’s crafted so well. Go into this novel knowing the H/h team up and rely on one another’s strengths and intelligence. Venom didn’t baby Holly. He trusts her when she does not trust her self and he pushes her where others would let her stall in comfort. He keeps her secrets, so long as it doesn’t conflict with his loyalty to the Seven (swoon, THE SEVEN, you guys). There is a showdown and the power that is awakening in Holly takes center stage.
The world building and story arc completely sucked me in. The cascade effects are looming and everyone is shaken, unsure and watching for what is next. Just when the bounty and blood crimes mystery feels resolved, remnants of Uram and Michaela’s former treachery and acrid affair come to ahead in the most haunting fashion. No stone is left unturned in Guild Hunter land as seeds planted by Singh from way back in Angel’s blood are beginning to punch forth and grow into some truly sinister stuff.
“The otherness inside me. It’s gotten bigger.” The serrated wings stretched wider, straining her skin, cutting her from the inside. Curling the fingers of the hand on her chest into her palm, she gritted her teeth while fighting to hide the pain from Venom. He watched her, his eyes flicking to her tightly fisted hand. She flexed it through conscious effort of will.
He can’t know that I am awake, the madness inside her whispered. He will kill us to protect Raphael.
Holly didn’t trust that insane voice but she also knew she was becoming something that shouldn’t exist, an abomination of creation. But she didn’t want to die.
The world of Archangels has always been tinged in darkness, but Archangel’s Viper is the first one that skewed more horror/scary. Because as solid and good as Viper is, it felt distinctly different even in its familiarity which gave off this “off” feeling. Not entirely unpleasant, but there was an awareness that I am not used to that creeped in and made the novel as a whole feel like a different sort of experience.
Or it could have just been the lack of sex. (Oh, don’t you dare feign shock, I’m a work in progress ok!) Tuh!
One thing that remained heart-warmingly consistent was the respect and love between Raphael’s Seven and their unbreakable bonds of friendship.
Dmitri had been on the phone but hung up the instant he spotted Venom. A smile breaking out over his face, he hugged the other man in a way that said they were friends rather than simply compatriots or brother warriors. More than six hundred and fifty years separated Dmitri and Venom, the oldest and the youngest in the Seven, but there was no distance in that moment. As she watched, Dmitri slapped Venom on the back before the two men stepped apart.
“I’m not meant to be Raphael’s second, or to hold a position above Dmitri. Power isn’t everything—the bonds that tie us to one another, forged by emotion and battle and friendship, that’s what makes us strong.” A silver-edged feather of wild blue had drifted down to the ground from his wings as he resettled them. “No, I’m meant to occupy exactly the place I hold among us.” That soul-deep bond would change one day in the distant future, Illium’s destiny written in his power. But it would never break. The Seven would always have each other’s—and Raphael’s—back.
Nalini creates such a trifecta with her art. Romance/Action/Loyalty. Hands down my favorite nuance of this series is the beautiful friendship between these phenomenal, dangerous, and powerful men. I get teary just thinking about them!
There is also the staple reference to the railingless balcony of The Tower. It appears in nearly every book and each time I get a thrill when the characters are described as fearlessly comfortable on its precarious ledge. The scene it anchors is always just as stoic and meaningful as the legendary ledge itself.
We learn Venom’s name and the story of his making of course. I don’t think I’ll ever call him anything but Venom – but I’m so happy to know him better. Like fan favorite second in command Dmitri, he wasn’t always the deliciously mesmerizing ladies man he’s become with immortality.
Interestingly enough, this sort of felt like Holly’s novel as his own demise and rise was recounted, but as more of an interesting, but expected footnote.
This isn’t the sort of novel or series you spoil, so on the whole, besides the lack of heat, something felt a little off kilter yet it remained a great novel that I couldn’t put down. being so, I found it to be a testament to how freakishly talented Singh is. Even when she rankels, she captivates.
Some random thoughts I just had to share:
**I missed Raphael immensely. I never knew how much I liked him until he was virtually absent. He is such a presence. I wouldn’t mind if Guild Hunter 11 was another Raphael/Elena adventure- Harumph, Raphael wouldn’t dare let Singh off the hook without letting him mount his warrior woman for all of us to see. (Ha- see what happens when I’m smut deprived! It seeps into my reviews! Don’t judge!)
-WTF is up with Illium and Aodan…they’ve been skirting around more than friends vibes for the past couple of books, and even more so in Viper- and that’s not exactly what I had in mind- so I’m interested to see where Singh goes. Romance or epic friendship, either way I know my heart will ache in all the best ways! *bites fist*
-If Aodhan and Illium are a thing- AND Singh continues this semi closed-door, chastey romancy stuff- we riot.