The Angel's Hunger
Holley Trent takes us to a world of magical, winged beings in The Angel’s Hunger, which combines elfin magic and angelic passion to create a novel that’s….sadly lackluster.
Centuries ago, the fallen angel Tamatsu made the mistake of betraying the elf Fionnuala, his lover and soulmate, with several women. All at once. Elves tether themselves for life to their chosen loves, so this betrayal is particularly rending for the distraught Fionnuala – and her revenge is particularly brutal. First she steals Tamatsu’s voice, and then she demands he find her missing queen, Cinnia. They will trade – Cinnia’s life for Tamatsu’s voice – when he keeps up his end of the bargain. She uses most of the rest of her magical power to transmogrify herself into mortal form and flees from him to live out her life among humans.
In the modern era, Fionnuala’s name is Noelle (ka-ching!) Flint, a high-selling real estate rep who hasn’t forgotten her past life, yet still retains a tiny bit of the magic that once colored her world. Tamatsu sends a messenger to her, announcing he’s found Cinnia. While Noelle dreads seeing the angel again, she yearns to see the fairy queen who gave her most of the best lessons she’s learned in her immortal lifetime, and so agrees to see Tamatsu, bringing her immortal friend Jenny along for the ride.
Tamatsu has been tortured over the past few centuries. Having turned his back on God and embraced the baser pleasures of existence, he is cursed to lust for blood, sex and food until he embraces the holy host again, which was why he couldn’t keep himself from cheating on Noelle all those years ago. He’s rather bitter about his station in life (which includes living with his lifelong companion, Tarik, and among other immortals of minor magical station). He found Cinnia (who is now known as Clarissa and is living on a farm with a mortal husband and a half-mortal family) purely by happenstance, but it’s happenstance he’ll take advantage of in order to get his voice back.
Unfortunately, once the connection between Queen and consort is once more made, Clarissa and Noelle realize that Noelle’s hold on the magic that once bound Tamatsu’s voice to her may have been loosened. While Noelle struggles to figure out a way to get Tamatsu’s voice back, the angel comes to stay at her Las Vegas apartment, thereby injecting temptation into the already-tense situation. Noelle can’t touch Tamatsu lest she awaken his slumbering giant, but as they struggle toward romance they dare to hope that somehow-someway, she’ll figure out how to keep up her end of the bargain.
It’s hard to enjoy a romance novel that skimps on the whole romance part of the equation, and sadly The Angel’s Hunger does just that for the majority of its length. While I felt like Noelle THOUGHT she loved Tamatsu (or at least felt guilty for and really liked sleeping with him), I didn’t buy for one second that Tamatsu loved Noelle. For most of the novel, Tamatsu seems to miss nothing more than his own divinity and his voice: he is an annoying ball of angst even though he’s endured centuries of muteness and, I don’t know, might have picked up sign language instead of sullenly throwing balled-up missives at people’s heads. When the relationship between the pair does change, it seems to be just as one-sided, with Noelle making all of the sacrifices, and the story constantly makes excuses for Tamatsu’s infidelity. They had consensual orgies and threesomes with both of them attended! A soldier randomly grabbed a groggy Noelle’s breast while on horseback and she did nothing to fight him off! Tamatsu’s needs make him So Special that not boinking for twelve seconds puts him in Deep Agony! When Noelle makes the ultimate sacrifice for Tamatsu late in the book, it feels like an outré punishment for demanding he go on a quest and holding his voice in stasis (in fact, the solution to the entire voice conundrum is both easy to guess and completely groanworthy). A romance that begins with cheating and continues with bitterness is pretty damn hard to root for. And Noelle’s description of the bonds that hold her to Tamatsu sound frightening instead of romantic.
Otherwise, Noelle is a decent if bland heroine; she’s wasteful, vainglorious, funny, showy, sensual, a good friend and a dutiful mentoree. Tamatsu spends most of the novel pouting, being pretty and shoving food into his mouth. It’s the supporting characters who are the most interesting here. There’s Willa, daughter to an uncaring minor god who gave her a wolf pack to run and no instructions as to how to keep them united and who once learned from Vivaldi but now teaches high school band; her subplot was cool enough to warrant a book of her own. Jenny is the stereotypical good friend, and Tarik a truly funny sidekick. Sadly, the mysterious Cinnia is found far too easily and is much less of a plot point than one would assume.
In the end, The Angel’s Hunger spends way too much treading water just to hand us a series of weak resolutions. I sadly cannot recommend it.