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EPIC JOINT REVIEW: Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Janine: When I emailed the DA loop to see if anyone wanted to review Tangle of Need with me, I had no idea what spark I ignited.  Jennie took me up on it, and the resulting review is epic in its length and scope.  Hope you guys enjoy it.

Jennie: This is apparently the 11th book in the Psy/Changeling series (at least according to Wikipedia, which as we all know, is never wrong). That surprised me a bit – I thought there’d been a lot of books in the series but not that many – maybe more like eight.

Janine: I actually knew it was book eleven!  Do I get a prize?

Jennie: You get to read book twelve when it comes out.

Janine: Yay! (Given the last scene of Tangle of Need, I’m jonesing for book twelve.)

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Jennie: I am perhaps not the best person to speak authoritatively about the series; though I’ve read all the books, they kind of blend together for me and I’m not actually that big of a fan of the world Singh has created in the series. If anything, I feel like I’ve become more and more ambivalent about certain aspects of it, an ambivalence that definitely affected my enjoyment of Tangle of Need.

Janine: I think I like them a lot better than you do, but I understand and on occasion even share your ambivalence.

Jennie: Yeah; I know that you often lose interest in series after a couple of books, so sticking it out with this series up through book eleven is an impressive feat!

Janine: My problem sticking with series mostly applies to series that follow the same main characters. What helps me follow the Psy/changeling series is that each book has a new hero and heroine.

Jennie: The hero and heroine of ToN are Riaz and Adria, both changeling wolves of the SnowDancer pack. I’m sure they’ve both appeared in the series before; I kind of remember Adria, but Riaz honestly doesn’t ring a bell.

Janine: I only remembered Riaz from Branded by Fire, Mercy and Riley’s book, but had forgotten that his romantic history was mentioned in Play of Passion (Drew and Indigo’s book) until I was reminded of it in Tangle of Need, so I can relate a little.

Jennie: A character glossary featuring more than 50 names is included in the beginning of the book, which gives you an idea of just how many people there are to keep track of. I’m guessing that some of the little details about tertiary characters – this one has a flirtation with that one, that sort of thing – is intended to give shading to the complex world Singh has created. I’m also guessing that it works for some readers on that level. For me, that many characters just makes me anxious – I feel like an Australian Shepherd trying to maintain control of my flock every time someone new pops up. Who is this? What am I supposed to know about this person? It’s information overload for me.

Janine: LOL re the shepherd metaphor.  But see, I’m one of the readers who gets a kick out of the cast of thousands.  I like the various dynamics, whether political, hierarchical, romantic, bromantic, rivalry, flirty, or what have you.  I actually remember most of them pretty easily, which to my mind is evidence that Singh is doing something right.

Jennie:  I think it’s evidence that you’re engaged, so Singh is obviously doing something right for you.

Janine: Exactly.

Jennie: The early pages of the book establish that Adria is hostile for Riaz and that Riaz doesn’t know why. It turns out that her hostility is because she’s attracted to him and resents it (and apparently she’s an 8th grader emotionally), so she lashes out.

Janine: I thought it was because she’d felt rejected in her earlier relationship with Martin and it was clear to her off the bat that Riaz was going to be emotionally unavailable (more rejection) yet due to her wolf-half, her physical need for him was so great that she was terrified that something really humiliating and painful would happen.  Justifiably so, I thought.  And her defense mechanism was to keep Riaz from guessing what was going on by going beyond prickly to porcupine mode.

 Jennie: Adria just got out of a bad relationship and she is not looking for a new partner; a lone wolf like Riaz seems like a particularly bad bet. Nonetheless, Riaz and Adria quickly get physical once he realizes her attraction to him and decides it’s mutual.

Riaz pulls back shortly afterward, telling Adria that he doesn’t like her, because apparently he’s also an emotional 8th grader.

Janine: I bought his behavior too.  It seemed to me that he was (A) reacting to Adria’s abrasiveness and (B) it was killing him to feel this attraction for her, for reasons having to do with feeling disloyal toward someone else (more on this below).

Jennie: For not much reason that I could figure, it’s then another 80 pages – a good 1/3 into the book – before Riaz and Adria give into their pounding lust for each other (lust we hear about at length throughout) and decide on a sort of friends-with-benefits arrangement. Such relationships aren’t uncommon among the pack – the changelings are highly physical and affection-seeking, as a rule. But besides Riaz’s unique position as a lone wolf (a status I never fully understood, since by the end Riaz did not seem to require more solitude than the other wolves), he has found his mate. (I feel like that statement should be accompanied by a “dun-Dun-DUN!!!” because it’s apparently really a Big Deal among the changelings.) The problem is that Riaz’s mate, a human named Lisette, is happily married and apparently semi-oblivious to how she and Riaz are (or were) destined for each other.

