Tomorrow is a red-letter day in my book. Tomorrow is the day I’ve been waiting for.
Tomorrow marks the release of Nalini Singh’s Heart of Obsidian, book twelve in her Psy-Changeling series.
With a lot of series, you need to read from the beginning to grasp the full story. I went about it backwards. My introduction was book ten, Kiss of Snow, the story of how Sienna Lauren, X-Psy, tamed the SnowDancer alpha, Hawke. I quickly went back and read the other nine, though not necessarily in order. I picked up book one, Slave to Sensation, then moved on to book two, then skipped to books four, five, and six, and again skipping to book nine. Over the last two years, I’ve managed to read all of them, and I’ve got my favorites.
The world of the Psy-Changelings is lush, detailed, and a slightly altered reality that could have been plausible. The Psy are a race with mental abilities, in constant need of biofeedback provided by the PsyNet to survive. To be cut from the Net is to die, literally. They’re telekinetic, foreseers, empathic, gifted with backsight. And they are Silent: when it became clear that the very gifts they were born with were driving them mad, a protocol was put into place to render them emotionless at a very young age. They don’t feel happiness, anger, sadness. They don’t laugh or cry or frown in confusion. If their conditioning slips, a fail-safe falls into place, a dissonance that causes pain, reminding them to coat their rouge emotions in cement and sink them.
Their opposites are the changelings. Hunting cats and wolves, of course, but also falcons, deer, rats, and even snakes. They love and fight with equal fervor and passion. Pack is family, and there is never any fear that one will be left out in the cold. Mates live first for each other, then for the pack, and if one half of a mated pair dies, the other is soon to follow, so strong is the bond between the two.
But don’t discount the humans. They haven’t played a big role in the series to date, being limited to the members of the Human Alliance and Max Shannon, a human cop married to a Justice Psy. Those that have appeared, though, made their mark, and proven to be as resilient as the changelings and as savvy and cunning as the Psy.
There are datapads and comms, hover-cars and airjets. But the trappings of their environment aren’t why I love this series as much as I do. No, it’s the characters.
I love that a diminutive, someone fragile Psy has the strength and power to not only dance with an alpha, she could decimate a population (Sienna of Kiss of Snow). There are fiercely strong, independent women who are looked up to and risen within the ranks of the packs (Mercy of Branded by Fire, Indigo of Play of Passion). Women who seem broken and bordering on madness, inside and out, turn out to have not just spines, but whole skeletons of steel (Faith of Visions of Heat, Katya of Blaze of Memory).
The men are often just as remarkable. A leopard who appears calm and together on the outside is inches away from going rogue (Clay of Mine to Possess). A former assassin learns he is capable of not only feeling, but loving someone so absolutely and completely it overcomes his reservations and the chokehold of control he has over his ability (Judd of Caressed by Ice). And a wolf who found his mate and never got to claim her finds the love and acceptance he so badly wants in another woman’s arms (Riaz of Tangle of Need).
I have my favorites, of course, the stories that resonated more than the others. As the first one I read, Kiss of Snow is near the top of the list, the hesitation and the ferocity of the courtship between Hawke and Sienna layered and nuanced, their fears real. The interplay between Talin and Clay in Mine to Possess, stemming from their shared childhood gives their relationship something none of the other mated pairs have, a bond true and strong and going back years, stretched and tarnished from their time apart but still holding. Riaz and Adria in Tangle of Need may not have the mating bond, but their devotion to one another, the possessive instinct, the absolute love and trust they place in one another, is just as potent as any other. The book that was at the top of my favorites, Play of Passion, had a pair of dominants learning to navigate a tricky hierarchy-Drew’s position places him outside it, and Indigo must learn to work with it, accept it, and accept that yes, he is more dominant than her. His playfulness and laid-back attitude made him my favorite hero.
Yeah. Notice the past tense there.
Heart of Obsidian has moved to the top. The story is everything I’d hoped for, full of a love so deep and violent and as strong as titanium it breaks your heart. The hero is a man who embraces the darkness he walks in, and the depth of his emotions for his love is staggering. The fan base waited anxiously for Hawke and Sienna’s story, building over nine long books. But once you read Obsidian, you’ll realize this was the book you were waiting for all along. This is the book that provides the answers and changes the landscape, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what Nalini Singh does next. The world of the Psys, changelings, and humans is twisting and becoming something else, something more, and who will survive and triumph is a story I’m looking forward to.
Look for my review of Heart of Obsidian tomorrow (release day!) over on Vampire Book Club.