I looked forward to Heather Killough-Walden’s Avenger’s Angel because I thought it might be as fun to read as her previous Big Bad Wolf series. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I enjoy clearly drawn characters, and the cast of this book suffers from too much ambiguity.
The premise is that two thousand years ago the “Old Man” gifted his four favorite archangels with mates called archesses. But before the angels and archesses could join, a villain caused the females to be lost and scattered on earth. Instead of remaining in heaven to wait who knew how long for the females to reappear, the angels decided to fall to earth in order to search for them.
Eleanore Granger, Ellie, has lived most of her life on the run, as her supernatural powers have made her the target of strange men with syringes and vans. Her current throwaway job as a clerk in a book store sets her in the path of Christopher Daniels, a wildly popular actor in vampire films, who has come to her small town for a book signing. Christopher, actually Uriel, the Angel of Vengeance, realizes almost instantly that Ellie is his archess and begins a heavy-handed pursuit. But Ellie is wily and clever and used to being hunted, so she successfully eludes Uriel – at least for a time. Things quickly grow very complicated, as Uriel’s pursuit puts Ellie directly in the public eye, drawing the attention of the strangers who’ve hounded her all her life. Ellie finds temporary sanctuary with Sam Lambent, a famously wealthy businessman, never realizing that Sam is actually Samuel, a true fallen angel little better than the devil.
The wishy-washiness (is that a word?) of these characters disappointed me. In general, characters that were supposed to be powerful, like the “Old Man”and the archangels, just weren’t. I want the God figure in an novel to be omnipotent and omniscient, instead of vague and disinterested and mildly deluded, as this one was. The angels have these wonderful abilities, but were continually on the losing end of any given situation because of some weakness or some contrived hardware or hidden contract clause. More specifically, Samuel wimps out on more than one occasion, and Uriel, one of the good guys, can be a bit of a bastard. Furthermore, as Ellie points out herself, why is there so much suffering in the world going unavenged while the angel of Vengeance is posturing in front of screaming teenagers? Uriel’s limp explanation almost made me put the book down forever.
Another put-the-book-down-forever aspect was Ellie’s relationships with Uriel and Sam. Several tropes that leave me cold were present here. First, the forced seduction. Ellie doesn’t want to want Sam, especially once she realizes who he is, but he uses his powers to make her hot for him. Gross. Second was the almost love triangle, where Ellie is hugely attracted to both Sam and Uriel. And third is the heroine who mistrusts the hero, who is constantly trying to get back in her good graces but keeps fouling up somehow, making her run into danger to get away from him. It seems I was impatient with one or the other character through most of the book.
That’s not to say the book was all bad. The writing was technically good, with decent dialogue and a swiftly moving plot. The “stranger” villains were truly evil and remained so – no ambiguity there. The four archangels and their handler had believable interraction, treating each other like beloved but irritating family members for the most part, fighting and protecting each other at the same time. Some of the plot was inspired, especially so when Uriel needs to remove Ellie from danger in a hurry and comes up with an elegant, but heartbreaking solution. The love scenes were hot, as we’ve come to expect from this author, ranging from pretty rough to tender and sweet.
The good wasn’t enough to overshadow the bad in this book, so I can’t recommend it. But the premise has promise and I have hope for the next book in the series.