Janine: This was a pretty epic problem and although I was annoyed with Riaz’s treatment of Adria early on, I could feel for him because his physical response to Adria was a betrayal of the mate his wolf had chosen.

Jennie: I think I get that intellectually, but I just don’t feel it, because so often the wolves’ emotions (and Riaz’ in particular) feel over-the-top to me, and not in a good way.

Anyway, I found this kind of confusing – the nature of fated mates may be better explained in one of the previous books, in which case I’ve just forgotten the explanation. I understand the concept of animals who mate for life, but what we’re talking about here is something different -  a sort of master plan devised by God or the universe or whatever fating one person to be another’s mate. (I’m also not clear on whether it’s mostly just for changelings, since Lisette is human and I’m pretty sure some of the previous pairings have Psy/changeling mates – in fact, Hawke and Sienna have a mating bond, though I think it’s different from the sort of bond changelings have with each other. This is hard. Maybe I should stick to picture books.)

Janine: You’re cracking me up.  I don’t look at it as having to do with fate though.  My interpretation, based on everything I’ve read so far in this series, is that the changelings have an animal half that chooses or at least accepts a mate (out of more than one possible potential mate) and once that mating bond is complete, it cannot be undone.  If the mating bond is not yet complete (as in the case of Hawke, and though dealt with differently in this book, also in the case of Riaz) that isn’t exactly the same situation.

Jennie: Okay, that helps. But it still feels a little mystical to me, because Riaz’ mating bond with Lisette is presented as instantaneous and not particularly based on being attracted to her or liking her – he doesn’t even really know her at first (I don’t think he ever knows her that well). So maybe “fated” is too strong a word, but it seems analogous to love at first sight, which is not a trope that works well for me in general.

Once Adria realizes that Riaz has a mate, she is even warier of their deepening relationship, seeing nothing but heartache in her future. Riaz decides that he is really into Adria and increasingly pushes for a more serious relationship.

There is a lot going on in ToN. In addition to the romance between Adria and Riaz, we see a lot more of Hawke and Sienna’s relationship. We also get some time with Mercy and Riley; that was less intrusive but still not really necessary IMO, considering how many other storylines the book featured. Kaleb Krychek made a number of appearances; I’m as intrigued by Kaleb as anyone is (though I already fear his book will be a disappointment) but I felt like the passages featuring him were irritatingly opaque. Kaleb’s searching for some mysterious person about whom we’re given no other information. Since I figured there wouldn’t be any revelations about his quest in this book, it just felt like a tease to me. There were also a couple of appearances by two Arrows who my notes called “those two guys” but who you reminded me are Aden and Vasic; I’d like to see more of them. (Generally I am worn out with the changelings at this point and would really like to see more Psy.)

Janine: Because of the way our notes for this review came together, I comment on the side storylines further down, when our discussion of  Tangle of Need really gets rolling.  But first, a debate about the Psy/changeling series.

Jennie: My problems with this series can probably be broken down into a few semi-distinct categories at this point:

1)  I feel like the whole series has increasingly been about championing romanticism over rationalism (I’m using these terms in a broad sense). The changelings are driven by instinct and their own animal natures. They are portrayed by and large as successful, thriving, moral and loving, with few exceptions. It is true that they don’t always succumb to their (at times wildly over the top) emotions; they are capable of thought and discretion. But even when those emotions are ones we would consider negative – extreme possessiveness and rage, to give two examples - in the world Singh creates they are both inexorable and somehow not-so-secretly virtuous. The changeling male, for instance, is only so possessive and controlling because he loves his mate so much, and besides, he can’t really help it.

In contrast, the Psy are portrayed as powerful but fundamentally flawed as a race. We know that fractures, madness and violence led to Silence, which was probably overkill but seemed like a good idea at the time (and I can understand why it did, particularly to the already-given-to-cool-logic Psy). Silence broke up families and led to abuses, but in some ways it did seem to work for a number of decades. Nonetheless, the Psy featured as heroes and heroines of the series (and I would really like to get back to at least one of the pairing being non-changeling, given my issues with the changelings) all had to leave the PsyNet and break from Silence in order to find happiness and love. I may be missing something, but I’m not clear on how this addresses the problems that Silence was created to deal with.

I have fundamental issues with a world where one race is portrayed as good and another as bad. I’d love to see a little more balance.

Janine: More balance wouldn’t be unwelcome, but I actually feel that the series has gotten more balanced on this issue since it started.  In the first book, there were very few good Psy but now we’ve met several, and it is made clear in the characters’ discussions that many, many Psy aren’t evil.  And some of the ones who are have been infected by the DarkMind, I think, so it’s not always though any fault of their own.

Singh has chosen to portray celebration of emotion as preferable to suppression of emotion and that is an argument I can respect up to a point, because I do think that when we suppress our emotions, they often come out sideways in ugly ways.  I don’t think she’s wrong about that.

