Monday, September 26, 2011

Angels of Darkness by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn

Angels of Darkness is a short story anthology about Angels who do not come to give hope and enlighten, but who are there during the darker emotions of humans, from death and fear and sadness.

Angel's Wolf by Nalini Singh, follows Noel, a vampire from Rafael's Court in New York after he is sent to serve Nim'ra, a powerful female angel said to be extremely cold and cruel. Noel is recovering from a terrible attack that nearly killed him, and he views this reposting as a judgement on his inability to forsee the attack that laid him low. But Nim'ra, though a fairly young and powerful angel- may be cold and retiring, but that is because her heart is soft and rather too easily affected, which would be considered a terrible weakness in a ruling Angel. But when it becomes clear that someone in her court is trying to kill her- possibly in a bid to overthrow her, can Noel find the person who hates Nim'ra enough to try to do away with her, and can he undo the effect of her caring and beauty on his own previously cold heart?

Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews has Karina Tucker, an abused wife, who is fleeing from her abusive husband who has tracked her and her daughter, Emily, down. In the course of her flight, she is rescued by Rishe and his crew, who identify her as a Donor, and abduct her into an alternate reality where she must stay with her child. It turns out that the men who have rescued her are the many times removed offspring of alternate versions of humanity, each with their own separate powers. She is paired with Lucas, to bond with him and remove some of the rage that pervades him. But each time he does, there is a greater chance that she will also develop powers. Can Lucas persuade Karina to stay with him and not try to flee? Or will Karina put the world at risk to save her daughter from eventually having the same fate?

Nocturne by Sharon Shinn is the story of Moriah, a worker at the Gabriel school. Hiding from those she has taken advantage of in the past, she drudges through the night hours in the kitchen at the school, cleaning and preparing for those who will work in the morning and the afternoon- washing dishes and preparing the kitchen to be used once again. But there is a strange story hidden in the school, and the house on the hill. And Moriah, through her spying and prying, discovers the secret- a blinded Angel lives in the house. It is hoped that he will somehow find the strength of will to live again, and not hide himself and his talents away from others. But can the former conwoman Moriah make the Angel Corban see that life is still worth living, and can he effect a similar change in her life as well?

Ascension by Meljean Brooks follows Guardian Angel Marc Revoire, who is investigating the disappearance of Vampires in the community he watches over. But another guardian, Radha, who he had a relationship with in the past, insists that he isn't safe and that he needs her help to accomplish his duties. But when the killers turn out to be someone he would never have suspected, and Radha saves his life, he's forced to conclude that she is right about the way things are. But as they track those who put the killers up to their deeds, can they re-forge the thread of their loving connection, or have things gone too far awry to ever get it back?

This was an unusual series, because in many cases, the characters really *were* angels- not so much the "Alphas" story, as that was the proverbial "Guardian Angels" rather than actual angels, but each one stood out as the stories were about one person protecting another from horrible fates, or having lost hope- although it's a turn around in "Nocturne", because it's the human woman bringing the angel hope, and her slightly peppery personality is just the thing to keep shocking him into doing something, either for her approval or to overcome her disapproval.

In fact, the stories in this book were so good that I had a hard time picking my favorite. It came down to a toss-up of "Nocturne" or "Angel's Wolf", both of which were really excellent stories in worlds I love and will continue to read in. I actually can't decide which one I liked better, as Sharon Shinn's lyrical writing and Nalini Singh's wonderful ability with story and characterization really fought it out to a standstill in my mind. The other stories were fine, too, but my familiarity with both Sharon Shinn and Nalini Singh's Angel worlds made me prefer them. I am just less used to Meljean Brooks's angels, and Alphas was a new world for Ilona Andrews.

I really enjoyed this anthology. The stories were excellent, every one, and if you haven't read stories set in those worlds before, this volume is likely to make you want to seek them out and read them. I even would like to see more of the Alphas series, which is new to this volume, although I have read other of Ilona Andrews series. A stunning set of stories with plenty of adventure and romance, and the kind of happy ending you want to read. Highly recommended.

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