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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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.