At the same time, I can also see your point that an excess of emotion or violent emotion can also be harmful and unstable, but Singh doesn’t portray it in that light.  I think that’s a very fair criticism.

For the most part, though, this admittedly problematic aspect of the books doesn’t chafe me to the same degree it seems to chafe you, and I think the reason why boils down to my acceptance that this author has a worldview that I don’t share.  I feel much the same about Linda Howard’s books.  Both authors write books that affirm male physical and sexual dominance, and justice almost always takes the form of (sometimes brutal) violence.  I am not on board with these things in real life, but I find their books compulsively readable and hugely entertaining so I’m willing to put my values on the backburner while I read.  Why?  Maybe someone else can say.  It’s a mystery to me.

Jennie: 2) I’m sick of how much emphasis is given to the men overpowering the women in this series; this is particularly a problem with the changelings, of course. Lip service is given to the women being strong (particularly the dominant ones, though there’s condescending business in this book about how intimidating the “maternals” can be), but it’s just a sham.  I noticed particularly in this book that mentions of Adria’s dominance were almost equally balanced with observations about her softer side, her empathy and warmth.  It can’t just be left at “Adria’s a dominant wolf” without appending “but she’s a woman too!, and totally girly!”

Janine: On this I agree completely.  In fact if it were up to me, I think I might banish the word “feminine” from romance novels altogether.  I can tell that a female character is in fact female without needing that adjective to reassure me of her femininity.

Jennie: The heroes are always shown dominating the heroines, just edging them out each time in all things, whether it be a footrace or a battle of wills. I hate romances that pit the h/h against each other over and over, and all the more when it’s just to show that the men are stronger and will always win. A couple of examples:

 “She was a tall woman, but he was taller.”

“His dominance was staggering, demanding her wolf’s absolute attention.”

Now, my issue is not with Riaz being taller than Adria – men are usually taller than women, generally speaking. But why make a point of it except to subtly (or not so subtly) convey that he is dominant over her? Similarly, I can’t imagine that sentence reading “Her dominance was staggering, demanding his wolf’s absolute attention.” They are both supposed to be dominants, but (and this is the case in the other books featuring dominant pairings) it’s made very clear who the alpha is.

Janine: Hmm.  I think I have to admit to having a split personality on these points, because while the heroes’ besting of the heroines can often irritate me, when it comes to the physical dominance stuff, I revel in it. There is enough defiance in the heroines that I get some kind of sexual kick from the whole he’s big and strong and bossy thing.  While most people probably wouldn’t label it so, I think it borders on light BDSM.

Jennie: 3)  I find the over-the-top possessiveness of heroes in this series less and less attractive; so often the language is the same as one would expect to find from an obsessed stalker. (Again, this is a problem with the changelings – it’s been so long since I’ve read a non-changeling hero that I’m not sure if it’s as much of an issue with them.) Example, during a confrontation between Hawke and Sienna:

Hackles still raised by the thought of her lunch date, he straightened to his full height, his mate’s hands sliding to his shoulders. ‘If that cub puts his hands anywhere near you, I don’t care if he is your friend, I’ll rip his arms off.’ He wasn’t joking—this soon after mating, the wolf was possessive beyond belief, the mating bond raw.

Oh, how romantic.

Janine: In at least some of the books (Mercy/Riley, Judd/Brenna, and I think there have been others), Singh’s male changelings have to learn to deal with the heroines’ need for freedom, and that helps me accept their borderline-stalkerish possessiveness when it comes out.  If Hawke actually ripped Kit’s arms off I would hate his guts, but the fact that part of him wants to and he has to try to rein that part of himself in actually makes him interesting to me, albeit in a non-PC way.

Jennie: I think what bothers me is that the author seems to want to have it both ways; she wouldn’t actually have Hawke attack Kit in such a way, but at the same time the reader is supposed to thrill in the possessiveness and the possibility that he would. Because, after all, in the scene, it’s not that Hawke is reining himself in; he’s simply set a boundary after which point he asserts that he will resort to this violence. And again there is the sense that because the mating bond is “raw” he simply would not be able to control himself.

I am just so tired of the extremity of wolf emotions (there’s a moment when Riaz experiences a “crucible of shattering pain” – I think it’s when the wolf den runs out of Cheerios one morning before he’s had breakfast). I think this goes back to point #1 – the animalistic nature of the heroes is championed over and over. I get the appeal of that, but a little goes a long way with me, and Singh’s heroes always go far past “a little.”

Janine: Some aspects of the series do feel unbalanced to me as well, and yet, I also think the tension these issues create in readers are part and parcel of what makes these books so readable.

Jennie:  You’re probably right about that.

