if angels burn by lynn viehl

Posted on October 28, 2010


Good thing these vampires keep to themselves. Out on the streets, the way they smell so flowery all the time, they will be mistaken for metrosexuals.

Labels are convenient but they can mislead. If Angels Burn is paranormal romance, it is also a supernatural thriller. If you see it beside other titles with similar covers of gorgeous men with dark passionate eyes you might dismiss it as another vampire romance with more smut than plot. It helps to be familiar with authors so you know you’re getting a good story. It helps if you’re lucky to chance upon it in a used-bookstore and have quick browsing skill that lets you sample sufficiently the flavor of  a book before buying.

I was lucky. And I trusted my instinct well enough to risk buying an unfamiliar author. Because I did, I found another series to look forward to. On first impression, the story looked too dark and edgy, with an unsympathetic female character. She wasn’t a heroine I would want normally for a romance: fiercely intelligent, independent but tough to get to know and hardly any ounce of girl.

So how did I end up liking this series? The sum of its parts had a synergistic effect, I realized halfway into the book. How did it begin, anyway? Dr. Alexandra Keller, Chicago’s most brilliant reconstructive surgeon, was abducted and persuaded to operate on Michael Cyprien, New Orlean’s most reclusive millionaire. His face and body were disfigured beyond medical repair. But his body’s ability to recuperate from his wounds bordered on the miraculous. Alex operated but when Michael awakened disoriented from the operation he attacked Alex and almost drained her of blood.

Michael is a Darkyn, an immortal whose kind is under attack by an organization of vampire-hating humans. Alex survived, changed. The story followed her attempts to understand scientifically what is happening to her body. In between Michael’s attempts to persuade–seduce, force, trick–her into accepting his protection the intrigues between the two factions played out, netting Alex’s priest-brother, other Darkyn and troubled humans.

They’re all deeply disturbed, actually. The Darkyn for having died and rising to discover they are monsters. The humans for experiencing some trauma, ending up misguided. There is tension after tension, from the volatile chemistry between Alex and Michael to the politics in human and vampire factions, and their struggle to survive.

I found this book very intelligent, with attention to details that most romances usually ignore. I had fun reading the scenes in the operating room, where Alex tried to stay two steps ahead of the Darkyn’s healing prowess so she can fix them. Of course this book is not perfect. I find the Darkyn’s disconnection with modern times a stretch; their Middle Age characters rather affected; and a jardin of vampires smelling like flowers ridiculous.

This Darkyn world is well fleshed out, nevertheless. If Viehl continues to write in this vein, I expect to follow this series through till the last book.

Posted in: mushy weird