Elena Deveraux is a Guild Hunter, and hunts vampires. Not like Buffy, or Anita Blake. In the complex world created by Nalini Singh, angels and archangels rule all significant cities in the world and have the ability to create vampires, who are then under contract with said angel for a specified amount of time in return for their immortality. A lot of vampires try to escape their contract, and its Elena and her fellow Guild Hunters' job to track these vampires down and return them to their angel masters.
At the beginning of Archangel's Kiss Elena has just woken up from a year in a coma, and to say that she has changed is an understatement. After a battle to the death with a fellow archangel gone horribly evil, Elena's lover Raphael, the archangel and ruler of New York, gained the once in an angel's eternal lifetime's ability to create ambrosia. He changed Elena into an angel to prevent her from dying. After a year in the healing coma, she is now an immortal and has glorious angel wings, but is still extremely weak, and needs to gain strength and learn how to master the art of flying much faster than Raphael would prefer. However, the most ancient of the archangels, Lijuan, who has gained the power to raise and control the dead, has invited them to a ball in Beijing in three months' time, and seems extremely interested in meeting and playing with Raphael's mate.
To complicate matters further, there are clearly others who have it in for Elena as well. One of Raphael's vampires is found beaten to near death, and there is a clear message that the perpetrator wants Elena dead. When an angel child disappears, the situation quickly escalates. After waking up from the coma, as well as having to learn how to fight efficiently with her new wings, build up her strength and get used to her new status as an immortal, Elena seems unable to control the flashbacks to her childhood, when she and her two older sisters were brutally tortured and tormented by a sadistic vampire. That Lijuan is aware of this past and clearly won't hesitate to use the horrific death of her two sisters to get to her, does bode well for Elena's visit to Beijing.
I discovered Nalini Singh's first Guild Hunter novel last year, and have been eagerly awaiting Archangel's Kiss for months' now. I'm so happy that the book didn't disappoint. The world that Singh has created in these books is very well realized and you get all the information you need portioned out without ever feeling as if there are just huge chunks of exposition thrown at you. Elena is a very strong and independent heroine, and the relationship with Raphael which began in Angels' Blood, continues to develop and as the book is not first person POV, you get insight into both sides of the relationship in a very satisfying way. Raphael is extremely powerful, and quite terrifying at times, but Elena is determined to not just become a pet or a plaything and stands her ground against him. Raphael is concerned that his love for Elena might be seen as a weakness by others, and is determined that nothing and no one should be able to use her against him, while also making it clear that no one harms her again.
I really love these books, both the paranormal and romance side of the books are great, and I will probably need to reread both books soon. I am also tempted to check out Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series, to see if they are as compelling and sexy as the Guild Hunter books.