Series: Psy-Changeling

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light by Nalini SinghOcean Light by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on 12th June 2018
Pages: 416
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four-stars

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment--taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine...

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back--even if it means striking a devil's bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy...

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bowen Knight, even loved his cause and his unwavering, determined fight for humanity in the Human Alliance (guess which one I belong to?)—the least of the three races it seems, in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world. My heart sank when Bo went down hard in ‘Silver Silence’ and just as I thought all hope was lost, ‘Ocean Light’ became my own (and Bo’s) salvation. This was the book I’ve always wanted ever since Bowen burst onto the scene, from the moment I learned that he had an immovable but lethal chip in his head about to detonate any time.

That Singh chooses to introduce Blacksea using Bowen’s story is an obvious shift away from the Bear changelings in ‘Silver Silence’, a mysterious group hinted at in the closing books of Singh’s “season 1” of her Psy-Changeling novels that focused solely on the cats and the wolves. Here, Singh opens yet again new pathways and original insights into her massive world-building that continues now deep down in the sea, so compelling in ways that it’s hard to turn away from the myriad of sea creatures and their personalities that populate this book. Half the book however, after the intriguing setup, comprises Singh’s languid, thorough exploration of the world Bo has found himself in, not least the slow unfurling and the slow romance between him and Kaia, before the pace picks up frantically again towards the end.

Written into Kaia Luna’s and Bowen Knight’s attraction is a conflict that’s drawn up against these lines: the bad blood between the humans the Blacksea changelings rather than just a personal feud that Kaia sets up against Bowen for the losses in she feels keenly in her life. Enemies-to-lovers in this context, might just seem a little too dismissive after all, too small a view to take in the huge world that Singh has written, though this is still a trope nonetheless, in romantic fiction which I like a lot.

Yet Kaia, a scientist-turned-cook (with maternal instincts and a soft, easily hurt heart that’s prone more to pulling away) in the Ryujin BlackSea Station, is the last person I’d expect Singh to pair with the hard security chief, who is as ruthless and emotionless as the Psy themselves without the telekinetic power. Coupled with the (somewhat unbelievable) bit of instalove written into a strong attraction—cue bodies hardening, arousal flaring—that strikes the both of them at first glance is perhaps also an attempt to humanise the hard-nosed image of Bowen Knight who is more a man of flesh and emotions more similar to the other alpha changelings than we think. I would have loved a stronger, harder, a more sword-wielding-type mate for Bo—the type that would have stood for his fight in the Human Alliance by his side with a weapon— but clearly this is my personal preference speaking for such heroines to materialise every time.

‘Ocean Light’ is satisfying on many levels, but I particularly loved the introduction to the Blacksea changelings and Bowen’s Knights. The threads of this incredibly complex arc that Singh has written are far from tied up, nonetheless. There are still too many unrevealed secrets here—things that Singh doesn’t choose to reveal—that baby steps seem to be the only way in which this juggernaut of a story can move on, which is both as rewarding and as frustrating at times.

four-stars

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini SinghAllegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling, #15
Published by Berkley on June 14th 2016
Pages: 478
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two-stars

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.
But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.
To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

Knowing that Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changelings series is so beloved by many readers – me included – makes this review doubly hard to write. To say that ‘Allegiance of Honour’ is a disappointment is in itself so incredibly difficult to do, because I’d hope this ensemble cast of a book would have been the crowning glory of the Psy-changeling series.

I remember the wonder that overcame me when I tore through ‘Slave to Sensation’, ‘Caressed by Ice’, ‘Kiss of Snow’ and several others which have long become my favourites, loving how this rich universe expanded and grew as Singh revealed an expansive vision of a near-future world torn and divided along lines that went beyond ethnicity or religion.

But maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.

Because what I’d expected of the close of this ‘season’ fell far short of my hopes. Instead, ‘Allegiance of Honor’s’ narrative was too scattered, too bloated and too unfocused as every single character flitted in and out of the huge mythos that Singh has built, as they each gave an update of what has been happening to them in the interim months or years. Not having read all of the books in the series, there were chunks of this story I didn’t understand nor could find myself interested in, which, needless to say, makes ‘Allegiance of Honor’ a book that isn’t a standalone, nor a story that is for everyone. While I loved every scene (as few as there were) with Hawke and Sienna and the wolves, everything else soon became fair game – pun unintended – when it came to filling the space of this huge story that didn’t really go anywhere but merely solidified the key players in the story, the key players in the next season of the series as well as what has already happened…ad nauseum.

Many of these characters’ happy lives after their books have been already filled in the space of my own imagination and even if it’s lovely to see the multiple HEAs come to fruition, perhaps this rather effusive and over-extended epilogue had gone on long enough.

two-stars

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Shards of Hope by Nalini SinghShards of Hope by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #14
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 2nd 2015
Pages: 483
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four-stars

Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.
And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what.
This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough—because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken…like Zaira.

The Psy-Changeling universe is expanding and this already-dense world’s expansion is never clearer than in ‘Shards of Hope’, the longest and possibly the most comprehensive sum-up of the leopard-wolf-arrow story arc in the post-Silence era. A dizzying array of characters from past books walk in and out of sections and chapters, but couched within this shift (and end of an era, perhaps?) is the story of Zaira and Aden, 2 other prominent Arrow soldiers who have, like shadows, passed through the pages of Nalini Singh’s earlier books.


