Monday, November 28, 2016

Archangel's Heart (Guildhunter #9) by Nalini Singh

Lijuan has disappeared. One of the Archangels who controls the planet... leaving her territory apparently ungoverned

Which means the Luminata, a philosophical group who try to stay out of politics to seek a higher purpose to discuss what to do with the territory

But when the collected Archangels arrive, it appears the Luminata have lost their path – and what they’ve done touches intimately with Elena’s life, her past and her heritage.

I really liked the differing focus of this book. Most of this series we have had the main focus being on Lijuan and the epic conflict between the Archangel of death alongside the huge consequences of the Cascade. Lots of epic, lots of huge battling, lots of death and destruction and trying to hold things together in the face of literal world ending powers.

It’s epic, it’s huge and it’s nice to take a step back from that. It’s nice for us to remember there are more problems in this huge series than just Lijuan and even than just the Cascade. It’s also interesting to see the Archangels walk around and be the epicness they are.

I honestly expected them to arrive at the Luminata and face Lijuan. Or some epic power. Or some kind of major, terrifying power; something that would render the Archangels helpless. Or an Archangel civil war. In other words, another epic conflict.

But we didn’t go that route – we had legitimate investigations, we have research and exploration and character interaction and having no epic displays of megapowers and war. Which let us see more about the Archangels, more about the world and really exploring the interesting elements the Luminata brought. Which also allowed a lot of really excellent exploration of the Archangel attitude towards art, enlightenment, immortality, power, the value of humanity, autonomy, mind control powers, authority and the issue of what to do with an imbalanced Archangel council. I liked that, I liked that the step back allowed us to see these elements.

Another part I really liked about this book is gathering all the Archangels together and seeing them interact and, generally, be quite sensible. Ok, Charisemnom is pretty much awful – but he is universally regarded in contempt because of that. But each of the other Archangels is clearly and powerfully portrayed as a capable ruler. That includes when they don’t agree with Elena and Raphael. It’s nice to see these great powers working together and focusing on politics rather than world war

I think this is really important with Michaela who, after several books of demonization we see that, while she and Elena are sworn enemies, that doesn’t mean Michaela is incompetent or terrible or evil. She’s a capable ruler, she’s even a compassionate ruler and a just one. Her territories are well managed, safe and even caring. And this doesn’t apply just to Michaela – when we see Tasha, woman-who-was-once-a-love-interest-of-Raphaels then all the rules of fiction dictate that Elena and she will hate each other with the fiery hate of a thousand suns because MAN. And while they don’t like each other there’s a strong sense of respect between them. They appreciate each other’s strengths and are good together. It’s almost ridiculous that this is considered an amazing thing: that adults can disagree with each other without one of them being a parody of evil.

Similarly, it’s an excellent level of nuance to also have Neha, the Archangel of India. She and Raphael have a layered relationship with them both deeply respecting each other but, at the same time, the death of her daughter means she hates Raphael. Ultimately

The diversity of this book is excellent. We have numerous female characters who are capable, sensible and fun; but more than that, they’re not only skilled and involved (and neither all hating each other nor all united simplistically around one central female protagonist) but skilled and important and respected in very different from each other. Hannah is very different from Elena and Tasha and they’re all very different from Michaela and Neha who are, again, all very different from Calliane.

We also have a very racially diverse archangel council on top of a very racially diverse general angel and vampire cast, as well as being set in Morocco which also includes a fair amount of exploration and examination of Elena’s own history. In the genre we do have some mixed race or biracial protagonists but we usually see their POC heritage be completely underplayed or completely unrecognised beyond some easy “exoticness”. To have a protagonist with a distant, non-existent POC relative now actually reconnect with this heritage in a major manor.

Racial diversity is the norm here which is especially necessary in such a global story – this is a global story which is more than just white people in exotic locations.

Sadly there are no LGBTQ people in the book. Or series, I think – none I remember. And this is book…9? Nine? Yeahand this is all we have? That’s poor

This book was excellent, because it was such a change of pace from what we’ve seen before in this series. We get to explore the world the characters a lot more with the change of pace. I like the recharged before, no doubt, the awesome powerful epicness which is definitely coming in later books.