4) I find the world Singh creates confusing at times. This is true sometimes with the changelings – like, the mating bond thing. At times it seems to work like a psychic tether, almost an internal walkie-talkie between the h/h, but I’m really not sure if I’m getting a clear picture of it. It’s even more of an issue with the Psy and specifically the PsyNet. I kind of have a vague understanding of how it works, but sometimes it feels like Singh gives overly physical descriptions to non-physical processes, and that leaves me confused and questioning my understanding. There are a couple of instances where Aden and Vasic are (psychically) rummaging around the Net in a way that brings to mind two people in an overpacked attic – one is described as leaving a “door” open for another.

I think the physicality of these descriptions causes problems for me because it makes me stop and try to picture the processes being described, and they don’t really make sense because it’s hard (for me, anyway) to understand the PsyNet as a physical entity. It makes more sense to me as a sort of computer hard drive that all of the Psy are linked to.

Janine: I’m pretty clear on the mating bond, but the PsyNet can be confusing to me as well.

Jennie: The larger problem is that I end up with the sense that Singh is making it up as she goes along, and creating and discarding rules as the suit the purposes of her plot. I may be the only reader who feels this way, but it’s bothered me for a while. (For instance, in previous books, removing Psy characters from the Net was presented as an insurmountable problem sure to result in their deaths. Somehow the difficulty always surmounted at the last minute by some confusing technical deus ex machina.)

Janine: I agree that some of the last minute salvations have felt contrived, but I don’t think that means Singh is making things up as she goes along!  My impressions on that are the reverse of yours. I think to keep track of this many characters and of subplots that take several books to build up, she has to be pre-planning her books.

Getting off the topic of the whole series and back to the subject Tangle of Need in particular, with regard to Riaz, I really loved the question this book poses: In a world where changelings typically mate only once, what do you do if you find your mate and s/he is happily married to someone else?  Can you move on?  Can you fall in love again?  And if you do, can you be true to your new lover, heart and soul?

Jennie: I don’t find the fated mate thing romantic; I never have. It ends up feeling like the h/h have much less of a choice, and like they are together simply due to biology. So it actually worked better for me to have Adria not be Riaz’s natural mate. At the same time, it did feel a little like she was second best. I think too much emphasis was given to how critical the mating bond was to dismiss it as unnecessary in their relationship.

Janine: Agreed – I liked that Adria wasn’t his mate, but it did make her feel like a second fiddle at times.  With Adria, the book also explored how emotional baggage from an earlier relationship can impact the current one. It was especially interesting to me that while Adria and Martin split up because she didn’t love him as much as he did her, she later ended up facing the same issue with Riaz, but from the other side of the equation – questioning whether Riaz could ever love her as much as she did him.

Jennie: Was that why Adria split with Martin? I thought it was a little of that and a little of his issues with her being a dominant.

Janine: Yes, and also the mating bond thing – Martin wanted to know he was first in her heart, but her inability to mate him prevented that. There was a nice irony in the way Adria found herself feeling the same way about Riaz as Martin had felt about her (though she handled it better than Martin did).

Jennie:  It seemed to me that the focus was placed on how badly Martin dealt with his resentments (though it also seemed like her family had never liked him, making me wonder if he’d always been a bit of a jerk or there is really a lot of prejudice in the changeling world against dominant female/non-dominant male pairings).

Janine: Agreed.  Based on how the more dominant female/less dominant male pairing was handled in Play of Passion (Drew/Indigo), I think that even if there isn’t such a prejudice in the changeling world, there seems to be one in the way the author has chosen to handle that issue.

Adria and Martin’s relationship was explained more in this book, and I liked that Martin, while not as strong as Adria needed him to be, turned out to be a more worthwhile person than he’d seemed based on what we heard about him in Play of Passion. Not only did it explain why Adria stayed in that relationship as long as she did and why the experience made her doubt her new relationship with Riaz, it also fleshed out Martin’s character and made him more interesting to read about.

Jennie: I did appreciate that he wasn’t demonized. It also read a bit to me like Singh was giving Adria some of her confidence back; she was at least wanted by someone even if she felt second-best with Riaz.

Janine: Yes. At times I found Riaz and Adria’s relationship a touch bittersweet, but I loved the way the conflict in that relationship was resolved.  I did not anticipate that resolution, and it really pleased me. It was touching and sentimental, but at the same time, it felt real.

Jennie: I did feel like, in the end, Riaz and Adria had a believable HEA. I mean, I didn’t believe the way they got there, necessarily (first the mating bond is everything, then the mating bond doesn’t matter that much), but I believed in them as a couple.

Janine: I bought into how they got there, but I won’t say more about why so as not to spoil that journey for readers.

Still, despite what I said above, at about the 60% mark the Adria/Riaz dynamic started feeling a little repetitive to me and I was able to put this book down.  I enjoyed Tangle of Need a lot but it wasn’t a late night bleary eyed reading experience like Kiss of Snow and  Archangel’s Blade. 

