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Mine To Possess, by Nalini Singh

The fourth installment in the Psy/Changeling series, this story centers again on one of the sentinels of the DarkRiver pack, Clay, and brings back a ghost from his past—Talin, the human girl who once upon a time gave him unconditional love and trust.

This novel can be enjoyed on its own merits, as it has a self-contained plot and the world building holds its internal consistency in an excellent manner, but I definitely recommend starting this series at the beginning. There are just too many background threads set up in the overall story arc of the series for a reader to catch all the nuances and references if starting with this book.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Clay Bennett is a powerful Dark River sentinel, but he grew up in the slums with his human mother, never knowing his changeling father. As a young boy without the bonds of Pack, he tried to stifle his animal nature. He failed… and committed the most extreme act of violence, killing a man, and lost his best friend, Talin, in the bloody aftermath. Everything good in him died the day he was told that she, too, was dead.

Talin McKade barely survived a childhood drenched in bloodshed and terror. Now a new nightmare stalks her—the street children she works to protect are disappearing and turning up dead. Determined to keep them safe, she unlocks the darkest secret in her heart and returns to ask the help of the strongest man she knows…

Clay lost Talin once. He will not let her go again and hungers to possess her with a clawing need born of the leopard within. As they race to save the innocent, Clay and Talin must face the violent truths in their past… or lose everything that ever mattered.

The blurb is overly melodramatic in tone, if any one asks me (and whoever wrote it, really should have asked a reader—seriously) so I’ll try to rephrase it briefly:

With his father dead—either before his birth or when he was too young to remember—Clay lived with his mother in New York and without contact with any other changelings. Still a young child, Clay met three year old Talin, a human orphan living with abusive foster parents in the same run-down building as he and his mother. For the next five years they are each other’s best friend and refuge, the one thing that brings joy and peace to their lives, until Clay discovers Talin’s stepfather abusing her, and as a result he loses control of his leopard and kills the man.

Clay is sent to juvenile and Talin disappears in the system. Four years later, when Clay is released as an adult, he is told that Talin is dead. Fast forward another sixteen years. Talin is now in San Francisco, desperately needing Clay’s help to find missing disadvantaged children. She is also terminally ill and still coping with all the traumas of her childhood.

As I said above, the world building in this series is really, really good. It’s internally consistent but not stale. In fact, aside from the romance between the two main characters, each successive book highlights the shifts in the dynamics between the three different groups of people (called ‘races’ in the series): humans, changelings, and psy.

The Psy possess a wide variety of psychic skills in varying degrees and combinations, from the basic telepathy to telekinesis, foresight, psychometry, and more. Due to the nature of these skills, the Psy have implemented the Silence Protocol, an attempt to suppress emotion and its attendant dangers in the Psy population—i.e., no rage would equal no violence. Concerned with matters of finance and politics, the Psy are generally seen as the dominant race, to the point that the Psy Council is the de facto ruling force in the world.

Changelings, humans with the ability to shift into an animal form, operate in relatively smallish autonomous groups, with hierarchies within each group and between groups (dominant predatory changelings are also expected to lend a certain level of protection to weaker, non-predatory changelings living in the same general area, for example).

For a long time, humans have been considered by most Psy, and by a goodly number of changelings, as inferior—the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak. Lacking the special abilities of either of the other two ‘races’, humans have, by default, become the worker bees of general society.

However… Silence is only a little over a century old, and even though the different groups have maintained a definite distance for much longer than that, prior to its implementation interracial marriages were, if not the norm, at least frequent enough that many a Changeling can find one or more Psy somewhere in the family tree.

And so can humans.

There is also the little known fact that not all the Psy embraced Silence without misgivings. In fact, a small but still significant segment of the preSilence Psy chose to close themselves off from their own race—families, business, education, the PsyNet—rather than willingly surrender emotion.

As in the previous books, it is clear that the post-Silence Psy are the villains. However, it is clear that there are no knights in shining armor or one-dimensional lofty heroes anywhere. All the different factions have nuances, weaknesses, complexities, murky motivations, and shades of grey. In fact, the best parts of the book, for me, are those dealing with the political maneuvering between and within the three groups.

