ISBN: 9780 575 10000 8
Hostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changling #5)
ISBN: 9780 575 10003 9
Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changling #10)
ISBN: 9780 575 10568 3
Reviewed by Helen Merrick
Nalini Singh’s best-selling Psy-Changling series is now up to its tenth book, with no sign of ending soon. Obviously Singh has legions of fans who eat up her successful formula of paramornal romance, spiced up by a bit of crime, suspense and a hefty dose of fairly explicit sex. The Psy-Changling books now have an established pattern, with each novel centred on the coming together of an unlikely couple who, despite challenges and obstacles end up in each others arms (and much more) by the finish. Along the way, each book further develops the broader plotline which occurs in an alternate world where alongside humans live two powerful races – the Psy and the Changlings. The Psy are, not surprisingly, a race with psy powers such as telepathy and telekensis, who dominate the world’s economic and political systems. They are also supposedly without emotion, a condition known as ‘Silence’ which was self-induced a century ago to prevent the increasing damage done by mentally unstable Psy. The Changlings are a very different race, part human and part animal who morph into their animal form at will and carry the heightened strength and senses of their animals while in human form. The key changling groups in the series are the Dark River Leopard pack, who effectively run San Fransisco, and the Snowdancer wolf pack, with whom they form an alliance as the threat from the Psy grows stronger.
The love story at the heart of each of the six books in the series I have read is always between a Changling and either a Psy or human, a pairing vial to the books’ success as romance. For when Changlings mate, it is for life. Once the various obstacles are overcome in these cross-species courtings, then no matter their former differences or antagonisms, they will be together, forever, connected through a telepathic-like web of connection that holds the pack together. As the series goes on, it inevitably becomes more thickly populated with happy-ever-after couples who smile fondly at each other and touch each other constantly. To allievate this potentially cloying atmosphere, in later books the stakes of the nascent war between the Psy and Changlings escalates.
In Mine to Possess, the fourth book, Clay Bennet, a damaged sentinel for Dark River encounters a former human friend he had thought was dead. The tortuous rebuilding of their friendship, and eventual romance, develops the mysterious Clay’s backstory, as well a revealing more of the complex machinations of the Psy Council as together Clay and Talin solve the mystery surrounding the kidnapping and murder of street kids. The fifth book, Hostage to Pleasure focuses on Dark River male Dorian Christensen, whose sister was tortured to death by a Psy killer. Unsurprisingly, Dorian does not take it well when he begins to be attracted to Ashaya Aleine, a Psy scientist we have met in previous books who is working on a secret Psy project whosee goal is the neutering and control of the other races. In this book we learn more about the two strange powers, dark and light, at work in the PsyNet, a mental Net of connection between all Psy, barring those who have defected from the net as they take on Changling partners.
Normally I dislike reading a series out of sequence, but to skip ahead to book 10 (the next book I had available) did not pose too much difficulty, given the world of the series is so well established. With this volume, Kiss of Snow, we revisit a Psy family who defected to the SnowDancer pack in an earlier book. One of the children, Sienna has since grown up and is confronted with the ever-increasing danger of her rare Cardinal X power which manifests as a lethal burst of energy with the potential to destroy everything in its path. Her mate-to-be is Hawke, Alpha leader of Snowdancer. Unusually this book also features a secondary romance between Sienna’s uncle and the Snowdancer healer. This book really ratchets up the level of political intrigue as it becomes obvious that all-out war with someone on the Psy council is imminent, as a fanatic pro-Silence group mobilise an army.
While I have certainly found all the books to be a good read, this is not really my preferred genre. There are only so many times I can take detailed descriptions of life-changing first kisses and the constant simmering of passion-fuelled sexual tension. This is not to dismiss the series, however. What Singh does, she does very well indeed. The plotting is fast and furious, the characters interesting and the world-building surprisingly engaging, rather than just a background for the romance. And while the heated sex for me tends to feel more and more like an interruption to the story, it is also very well done. What I most enjoy about Singh’s stories is the way she naturally weaves in a mix of multi-racial backgrounds for her characters, with rich and vivid descriptions of their multi-hued physicality. While it is obvious that I am not really the right kind of audience for her work, if supernatural romance with some pretty juicy sex is your thing, then its hard to go past Nalini Singh.