Jennie: I don’t know that any of her books have been that way for me, but ToN did feel like it took me a long time to read. Still, with all my criticisms, there remains something compelling about the series and the world Singh has created. I agree that the central romance felt repetitious – even with all of the other subplots going on and the fact that they took a while to get started, there just wasn’t enough conflict between Adria and Riaz to sustain a whole book.

Janine: As you mentioned above, there was a LOT of Hawke and Sienna in this book—I haven’t done a page comparison but I felt like I was reading almost as much about the two of them as about Riaz and Adria.  Much as I love Hawke and Sienna, I didn’t need quite so much of their newly mated bliss.  This was also the first book in which the age gap in their relationship wasn’t entirely enjoyable to me but actually bugged me a little. In addition, I felt that during the first quarter or so of the book, Hawke and Sienna overshadowed Riaz and Adria.

Jennie: Yes, as I said above, I felt the same way. The age difference has never bothered me, though – do you know why it started to bother you in this book when it hadn’t previously?

Janine: I think it had to do with a crack Hawke made about double dating with Sienna’s much younger friends.  He had no intention of following through but the image still got into my head and not only did that joke fall flat, it also made me realize Sienna could not bring him into her friends’ circle because of the choice she’d made.

On another topic, the Ghost only had a couple of scenes in this book, but I have to say, the first of them mesmerized me.  I cannot wait for more of him. I think I am unusual in that I really don’t care that much about Kaleb, only about the Ghost. After Kiss of Snow I was convinced Kaleb was the Ghost, but now I’m wondering if it could be Vasic.

Jennie: Kaleb seems too obvious at this point. Vasic is a good guess!

Janine: I am “on tenterhooks” as they say in RegencyLand, to find out, but I’m so there regardless of whether it’s Vasic or Kaleb.

Kaleb spent much of this book searching for someone and though I still don’t know who, I expect we’ll find out more in the next book.  I’m excited about where Kaleb’s story is heading, and also wondering, will Aden and Vasic get their own stories? I really hope so.  I’m ready for the hot (in a cold way) Psy men.

Jennie: Yes! Though, being more ambivalent about the series, I’m more concerned about how Kaleb might change in his book. I don’t want to see him become this macho caricature that isn’t really representative of a Psy male.

Janine: Judd rocks, as always.

Jennie: I agree! Judd is one of my favorite heroes from the series.

Janine: He’s my favorite character in the series hands down. I recently read Caressed by Ice  for the third time, and I came to the conclusion that though it’s a very good book, I actually find Judd even more interesting as a side character in the other books than he is in his own book.

Jennie: Why do you think that is?

Janine: His romance with Brenna makes Caressed by Ice one of my favorite books in the series, but somehow I feel that the most interesting aspect of his character has to do with his background in the Arrow squad and the way he broke silence despite risks that have exceeded those faced by the other Psy in the series. For these reasons, I find his relationship with the Arrow squad members, his helping the little boy with the TK-cell ability, and his bromance with the Ghost at least as fascinating as his love life. I think these little connections are a big part of what makes him so compelling.

On a completely different subject, there was a lot of inter-pack political stuff in this book, with three separate groups contacting Hawke about allying themselves with SnowDancer.  These developments felt rushed to me, given how long it took for SnowDancer and DarkRiver to gain each other’s trust and work together.  I also didn’t understand why, if SnowDancer and DarkRiver are now partnered, Lucas wasn’t involved in the meetings with the new groups seeking SnowDancer’s cooperation.  It didn’t ring true to me that Hawke could just make all these decisions unilaterally.

Jennie: That’s a good point, and one I hadn’t really thought of. I’d like to see more of the cats anyway, almost as much as I’d like to see more of the Psy. I’m just sick of wolves, dammit!

Janine: This is not quite the case with me.  My three favorite books in the series, Caressed by Ice (Brenna/Judd), Branded by Fire (Mercy/Riley) and Kiss of Snow (Sienna/Hawke) have all had wolf characters, and the last two Psy/human pairing books didn’t do that much for me, but even I am ready for a change of pace now.

Mercy and Riley got a small storyline in this book too, and (I’m trying to avoid spoilers) while I was happy with it at first, by the end I wasn’t sure what I thought of it.  Mercy is quite possibly my favorite heroine in the series for her strength and independence, and I just hope she stays the Mercy I’ve always loved.

Jennie: I think this ties into some of the issues I mentioned above. Why must the kickass heroines be so overtly softened? I don’t need to read about dominant, kickass heroines but if I do, I don’t want the author to pull her punches and soften the heroine in an attempt to make her more conventionally appealing to readers. Let her just be who she is.

Janine: Yes!!!  The women with most of the story in this book – Adria, Sienna and Mercy—all bowed to their love interests’ wishes at times.  I felt there were more instances of the women bowing to the men’s wishes than vice versa.  This bothered me because I wanted more gender equality.

Jennie: Preach.

Janine: The subplot dealing with the attempt to awaken Alice Eldridge from her coma dragged out (there sure were a lot of emails back and forth about waking her up), but I’ll be interested to see where that subplot goes in future books.