Tortured and captured, Aden and Zaira find themselves beyond psychic help and in unfamiliar territory. Help comes unexpectedly from an isolated leopard changeling pack and a growing conspiracy intended to rattle the newfound (and uneasy) peace between the humans, changelings and the psys brings both of them–as well as the reader–into deeper contact with the water changelings and other characters who have until now, been on the periphery.

Zaira struck me as a feral changeling more than a stoic Arrow, but that only becomes apparent after the abolition of Silence which had, until then, kept her monstrous rage and her childhood memories at bay and tightly locked. She finds her own steadying pillar of strength in the unshakable Aden, and discovers the urgent need to leash her anger before she destroys him as well. Aden’s big heart for the Arrows and his infinite patience with Zaira however, steer them in a direction that only shows how extraordinary a leader he is.

Zaira and Aden find new allies and new enemies, navigating a post-silence world as uncertainly as many before them have, and it’s within this new dawn that their relationship is allowed to grow. Their coming together isn’t an explosive encounter; instead it’s a gentle transition borne of the years of knowledge that they were always somehow, already together.

The transitory phase and the obvious shift away from the leopard-wolf alliance have become Singh’s new focus, providing the foundation on which the next story-arc, or perhaps better thought of as Season 2 of the psy-changelings, will be built. I’m filled with mixed feelings throughout, because it’s akin to saying goodbye to familiar and beloved characters (especially Hawke, Sienna and the rest of the Laurens).

I can’t say that I’m not curious about BlackSea or the Falcons and loathe as I am to admit it, I’ve not been emotionally invested in the new changeling groups yet or been sufficiently hooked by the next season’s anticipated stories that Singh promises. Consequently, finishing ‘Shards of Hope’ isn’t exactly the satisfying end I’d hoped it could have been.

four-stars

Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh

Shield of Winter by Nalini SinghShield of Winter by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling, #13
Published by Berkley Hardcover on June 3rd 2014
Pages: 431
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five-stars

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.
For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…
Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…

Post-Silence, the Arrows need to find their own feet amidst shifting alliances and betrayals. Vasic’s story comes in the dawn of this new age, and perhaps rightfully so, for a man who has been waiting to die for a long time. It’s a relief to see that he finally finds something more in Ivy Jane, one of the many empaths in Psy-Net whose designation has been ignored and scrubbed out when the empaths are tasked to restore order in a rotten Net collapsing under the heavy weight of mental infection.

(What I really, really liked was the sex-talk between Judd and Vasic, done with such military precision and planning that made me laugh throughout. *I heart Judd for sharing his research file*)

By that same token, I’m starting to think of Lucas as a personality-less panther whose claws come out each time someone comes near his mate and child – understandable but a tiring rhetoric from a panther who introduced us to this wonderful world in Slave to Sensation and can do so much more than be the overly protective entity hovering over his family. Any wonder why Hawke – and how beautifully he handles his responsibilities as alpha – had me sunk in Kiss of Snow?

Apart from that, ‘Shield of Winter’ is so much more than a simple story about 2 people fumbling their way through intimacy – which it undoubtedly is, in a raw, beautifully awkward way that can only happen when neither party has the experience for it. It is also one that chronicles one of the most honest relationships – sans mind games and manipulating – that I’ve had the privilege of reading.

Nalini Singh’s world-building is rock solid at this point and the book reads like a penultimate swan song to the next one where I’m guessing things will finally settle into a denouement that will allow subsequent books in this universe to shift away from the Psy-changelings who have been the focus for the past 14 or so novels.

five-stars

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Tangle of Need by Nalini SinghTangle of Need by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #11
Published by Berkley on May 29th 2012
Pages: 422
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four-stars

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past—one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.
For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.
Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

I’d honestly say that I liked this book for the sheer number of Hawke and Sienna interactions than anything else (because damn, I just can’t get enough of them), though I also liked the insight that Nalini Singh provides on mating and bonding – and their necessity in facilitating a ‘true’ relationship using the example of poor Adria and Riaz. This had been my worst fears in Kiss of Snow and while I’m so happy that Hawke and Sienna got their HEA, I’m glad this was addressed in this book and answered in a way that did not make anything else other than a mating bond second best.

The Pure-psy /changeling war juggernaut rolls on in this particular book, although it doesn’t look like the animosity between Hawke, Sienna and Ming is coming to a head as yet.

four-stars

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow by Nalini SinghKiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #10
Published by Gollancz on May 31st 2011
Pages: 432
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five-stars

Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.
Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would’ve been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.
Then Sienna changes the rules and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other’s secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight…
A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna’s darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home…and the alpha who is its heartbeat…


Kiss of Snow has readily wound its way into my favourites list and it’s not often that I’m touched and excited by a book, much less a paranormal urban fantasy. The excruciating wait for Hawke’s and Sienna’s (9 books!) story obviously contributes towards the cathartic release that I felt for these 2 characters who so need their happy ever after, which Nalini Singh delivers on quite an epic scale in this extremely lengthy tale. I keenly felt Sienna’s pain just as I itched to clobber Hawke over his refusal to see her as an equal, yet I loved seeing how their relationship changed throughout the book.


It isn’t really necessary to finish every single book in the series; Kiss of Snow is so relationship-focused that I didn’t have too much trouble catching up in the greater Psy-changeling world. The tension between the changeling clans, the Psy and the fragment council comes to a head here and the last 50 pages were as breathtaking as any summer action blockbuster. Clearly the story isn’t over yet but I can now breathe easy seeing my favourite people settled in their domestic bliss – only that I can’t, because I’m still hung up on it days after finishing it.

five-stars