With all this said… Mine to Possess is my least favorite in the series so far, and that is due almost completely to Talin. I have been tempted to say that she is borderline TSTL, but that’s not quite it—I am having a hard time trying to pinpoint exactly what is it about her that bothers me. The closest I have come so far is to say that she’s inconsistently written.

Part of that can be attributed to the storyline—the abuse she suffered as a toddler and young child; her shock at Clay’s so very brutal killing of her abuser; her illness, and so on and so forth—but it’s more than that. We are told, repeatedly, that she’s deathly afraid of Clay. Then she gets in his face and snaps. Then she’s afraid again. Then she has a revelation. Then she’s afraid again. Then she has another revelation. Then she snaps. Then…

Um. What can I say? I found all that blow hot, blow cold thing she had going on a tad annoying, frankly.

Clay, on the other hand, I have liked since the first book, and he didn’t disappoint me in this one. He is both complex, as any real person is complex, but straightforward enough to understand and relate to. Yes, his childhood, deprived of Changeling input, has affected his adult life. Yes, definitely, he carries deep scars from what he perceives as his failure to protect Talin from abuse. And he most certainly is having a hard time accepting Talin’s excus… erm, reasoning to pretend to be dead for so many years. But his reactions are consistent throughout the novel and throughout the series.

Come to think of it, all the previous characters who make an appearance in this novel are consistent with how they have been written in all the books—the same where they are secondary characters/background fodder as when it’s their turn in the spotlight, so to speak.

This one gets 8 out of 10.

AL’s reviews Slave to Sensation, here; Visions of Heat, here; and Caressed by Ice, here. Karen does Slave to Sensation here, and Mine to Possess here.

You can buy Mine to Possess from Amazon.com here, and from Amazon UK here.

5 Comments »

  • Oh my gosh!!! Someone agrees with me! Thank you! As much as I love all of Nalini’s book, this one is my least favorite out of all of them because Tally had pissed me off quite a few times throughout. Great book and totally adds up to the wonderful running storyline without confusing the heck out of me.
    Great review. 😀

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  • Kay Webb Harrison
    August 10
    4:03 am

    Great review! I just re-read the four books in this series, so the details of this one are fairly fresh for me.

    Tally’s childhood experiences remind me of those of J. D. Robb’s Eve Dallas. Both characters had/have a lot of baggage to deal with. I liked Tally fairly well; I thought that her behavior was consistent for someone of her history whose brain was deteriorating through most of the book. Clay evolved wonderfully from someone on the edge of personal chaos to a well-balanced, happy member of his society.

    I am so looking forward to Hostage to Pleasure.

    Kay

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  • I love all of Nalini’s books. And I agree with you AL, her world building is solid and consistent and I like the definition of human, psy, and changeling. I liked this book however and I didn’t really have a problem with Tallin mostly because I loved Clay so much.

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  • I gotta admit, the second book hit me as my least fave. I just never really connected to that heroine. Talin didn’t bother me because I connected with her reactions. She’s a character who’s spent a lot of time in stasis, trying to rebuild a shattered sense of trust and self-worth without all the pieces. Then she returns to Clay and parts of her wake up that she’s completely unprepared to deal with.

    With him, her true self reasserts while fighting against what basically amounts to programming she had instilled in the formative age. She’s never been afraid of Clay, she was afraid he wouldn’t love her anymore because of what had happened to her (by both abusers and herself)–a child’s fear that lay in darkness all the years they were apart.

    I’m going to sound totally fan-girl, I admit, but it was nice not to have a heroine magically get over the emotional scars that sexual abuse creates just because she’s with the man she loves. It never fails to piss me off when that happens in books. It’s not about trust, sometimes. It can simply be reflex. If someone pokes your eye everyday for years, when a doctor comes to help, you’re still going to be afraid he’ll hurt you. And afraid what you could do to make him cruel.

    Just my two cents,
    Dee

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  • I agree with everything that Dee said about Talin. I could see how some readers might be annoyed with her fluctuating hot and cold behavior towards Clay, but for me it only added to the depth of emotional pain and confusion that she’s been in since she was physically and -in essence-emotionally abused as a young child.

    … all the previous characters who make an appearance in this novel are consistent with how they have been written in all the books…

    Isn’t that the truth? I find Nalini Singh to be one of the most consistent writers with both character development AND world building. That, and she sure knows how to write some of the most lovable alphas out there.

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