Jennie: I was interested because I find her interesting as a character, though there’s something terribly sad about her Rip Van Winkle existence. I’m curious to know more about her, too.

Janine: I’m betting on her being a heroine in a book or a novella.  I wonder if she’ll end up with one of the Arrows?  But this is all speculation on my part.

To sum up my feelings about Tangle of Need, while it had its flaws, there was much I appreciated about it.  It was a good book, but not among my big favorites in the series.  Grade:B-.

Jennie: I’d give it a B-/C+.

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has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

77 Comments

  1. Anachronist
    May 30, 2012 @ 14:32:39

    I loved your review but I tend to agree more with Jennie than with Janine.

  2. rachel
    May 30, 2012 @ 14:37:35

    I finished reading this at about 3am this morning so I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and think about all my reactions to it yet but I would definitely rate it higher probably than either of you have. I’m such a rabid fan of these books and I would put this one up with some of my favorites (Brenna/Judd, Hawke/Sienna) but I wonder if it’s because of all the secondary stuff that I love it rather than the Riaz/Adria romance. I actually liked the stuff with Hawke and Sienna and thought that the age difference was more about Sienna realizing what it means to be mated to an alpha rather than just someone who was older. I loved the stuff with the Ghost and all the new info about the Arrow squad and am really hoping the next book is about either Aden or Vasic. This is actually my only fear going forward that there are so many people I’d like to read books about and I can’t imagine Nalini will be able to get to all of them. A partial list includes: Kaleb, Aden, Vasic, the Ghost (I think it’s Vasic, too), Nell, Sam, Mariska, Lucy,Bowen, and the BlackSea leader (Minue, I think is her name).

  3. CG
    May 30, 2012 @ 14:48:23

    I guess my concern is that what if Adria finds her mate? Where would that leave Riaz? I don’t know if I can buy into their HEA if this possibility is just hanging over their future together. Is this potential issue addressed?

  4. Angela
    May 30, 2012 @ 14:59:15

    (Janine said)…I think I have to admit to having a split personality on these points, because while the heroes’ besting of the heroines can often irritate me, when it comes to the physical dominance stuff, I revel in it. There is enough defiance in the heroines that I get some kind of sexual kick from the whole he’s big and strong and bossy thing. While most people probably wouldn’t label it so, I think it borders on light BDSM.

    You know I never thought of it this way, but I agree with this. And it totally appeals to me in this way.

    You both mentioned that the physicality of the descriptions regarding non-physical things served to, at least, not lessen your confusion regarding them (ex. the PsyNet), but it’s this very descriptive process that helps me see it. Even though the PsyNet acts like a computer, I’ve always seen it as a much more convoluted, intricate and demanding thing. Something that’s nearly like a physical space – after all they can ‘see’ each other on the net, move towards one another, ‘feel’ psychic signatures.

    I started this book really not too invested in Adria and Riaz. I was intrigued by the idea of their conflict, but I was reading it for the world. And for the first 30% or so I felt like they were really overshadowed. When I read it the second time I think the feeling of them being overshadowed was at least partially me – because when I went back with full investment in their story (like I was with Hawke and Sienna for example) they didn’t feel nearly as deprived.

    By the end of the book I was totally invested in their relationship, and absolutely loved their HEA and how they got there.

    Like you both I appreciated that Martin wasn’t demonized, and there was a few more layers added to him. That actually helped me understand Adria even more.

    I loved all the side bits: Alice, Judd, Vasic/Aden, Kaleb, the Ghost, Henry etc. There was definitely a lot going on, but I did love it. I also felt a slight sense of confusion about Hawke agreeing to the deals with other changeling groups without talking to Lucas, but I was really intrigued by Kaleb’s decision regarding one of the packs in his territory.

    I still can’t give up my thought that Kaleb is the Ghost. I just can’t reconcile Vasic – who wants to die – to being the Ghost. I admit I had some thoughts about it after Kiss of Snow, but it never really worked for me then either (I’d have to go look for the quote on why).

    And that ending left me desperate for the next book!

    In the end I ended up grading higher too. I ended up giving it a B+ I think. It’s hard to compare to Kiss of Snow and Archangel’s Blade, but I still thought this was a really good, strong book.

  5. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:00:15

    “The heroes are always shown dominating the heroines, just edging them out each time in all things, whether it be a footrace or a battle of wills.”

    That’s something that’s always stood out to me throughout the series, and it started bugging me a few books back. Like the mention of female alphas…we’re told they exist, we know Mercy’s grandmother is one, and we know that the previous alpha of the Falcon’s was one–another grandmother, I might add–but of course, the next alpha is a man. And notice how there’s no young female alphas mentioned that might possibly get her own book, or who might even go toe-to-toe with Hawke and Lucas, like those two do all the time.

