When Viv is offered a home with the child she loves, she thinks that Lady Luck has smiled on her at last, but then the little girl is snatched. To rescue her, Viv must battle those who love the child, as well as the child’s enemies. The perilous quest leaves Viv horribly injured and she’s transported to Erath, the fold of female-aspected angels, where she’s offered the chance of a new life. But the new life involves opening herself to terrible new risks.
She returns but is pursued by those who believe she holds the key to their deepest desires and, as their threats escalate to violence, she resolves to leave for a new fold. Tragedy strikes and Viv is rocked by unsuspected truths as she fights to protect the little girl she loves. Nothing, she realises, is as it seems. Thris reappears, but her joy gives way to dread, as he reveals a threat to the child’s world, as well as his own.
As the threat escalates, Ky and Ash search desperately for news of their predecessors' fate, the trinity that included the other blue angel, Sendane. It seems that writings on the three have been deliberately destroyed, but tantalising hints emerge that gradually reveal a cataclysmic truth.
Viv and Thris race against time to avert the impending disaster and, as events build to a terrifying climax, Viv must choose between the past and the future, and between those she loves.
Angel Blessed shifts the focus to healing, starting with Viv's ability to heal herself. Her early life is marked by physical and mental trauma and even after she leaves to search for her mother, she suffers terrible physical injuries. These are healed in human caste folds, or in folds of male-aspected angels. This time she ends up in Erath Fold, home to the female-aspected angels, the Iahhel. While they heal her physically, they also begin her spiritual and psychological healing. She learns that she has the power to choose between love and hate, and that both choices have consequences. And she starts to think more seriously about the sort of future she wants to build for herself.
She could stay in Erath, but her love for Poss draws her back to The Wheel. Thris began her understanding of the consequences of her dual angel and human parts early in her time in Ezam, but now she comes to a much fuller understanding of the conflicts she endures. She also realises the damage hate inflicts and works hard to curb her antagonism for Ataghan. While Viv hasn't reached the end of her healing journey, she is far more advanced than him, and when she realises what he is, she commits an act of selflessness that has on-going and powerful consequences.
Viv is both the healer and the healed through her relationship with Poss and Ataghan, and despite the impediments Viv and Ataghan face in their journeys to wholeness, they're bound by their love for Poss, and by the effects of their shared blood.
The Secondary World
Angel Blessed takes place in The Wheel, Ezam, and Erath. The sacred city of Astraal, with its deep aqua lake, and eight mighty rivers coursing down eight perfectly spaced valleys, mimics Ezam's symmetry and gives explanation for the Angellus's attraction to the fold. The city's fine architecture also reflects the Angellus/angels' love of beauty, which Ataghan's Angellus blood reflects, and which he replicates in his carving, and in his new sett. Erath is clad in the green and growing which symbolises the Iahhels' connection to wholeness and fertility. The Iahhel are also wingless, for they aspire to oneness with the earth, in contrast to Ezam's Host, who aspire to oneness with the Great Beyond.
I played Metallica's And Nothing Else Matters many times when writing this last book as it evokes the braveness of baring the soul, necessary to intimate relationships, and something Ataghan must fight to do. However, Dami Im's Sound of Silence fits Ataghan's loneliness as well. The male dancer in the clip extends the theme of Ataghan's isolation until his healing journey begins.
Until I began Angel Blessed, I believed the Angel Caste series belonged to Viv and the three angels, but with Angel Blessed, I realised it was Ataghan's story as well. The brutality of Viv's life is presented more explicitly than Ataghan's, which is revealed in a series of incidents, but the effects of their suffering are similar. It is Viv's insight that allows her to understand her self-hatred drove her suicide attempt, and her seeking of violent men as lovers, and she recognises the same self-hatred in Ataghan, which is expressed as self-mutilation, and when turned outwards, makes him a ruthless warrior and tournament champion.
The Iahhel start Viv on the road to true healing, and she returns to The Wheel both more human and more angelic than when she left, a reflection of her increasing wholeness. The Iahhel also bring her to understand her power to choose, and the consequences of past choices. When Viv realises what Ataghan is, she opens herself to him in an act of extraordinary vulnerability. She exposes her naked body, her wings, her heart, and her spirit, by embracing him and the cold metal of his knives. These press between them showing the barrier that still exists, but he doesn't turn them on her. He allows the embrace, and when he collapses, she cradles him like a child. This is love on many levels. When she tells him to 'let it go', she refers to the hatred he has for himself, knowing from her own experience, that only then, can healing begin.
The series' covers show Viv, Thris, Ash, Ataghan, and an angel feather. The feather is an important motif in the series. Feathers are related to flight which usually symbolises transcendence. In this sense, angels and dragons are the same: a mix of earth-bound and transcendent elements. Viv keeps Thris's only undamaged feather after he is torn apart by the beastman, but Ataghan destroys it. His hatred robs them both of the chance of being something better (transcendent), for the act is one of many that builds Viv's hatred of him. When Ataghan finds Viv's feather on the feed-store floor, he initially thrusts it into his pocket, rather than destroys it, and despite later breaking it and letting the Vorash's rain wash it away, he can't let it go.
The Vorash is 'the time between' (the liminal) and it's relevant that this is when Ataghan chooses to keep the feather (keep the door open to something better). It is Tormis who notes that children born during Vorash 'can be anything'. We later discover the feather joins the most precious things in his life (locks of Sehereden and Fariye's hair) in his amè , and it is this revelation that helps convince Viv to finally trust him. Viv also gifts a feather to Poss/Fariye, which helps maintain their connection and reminds Ataghan of the chance of something better she offers. And, of course, Fariye has a feather collection, which gives the motif a more playful aspect.
Ataghan is pulled towards healing by Ithreya as well. After Sehereden's death, he is prepared to abandon Fariye, but Ithreya offers him Sehereden's daughter on condition he lein-trysts with Viv. This forces Ataghan to seek Viv out, but there is a point at which she becomes more important to him than Sehereden's child. Fariye, Viv and Ithreya all represent the female/love/nurturing elements Ataghan must embrace to become whole.