I wonder if angels have replaced vampires as the supernatural creatures of the moment. Lately there’s been an explosion of books about angels or with angel-like beings, and they seem to have taken the romance world by storm -or maybe these creatures have always been a popular subject and I’m just catching on-. Whatever it is, it’s clear that they are here to stay and I’m glad because they make fascinating book characters, as this anthology clearly proves.
I’m not a huge fan of anthologies and it’s unusual for me to find one where I actually am familiar with all the authors involved (I haven’t read anything by Shinn but she has been on my TBR list for ages), which is the reason why I wanted to read this book.
The first story is Angel’s Wolf by Nalini Singh. Set in the universe of the Guild Hunters series, the novella is about a vampire called Noah who is recovering from a brutal attack and is sent to Louisiana to help Nimra -the angel who oversees that territory- figure out who is behind her murder attempt.
I enjoyed this tale but it wasn’t my favorite. At first I was intrigued by the role reversal because the heroine was far more powerful than the hero, but I think that in an attempt to not emasculate Noah by making him appear weak when compared to Nimra, she ended up being portrayed as too vulnerable. I did like both characters though, and it was a great pairing of two wounded souls who really needed one another, but just for a change I would love to read a book where the heroine is the one doing the saving.
It was a more subdued story than what I’m used to in this series, less violent than the previous books. This isn’t my favorite series but this novella is proof of the great potential it has. It stands alone well, the world-building is perfectly woven into the story and I think that readers unfamiliar with the series will be able to thoroughly enjoy it. Besides, here you don’t need to worry about who leads the popularity race between angels and vampires because this book has a bit of both.
The next one is Alphas: Origins by Ilona Andrews. To be perfectly honest, this novella has basically nothing to do with angels. There’s one character that has some sort of wings and is quite beautiful to look at, so it’s more like Andrew’s interpretation of angels, but that’s pretty much it. However, it doesn’t really matter because this story was very good, I think it was my favorite and that’s saying a lot considering the quality of all the novellas.
Karina is a single mom coming back from a school trip with her daughter. When she makes a pit stop she finds herself in the middle of a supernatural war between monsters. In order to save her daughter she agrees to go with them, but what waits for her might be more than she can handle.
To really know what this story is about, you need to read it. I honestly can’t explain it in a couple sentences. What I can say is that it is complex. There’s a lot of info-dumping and it might be quite confusing, I think this one would have worked much better as a full-length novel, but if you pay attention you will see that it’s a remarkable world. The romance is almost nonexistent, and the hero is an alpha male so extreme that some might label him as an abusive monster -they would probably be right- but by the end of the novella I was in love with him. Alphas: Origins is equal parts urban fantasy, paranormal romance and sci-fi. The secondary characters are even more engaging than the main ones and I hope we get more stories set in this world so I can see them again.
It is violent though, the most action-packed and gory story in the anthology by far. This is the type of story that leaves no room for middle grounds, readers will either love it or hate it. I have read reviews that say that this is grittier than Andrews’ previous novels, but I disagree. If you have read Bayou Moon, there’s a disgusting and horrific scene there that’s worse than anything you will find in this novella -at least in my opinion-. There’s a bit of humor as well, it’s subtle but it’s there. I highly recommend you to read this novella, it has shortcomings, but it’s worth it, just proceed with caution because it’s not for everyone.
Nocturne by Sharon Shinn is part of the Samaria series. This is the first time I read anything by Shinn, but I was familiar with her books and I was happy to see her name in this anthology because it meant that I finally had an excuse to read her work.
Moriah is a maid who one day happens to see a dark figure in one of the buildings where she works. This figure turns out to be a blind and scarred angel who hides depressed and alone ever since the accident that stole his sight. With her inquisitive, positive and at times annoying attitude, she coerces him out of his self-imposed exile and brings him back to life.
This was the most romantic story of the bunch. It was completely focused on the main couple and their relationship. Since this is my first time reading this author I can’t really compare it with her previous work, but it was obvious for me that she had spent much time developing this world. What I could see from this novella wasn’t complex but it was detailed, and the first thing I did after finishing Nocturne was buy the first book in the series.
The novella has a fairytale feel to it. It was magical and timeless. The characters were compelling and layered, sometimes I liked them and sometimes I disliked them. I was particularly impressed by the hero. He was childish, immature, good-natured, courageous, coward, and impulsive. His character had qualities to love and flaws to hate. Slightly spoilerish part, highlight to read: The ending was surprisingly realistic because the heroine wasn’t even sure that he might change his mind about loving her, but she goes for it because it was worth the risk. I was left with a similar fear but hopeful that it was the beginning of their happily ever after.
And last but not least there’s Ascension by Meljean Brook. This is the latest installment in the Guardian series. Marc is a guardian investigating the death of a local vampire. Rhada, another guardian, comes to help him because she is worried about him. A long time ago they used to be best friends turned lovers but a misunderstanding caused by lack of communication has kept them apart for the past forty years, now they are forced to deal with their issues in order to work together.
My favorite part about this novella was the hero. This guy was the embodiment of dreamy. He was thoughtful, caring, quiet and deep, more beta than alpha. I didn’t like Rhada that much and to be honest I found the reason why they were apart a bit ridiculous. I think they weren’t ready to be together back then but they could have dealt with it better, and by that I mean they could have talked about it.
I enjoyed the love story mainly because of Marc, but the most interesting aspect of the novella was the actual murder mystery. Once again Brook delivers a surprising ending that I never saw coming, I don’t know how she does it but she gets me every time.
I enjoyed it a lot but I’m a huge fan of the series, maybe new readers won’t like it as much. I do believe that this series needs to be read in order and Ascension is no exception (see? It rhymes so it must be right). Someone unfamiliar with the series should be able to understand and enjoy the story, but it won’t be the same.
This is an anthology that you don’t want to miss. All four stories were excellent, highly entertaining and fun. You can pick this book and read it out of order depending on what you are in the mood for, and if you are new to these authors' work here’s your opportunity to give them a try.
Review by Brie
Tales of alpha angels... from four alpha authors.They soar through the night, unearthly creatures of legends and lore. Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance explore the rapture of the heavens above, and the darkness below in four all-new stories of angels and guardians, and good and evil.
Berkley Trade. October 4, 2011.