    I’ve never been a fan of the whole mated for life thing, but Nalini made it work for me up until Kiss of Snow. I’m still just so annoyed over that book and the fact that Hawke/Sienna seem to be all over ToN is another reason I’m hesitant to read it. And the age difference is a big factor for me. I remember reading those scenes with Sienna–who never had a childhood–and her friends, just being young adults and having a good time dancing and hanging out, and feeling so sad for her that that was essentially going to end because she was going to be and alpha’s mate. You’re right…there’s no way Hawke was ever going to be part of that circle.

  6. Angela
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:01:02

    Gah. My html got messed up. *sigh*

    @CG: It is addressed in the book in a discussion between Hawke and Riaz.

  7. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:08:10

    Ack, why no edit?!

    Something I forgot to mention about the heroes dominating the heroines all the time…the same exact thing happens with the non-changeling heroes, so the whole “they’re changelings they can’t help it” doesn’t work. It really jumped out at me in Bonds of Justice. Here we have this human hero but the language used to describe his feelings was pure changeling…all the talk of scents and how possessive he was. And while a big part of me can enjoy it as an almost BDSM thing, when it’s book after book after book, and when there’s all this talk about females being just as dominant and strong and that’s totally expected and accepted among changelings but we never see it really see it. Mercy and Indigo come close, but there are some cop outs with Riley being a bit more dominant and Drew’s dominance still growing so he might become more dominant than Indigo (why was that necessary?!).

  8. Readsalot81
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:24:36

    Well, I liked it quite a bit more than both of you.. but you guys bring up some excellent points. First off, the mate bond.. well it doesn’t do much for me period. The feeling of inevitability just kind of irks me and strikes me as an easy way to make the characters end up together. This didn’t happen in this book which I actually really really liked. The issue of making a choice to move on after you’ve “found” your mate strikes me as a more down to earth way of moving the story.. because I can quite realistically believe that happens with people in many ways. I enjoyed the bits with Aden, Vasic , and Kaleb Krychek. I’d really like a more in depth look at those characters.. but I’m holding back on the expectations. My expectations just about killed KOS for me. (Granted, it got better after the 2nd/3rd read.. but it was never ZOMG- so good for me)

    Ok.. paragraphs are my friend. So.. I’ll agree with the Alice Eldridge story angle. I got annoyed with the back & forth emails and discussions. Yeah, she’ll serve a purpose.. not sure that it did anything FOR me in regards to the story. It was laying the groundwork for books further along in the series.. but it took me out of the story in a weird way. I’ll echo Jennie’s sentiment of being sick of the wolves. LOL Bring on the Psy.. or Cats. Or BOTH . (Or even cat & wolf since mercy & riley’s story is my favorite)

  9. Sarah
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:26:23

    I’m so impressed with the quality of this review. Wow. I think what it comes down to for me was, even though I definitely see those issues you’ve raised (particularly the feminist/dominant issue) this is still one of the few romance series I am really hooked into and enjoy. Singh is a fabulous writer so I am more willing to overlook some of the flaws in the stories.

  10. Janine
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:37:26

    @Anachronist: I am really glad Jennie took me up on the joint review suggestion because I suspect there are many readers who share her feelings. I think that because the series is so popular, those voices are rarely heard.

    @rachel:

    I loved the stuff with the Ghost and all the new info about the Arrow squad and am really hoping the next book is about either Aden or Vasic. This is actually my only fear going forward that there are so many people I’d like to read books about and I can’t imagine Nalini will be able to get to all of them.

    The stuff with the Ghost and Judd, Aden and Vasic were my favorite bits. I loved them! I have the same fear since there are only two books left. I’d love for Aden and Vasic to each get their own book but I think Kaleb will get a book as well so I don’t see that happening. :(

    Nell, Sam, Mariska, Lucy,Bowen, and the BlackSea leader (Minue, I think is her name).

    Is Nell the leader of the maternal wolves? Remind me who Sam, Mariska and Lucy are. I don’t care that much about Bowen. I still haven’t forgiving him for attacking the changelings to get their attention in the beginning. The BlackSea leader is intriguing but I’m not fully invested in her yet.

    @CG: I think it is addressed but whether it will be addressed to the reader’s satisfaction will depend on the individual reader and what they are looking for. Personally, I loved the resolution of the mating bond conflict.

    @Angela: Re the PsyNet — it was Jennie who said the physicality of the descriptions confuses her. I also find the PsyNet confusing but I don’t know that the physicality of the descriptions is the reason why. I just have a hard time conceptualizing the PsyNet, and especially things like anchors, geographical locations, etc., within the location of the Net, which is a cerebral thing. I go along with what’s written most of the time but I can’t say I have a firm grasp on it.

