Monday, 8 December 2014

Archangel's Shadow by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Shadow may be set in a world inhabited by angels and vampires - the former representing a kind of theocratic oligarchy ruling a future dystopia - but its core romantic fantasy seems to have come from an X-Men fan fiction. The heroine is unable to touch people, lest she receives their memories, and the hero  - a vampire who wants his beloved to join him in immortality - is a Cajun who says 'chere' all the time. It's Gambit and Rogue, only chasing bad vampires and occasionally bursting into a chapter's worth of erotic action. It's surprising that the novel maintains a hegemonic dominance over comics when examples like this are clearly indebted to the most... democratic... aspects of fandom.

But then, Archangel's Shadow has no pretentions: it's a rollercoaster read et c. There's an almost postmodern panache in the way it flips between genres. At various points, it is a police procedural (with vampires), a love story (with a telepath, of sorts), erotic fiction (telepath and vampire), fantasy politics (archangels), a detective story (vampires again) and an old fashioned tale of family values (an angelic mother-in-law). It hits all the markets for trashy cheap fun. 

The sexy bits are laboured, and the sexual tension between Ashwini and her Janvier goes on for way too long (like, more than half the book before he turns out to be a great shag). There is a strange fascination with BDSM relationships (generally seen as bad, unless the vampire bites nicely) and a bit too much enthusiasm for the torture of immortal criminals (these are really rather more explicit than comfortable). But Nalini Singh does create an intriguing alternative universe and the action never stops - and the heroine, if sometimes a bit too familiar as she chats on her mobile about small matters in the middle of chasing some vampire drug cartel, is good and tough enough to get the epithet of feminist hero.

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