Nalini Singh returns to the world of the Guild Hunters for the most highly anticipated novel of the beloved series—a love story so epic it’s been half a millennia in the making…
Illium and Aodhan. Aodhan and Illium. For centuries they’ve been inseparable: the best of friends, closer than brothers, companions of the heart. But that was before—before darkness befell Aodhan and shattered him, body, mind, and soul. Now, at long last, Aodhan is healing, but his new-found strength and independence may come at a devastating cost—his relationship with Illium.
As they serve side by side in China, a territory yet marked by the evil of its former archangel, the secret it holds nightmarish beyond imagining, things come to an explosive decision point. Illium and Aodhan must either walk away from the relationship that has defined them—or step forward into a future that promises a bond infinitely precious in the life of an immortal…but that demands a terrifying vulnerability from two badly bruised hearts.
I read this a couple of weeks ago at this point, so forgive me if my observations are a bit general. I was a bit annoyed by this book, because it’s been coming for a long time, and it definitely seemed like Illium and Aodhan got treated differently than the couples who featured in other books because they are a same sex couple. Hopefully, this isn’t the case. They’re the first couple that fall in love but never have sex.
With so much history behind them, and Aodhan’s past trauma, maybe they’re just having a slower development, but they’re hardly the first couple in the series to have issues like this to overcome (Honor and Dmitri spring to mind), but it’s the first all-male couple instead that kiss and hold hands after declarations of love. I’m glad they weren’t fetishized, and that their relationship got a book of its own to explore the challenges they both overcome to see each other as they are now, despite or because of their past, but I do think the unequal treatment seems like an attempt to pacify homophobic fans of the series, or an internalised disgust at the idea of a same-sex couple, and I don’t like it. I like this series, and I don’t feel like there has been homophobic subtext in previous books, but the difference was pretty obvious when sex and romance is a substantial part of previous entries in the series.
That aside, I feel like Archangel’s Light was a solid entry in the series. I liked the exploration of Aodhan’s backstory and how it shaped him, without ignoring who he had become in the meantime. I also liked learning a little more of Illium, and his disastrous first infatuation. I think the relationship between the two was a long time coming, and I liked the non-romance plot developments that occurred in this book. They promise to be interesting, and although I think China and Lijuan’s shadow have been somewhat overserved in the Guild Hunter series, I do think the developments from this book are new and interesting. I’d forgotten how horror-adjacent some aspects of this series are, but there really is touches to every book that bely characterisation as a paranormal romance. The fluff and relationships in this series don’t take away the blood and gore that drive the plotline, or the intricate world-building and socio-political commentary.
Overall, despite the dissatisfaction I felt at the unequal treating of the main couple of this book, presumably because of their gender, I think the story of Archangel’s Light was enjoyable. I feel like this should be a blanket disclaimer for my reviews at this point, but don’t pick up the series with this book, it’s too far in to make sense. That being said, this series will be best suited for fans of Nalini Singh’s other works, or those who like the books of Robin Hobb, JR Ward or Anne Bishop.