Guild Hunter #10
✮✮✮ 5 STARS ✮✮✮
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.
When I started this series I was seriously impressed with all the so obviously different personalities Nalini Singh equipped her characters with. No one was just an accessory, they all had a purpose and they all displayed distinguishing features. After Illium I was the most intrigued by Venom, the sangfroid, snarky member of Raphael’s Seven. Needless to say I was over the moon when I saw his book popping up and although it wasn’t a surprise who the author paired him up with I was happy it was Holly.
Heads up right away: if you expect a mushy romance this is not what you get. This installment is very story driven and while there is great chemistry between Venom and Holly the romance aspect comes pretty late in the story. It didn’t bother me though – it was a natural development for them. The snarky banter and quips from the beginning turned gradually into a good-natured ribbing.
Individually Venom and Holly couldn’t be more different, at least at a distant glance. He has a coolness about him that keeps people at arm’s length. The only real connection and friendship he has with his brothers-in-arms, Raphael’s Seven. Venom knows that he is one of a kind but he has come to appreciate it and uses his otherness to his own advantage – not hard since it comes with a set of kickass abilities. He is aware of Holly struggling with her alterity.
To the world, Venom was a vampire. And there were millions of vampires. But he was the only one with the eyes of a viper and the deeper, less visible changes that shoved him far outside that well-defined box. Like Naasir, he was and had always been alone among millions. Until Holly.
What surprised me about him was his benign nature (in all his badass-ness) and an unexpected gentleness with Holly. He loves her wildness, her intelligence and sweetness and he never lies to her. He is standing with her, backing her up when it is Holly against the world. Venom has a playful side about him that I found utterly charming. I loved he nicknames “Kitty” and “Hollyberry” he gave her. But Venom, too, has a past that shaped him.
He felt his lips kick up. When she wasn’t awake and snapping at him, she was pretty cute. Though he had to admit he liked the snappy, snarky side of her.
He understands Holly like no one else but it goes both ways – Holly recognizes Venom’s otherness and realizing that she isn’t the only freak helps her overcome her rage and feeling of loneliness. She is a complicated creature – we saw her in the beginning of the series as this broken doll, broken by Uram who Made her against her will but left her a being not quite vampire but not quite mortal or angel either. She felt a little bit emo back then so I loved to see that she took charge of her life. She has come a long way from “Sorrow” back to Holly.
Venom laughed, delighted with her— though he’d never allow her to guess that. Holly had always challenged him in a way that ignited his instincts, and she did it with a cutting intelligence that spoke to his own.
Holly has become a force to be reckoned with, inspires loyalty and benevolence in people.
Her struggles with what she has become are painful and I felt nothing but compassion and admiration for her courage. Add to that a sharp tongue, intelligence and kindness and she makes for a wonderfully strong heroine.
For those who have been wondering – yes, we get to see a little bit of Illium and Dmitri, whose interaction with Holly and his fatherly love for her made my heart soar.
Cupping her face in his hands, Dmitri spoke in a voice midnight with age. “Hate me if you want, Holly, but remember this: you’re one of the Tower’s now. You’re one of mine now. That might mean chains, but it also means you have hundreds of vampires and angels at your back.”
“Let’s go, my little weirdling. I’m Ash and Janvier’s teacher for the next hour. You can watch.”
It wouldn’t be a Guild Hunter story if we didn’t get to catch up a bit with Raphael – he doesn’t steal Venom’s and Holly’s thunder which I appreciated.
Overall this was a very satisfying installment – I had one little niggle I wanted to mention that in the grand scheme of things didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this story at all: the show-down is a little too long. Holly’s inner “dialogue” was a little exhausting but as I said, it is really only a small complaint.
Ms. Singh’s writing is excellent. She knows how to pull you right into the story and make you commiserate with the characters and fall in love with them. They are complex and multi-layered and always, always likable. That she mixes different cultures into her stories only adds to the fascination. This book in the series belongs to my favorites – while the romance isn’t as prominent it still has a lot to love about it. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one.
On that note, I notice a pattern in these books. The ones featuring Raphael and Elena drive the overarching plot forward, the ones featuring his Seven focus on the couple they are about. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend reading them as standalones. They have a lot of names and little details and while Nalini Singh explains and elaborates on them very well they would still be way confusing.
“I love you,” he said, his eyes locked with hers. “From the tips of my hair to the tips of my toes. From yesterday to tomorrow and every tomorrow we will ever see. From this moment to the mystery beyond death. Every part of you, slow or fast, small or big, strong or weak. I love you, Holly.”
Archangel’s Viper is the ninth installment of the Guild Hunter series which must be read in order.