Review: ARCHANGEL’S VIPER by Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance (Contemporary) Series
CONTENT WARNING: Familial Reconciliation and acceptance is played up so very hard in this book that for people like me, estranged from family… it hit incredibly hard in an extremely unpleasant way.
TRIGGER WARNING: Casual, flagrant usage of words (forgive me, I’m sorry) like insane, psycho, crazy et cetera for a girl with PTSD from a traumatic attack. This is ableist and extremely NOT okay.
Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman–it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.
Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…
Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself–because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…
No one is safe.
I need to preface my review with four things.
- Reading is subjective, and I’m not in a great place for either issue I’ve labeled as CW/TW. So very likely… what bothered me may not bother another person. It may not even bother ME at a different time and place.
- How I go about starring reviews. If I personally love it with few things I’d advise an author to edit (my edits) I’ll give it a four or a five star. If I liked it well enough to finish it, it’s a three. If I don’t finish it, it’s a one star for DNF reasons. I dock a book a star for every Trigger Warning issue I find (that I’m aware of) in the book.
- I love this author, I’ve loved her work for years. It’s very saddening for me to write a poor review for her work.
- Part of my disappointment with this book is likely BECAUSE I love the author’s work so much and because I looked forward to this book. It’s one of my favorite characters in the series. So I’ve taken that into account.
So. Did I like it?
Well. I felt bruised, heart-sore and battered by the time I’d read the first ten chapters. After that (and talking to a friend and fellow fan, thanks, Dacia) I decided to continue reading. Both because I wanted to find out what happened in the story and because my friend pointed out a very salient issue.
It’s been a hellacious year to be a writer. It’s bound to have affected most of us (it’s certainly affected ME). I couldn’t NOT give that same courtesy to a much beloved big 5 author (one of the very few I still buy automatically).
In utter honesty, after finishing my reading, I’m STILL not sure that this is, in fact, the author’s work or that of a ghostwriter. (If it is, I REALLY HOPE the author doesn’t use this one again. They failed to capture the essence of the story/world or character’s.)
There were places where it was so classically Ms. Singh in words and phrasing that it couldn’t… you know… NOT be her work.
And there were things I’d never seen (that I recall and I’ve read both of her PNR series more than once) seeing her use.
Things I just… was floored by, to be honest.
I figured the sex scenes would tell me for certain, but even those were lacking. Missing something that I’ve always considered uniquely Nalini Singh. In fact, if it hadn’t been her name on the cover and her characters/world? I wouldn’t have thought it was her work and I wouldn’t have finished it. I’d’ve stopped much earlier and returned the book.
So, yeah, I figured that the sex scenes would tell me for sure, because I’ve never yet read two writers who write sex quite the same.
So. The sex scenes weren’t like the others I’ve read by this author.
The book read so much more like an urban fantasy than one of the Nalini Singh’s lush, rich, sexy, paranormal romances that… even still. It doesn’t feel like her work. Not quite, until in some spots (especially near the end (75% in) when the romance FINALLY heated up.
I didn’t like it. I felt it would be incredibly harmful to anyone with triggers for mental health slurs/casual ableism, and much as I absolutely *usually* adore the work, words, characters, and worlds of this author?
I didn’t like the book.
I really wanted to. But I didn’t.
- Eventually, the romance heated up and I fell back in love with Venom. It took until about 75% into the book though.
- I eventually connected with Holly.
- Editing is as top notch as I’ve come to expect from this author’s works from this publisher.
- The intrigue was okay, I saw where it was going for a long ways off, but that’s okay for a PNR for me. I read them for comfort and character and world reasons more than for twisty, plot-heavy, I-don’t-know-where-it’s-going reasons.
The NOT SO GOOD to FECKING TERRIBLE.
- I’ve never even come close to having to put either a CW or a TW on Ms. Singh’s books.
- I’m still left wondering WTF happened to this story. I bought a paranormal romance, not an urban fantasy. While I love both, the genre conventions are different and this read MUCH more like an UF than a PNR.
- I’ll be frank, Nalini’s sex scenes usually get me hot and I fall in love with her characters. The first certainly didn’t happen, the scenes felt glossed over and like they… I dunno, weren’t important? It also took me FOREVER to warm up to either of the characters and that has NEVER happened to me with Nalini’s work.
- There were some description issues with the characters that just struck me as off. One of the reasons I love Ms. Singh’s work (and recommend it so much) is a certain continuity about things like character description, (if a character has brown skin in one book, they’ll have brown skin in the next book), knowing I’m going to want to hug the book when I’m finished (spoiler, I didn’t), and that when I buy one of her books with my minuscule book budget that I’ll be getting a quality product.
Readability: 2 stars: For the first time since I started reading Nalini Singh years ago… I had to MAKE myself finish the book versus staying up late to read it because I couldn’t help myself.
Craft: 2 Stars (It lost two stars because of trigger and content warnings here, because the writing is solid, even if it didn’t feel like Nalini’s for a great percentage of the book.
ARCS: 2 stars. It wasn’t great. With a romantic arc, you want to feel the characters and see hints of their growing interest much earlier than 75%. It felt like an UF that suddenly changed its mind to be a PNR when it was SUPPOSED to be a PNR.
All in all? I can’t recommend this book to anyone that would be disturbed by the TWs. CWs probably won’t bother as many people as badly as they bothered me, but I felt I needed to say something.
Writing is solid, editing is solid, but this book leaves me in much doubt as to whether I’ll be buying the next book automatically or if I’ll wait and get it from the library. Maybe.
Here’s the link for AMAZON.