Review: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh

Aidee’s Review of Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
Paranormal romance released by Berkley on September 26, 2017

Archangel's Viper Cover and Link

Enter New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s breathtakingly passionate Guild Hunter world with the story of a woman who isn’t a vampire or an angel…or human…

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 really enjoy Nalini Singh’s writing, I’m fairly patient when it comes to long-running series, and I’ve been curious about many of the characters Singh introduced earlier in this particular series. This is the most recent book in Singh’s Guild Hunter series, featuring two characters that were introduced in the first book, Angel’s Blood, Venom and Holly. What I loved most about this book is that Holly got to save herself, in the end, and both characters have a lot they have to come to terms with individually. Other components of the book I enjoyed include Singh’s depiction of the various relationships that Holly and Venom have with other characters in the series. I’d like to note, though, that this is part of a series, and might not be the best book to start with.

Holly is a complicated character. She’s still angry at the beginning of the book. She survived a horrible experience, which is described from Elena’s point of view in Angel’s Blood, and Holly has had to come to terms with what it turned her into and how she wants to live her life. In some ways, she’s still trying to figure that out in this book, but she’s reconciled a lot of that. For example, she used to go by Sorrow earlier in the series. In Archangel’s Viper, she is going by Holly again. Holly went through a period of distancing herself from her family, but she has a close relationship with her family in Archangel’s Viper. She is in close contact with her parents and siblings, and she knows all the important (and silly) developments in their lives. The first chapter opens with Holly dropping off her older sister at the airport. She’s also grown close with the vampires in her life. Janvier and Ashwini, who also had their own book, are her teachers, as is Honor, Dmitri’s wife. Dmitri is Raphael’s second-in-command and, along with Venom, part of the group of vampires and angels who serve as Raphael’s lieutenants. Collectively, they’re the Seven. Holly has a father-daughter relationship with Dmitri. It’s described like this:

Dmitri had become important to her. Not a father. She had a father whom she loved. But someone as significant.

It’s not one-sided, either. Dmitri is known to refer to Holly as his “little weirdling.” And, like I said above, Holly gets to save herself. I can’t explain how, exactly, because it would spoil a rather long and well-set-up arc that culminates in this book. But here’s a non-spoiler snippet that shows that Holly plans to save herself, and that Venom is doing his part to support her efforts.

Viper green eyes in her vision, Venom staring at her from near Michaela. He hadn’t been standing there earlier. He must’ve moved while Uram totally controlled her vision, to put himself in her direct line of sight, exactly as she’d asked him to do.

That last sentence makes me so happy every time I read it. Sometimes, when female characters ask for help from the male love interest, or even from the nonromantic male characters, the male characters end up doing what they believe would be better. Venom is doing what Holly asked, even though it’s tearing him apart that Holly has to go through this with little tangible backup.

And that brings me to Venom. He was first introduced to us in Angel’s Blood, and he isn’t someone that Elena has a great relationship with. However, he has accepted her, and life goes on. Despite what previous descriptions of this character may have led you to believe, he is a smart, kind person. Like Nasir, another member of the Seven, he is more than your run of the mill vampire, and that is more fully explored in this book. Venom is the youngest in the group, so to a certain extent, he’s still growing, which is probably why there isn’t a power imbalance between Holly and Venom. This is not to say that for a while, Venom didn’t see Holly as “new.” In fact, during the first several chapters of Archangel’s Viper, he does. To him, Holly is a “kitten,” “Small and new and finding her feet.” But, after realizing that Holly is stronger than he thought her to be, Venom begins to see her differently. Venom respects Holly. He doesn’t see her as a baby vampire, like the other vampires do, in need of sheltering, because he recognizes certain aspects in her that are similar to his own nature. He pushes Holly to do more with her abilities, because he knows that she can do more without becoming an uncontrollable monster, which is something Holly is afraid of being. Unlike others, Venom is not too interested in keeping in personal contact with the mortal world. He doesn’t stay in touch with his mortal descendants, and he’s a little skeptical of those, like Holly and Janvier, who do. There are reasons for this, which have to do with rejection. Also, he cooks for Holly and takes care of her as their relationship evolves.

One of the things that this book does really well is depicting relationships. Because it’s part of a long-running series, there are a lot of relationships, and it can be difficult to keep track of them all as they grow and evolve. This book situates everyone, and shows how they interact with each other. Holly, for example, is intimidated by Raphael, but she has a relationship with Elena that’s close enough for her to touch Elena’s wings—which is a big deal. Venom is close enough to his fellow lieutenants to make observations about friendships within the Seven without being the guy caught between two people. And, because Holly works in the Tower, but isn’t part of the higher echelons, there are events that Venom has to explain to her to contextualize what’s going on in the book at present. I think Singh accomplished this without making the reader feel as though they were drowning under repetitive and/or overwhelming information.

Because Holly and Venom are interested in things like food and clothing, we get a lot of descriptions of food. Don’t read this book if you’re hungry, you may end up craving pretzels and Indian food. We also get mocking descriptions of men in suits, as well as descriptions of Holly’s clothing choices—think sparkly sneakers and other colorful outfits.
I think I’ve made this fairly clear in the review so far, but this is a book in a series. Because these characters have been in the background for most of the series, you may not be too interested in these characters and their interactions with each other and/or the other characters from the series. If you haven’t started this series, it might be better not to start here. That being said, Singh does a good job of letting you know what the big picture is in terms of the events in the series so far.

I personally enjoyed this book a lot. Both characters were strong, but also developing, and I always love when a heroine actually saves herself. I also enjoyed all the relationships depicted in this book, as well as the descriptions of food and clothing.

Grade: A-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

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