Posted in: AztecLady Reviews, Nalini Singh
Tags:Psy/Changeling, Slave to Sensation
I was a rather late comer to the wonder that is Ms Singh’s Psy/Changeling universe. By the time I jumped on the wagon, I had three most excellent books to read and a fourth just around the corner. Ah, the joys of discovering a great author with a long backlist!
Now, I’m in the throes of waiting (with no patience whatsoever) for the fifth installment, and have decided that if I am suffering, there’s no reason for those few people out there who haven’t read this series not to suffer with me. See how generous I am, spreading the addiction?
Without further ado, here’s the back cover blurb:
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”—the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…
Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that his ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion—and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities—or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation…
Granted, this blurb is not horrible, but, frankly, neither does it properly reflect the coolness that is this book.
The world building in this series is simply topnotch. After a barebones page and a half prologue, Ms Singh doesn’t overwhelm the readers with long sessions of info dumping or back story, relying instead on the characters’ actions and thoughts to unveil the cultural and political background of this alternative future.
Yes, this is a romance of the paranormal variety, but it is also a complex and well told story with an overarching conflict that involves humanity as a whole rather than only these two people.
In an alternate present just a few decades in the future, humanity has evolved into three separate groups, subspecies if you will. From the point of view of biology/genetics, there’s nothing in the way of the different groups of humans intermarrying. From the point of view of politics, economics, and culture, there’s pretty much no way the groups will mingle, let alone mix.
The familial structures of each group, their approaches to art, commerce, technology, and to each other, are all different, dictated by their strengths and their weaknesses.
There are humans, like you and me; there are changelings, who are both human and animal (and here, we are talking so many species of animals you really wouldn’t believe it—there are the ubiquitous big cats and wolves, but throughout the series there are also mentions of swans, eagles, deer, rats, and more, up to and including snakes; cool, yes?); and there are Psy, humans with incredible, and often incredibly powerful, psychic abilities. Telepathy, telekinesis, foresight, telemetry—you name it, they have it. What Psy do not have is emotion.
In theory, lacking emotion means less violence, and that would make the Psy the most pacific and least crime prone group of the three. In reality, the other human subspecies are slowly becoming aware of hushed up crimes which, in all likelihood, have been committed by Psy.
Both Lucas and Sasha are very well realized, complex and rounded while remaining true to the limitations of their respective groups. Ms Singh does a wonderful job of showcasing how they are attracted to each other despite ingrained cultural disapproval and preconceptions—much like any relationship between people from different ethnicities, cultural background, religion, what have you.
The dynamics within, and between, the different groups—such as the relationships within Lucas’ pack, and between different Changeling groups/packs, Sascha’s relationship with both her mother and the Psy Council, etc—are very interesting in their own right, as are the secondary characters whose interactions show these dynamics to the reader.
The obstacles to the full realization of Lucas and Sascha’s relationship are parallel to the development of the overarching plot that runs—at least so far—through the series. While the Psy are the default villains of the piece (that no emotion thing), and the Changelings the good guys, Ms Singh makes it clear that there’s much more there than meets the eye. From the very first pages, as the two main character interact ever closer, their preconceptions are challenged, and they are forced to reassess their beliefs about each other, and themselves.
The end to this first installment is completely satisfying on its own merits, while leaving the door open for more in the Psy/Changeling world. And before you know it, you are completely hooked.
Aren’t you lucky there are already four titles out? This one, then Visions of Heat, followed by Caressed by Ice, and the most recent, Mine to Possess. The fifth book, Hostage to Pleasure, comes out in September.
This one gets 8.75 out of 10 (see? I said I really liked it)
(K: I totally loved this book, Nalini Singh’s paranormals are just about the only ones I can read these days!) [You can read Karen's review of Slave to Sensation here]