    I also felt a slight sense of confusion about Hawke agreeing to the deals with other changeling groups without talking to Lucas

    For me it was more than a slight confusion. I felt it was a significant inconsistency because I recently reread some of the early books and in that part of the series, it took a long time for trust to be gained between the packs. That Hawke would just up and ally SnowDancer to three different groups so quickly didn’t fit the carefulness of the changelings. They are slow to trust and very careful of betrayals.

    Also, if Hawke is allied to Lucas and has to protect DarkRiver as well as SnowDancer, wouldn’t he have to discuss this with Lucas and make sure that Lucas didn’t feel SnowDancer was spreading itself too thin to protect DarkRiver adequately?

    Because Hawke’s decisions felt inconsistent, it made the alliances feel like contrived plot devices rather than natural developments, and that took away some of my enjoyment in that part of the story.

    In the end I ended up grading higher too. I ended up giving it a B+ I think. It’s hard to compare to Kiss of Snow and Archangel’s Blade, but I still thought this was a really good, strong book.

    I originally graded it a B, but I lowered my grade to a B- after I realized I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d want to reread this one. I mean, I’ll probably be rereading the sections pertaining to the Ghost and Judd, but I don’t know about the rest.

  11. Lisa J
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:37:27

    This is one of my favorite series and I haven’t hit overload yet. I will definitely get this one, but I think I’ll wait until it comes out in mass market, rather than paying hard cover prices.

  12. Janine
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:45:33

    @Las: I think Jennie would probably have a more satisfying reply to your concern about the gender issues. They are very much there in these books, and it’s not exactly that they don’t bother me — they do, but I consider them part of the price of admission to Singh’s books, if that makes sense.

    @Readsalot81:

    First off, the mate bond.. well it doesn’t do much for me period. The feeling of inevitability just kind of irks me and strikes me as an easy way to make the characters end up together. This didn’t happen in this book which I actually really really liked. The issue of making a choice to move on after you’ve “found” your mate strikes me as a more down to earth way of moving the story.. because I can quite realistically believe that happens with people in many ways. I enjoyed the bits with Aden, Vasic , and Kaleb Krychek. I’d really like a more in depth look at those characters.

    Agree with you on all of the above, and on Alice Eldridge too. I really need to reread Mercy and Riley’s book — it’s one of my favorites as well. Without mentioning spoilers, what did you think of their subplot in this book? Did you like it or did you feel it was too much?

    @Sarah: Glad you enjoyed the review! I totally understand how you feel about Singh, I’ve enjoyed so many of her books myself.

    @Lisa J: I hope you enjoy it when you get to it.

  13. Anu
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:52:55

    B- for me.

    I lean much more toward Jennie’s views of this series. The emotionalism – in language, in characterization, and writing style – is flat-out ridiculous and over-the-top. And, yes, the series pays a great deal of lip service to the *idea* of strong women, just as long as they’re not *too* strong. There isn’t really anything at stake in the constant power games Singh sets up among h/h because the hero always wins. I’m pretty tired of it and wish she would just let go of the pretense – it’s insulting at this point.

    Still, I think the series allows for a broader range of portrayals of femininity (Tamsyn, Mercy, etc) than masculinity. These men are really limited. No matter their personalities, it always always comes down to Dominance, Possession, and Growling About Both. This really struck me with Walker’s story in KOS. Previously, he’d been portrayed as something of a beta, but as soon as he got his own story, it was the same vocabulary and thought processes of alphas/dominant changelings. No matter what we’re *told* about the heroes (Clay as aloof and silent, Riaz as lone wolf, etc) when the story focuses on them, the men lose their specific personalities and blur into one Generic Singh Hero who is all about dominance and possession and his woman.

    That’s my main issue with the Riaz/Adria romance. I wasn’t invested in these characters at first, but their story pulled me in. There was a maturity and bittersweet quality to their relationship that was very appealing. I loved the idea of these two people healing each other and discovering a friendship along the way and something more besides. But the specificity of their particular romance was gone as soon as SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    -
    -

    Adria gives up Riaz. At that point Riaz goes into Generic Singh Hero Mode with cute courting rituals combined with flat demands that Adria believe in his devotion. But the same demands and seductions have been done to one degree or another by every changeling male. After Adria lets him go, it seemed like Riaz did not have one thought or action that differed from previous changeling heroes. Everything that was interesting about these this couple was lost.

    Other points of note for me:

    -I’m not a Hawke/Sienna fan, so I skimmed those parts of TON. Hell, I skimmed those parts of KOS. I wish there had been less of them in TON and more thoughtful fleshing out of Adria/Riaz’s conflict.

    -I have no problem with the lack of mating bond between Adria/Riaz in and of itself. I love them together (before they became a generic changeling couple). But I don’t think Riaz’s feelings at the beginning of the book were reconciled with his turning away at the end from his mating bond. All of the changeling books extol the virtues of the mating bond ad nauseam, yet now it’s okay to turn away from the most precious gift a changeling could ever receive? How does he get to “That was then, this is now”? And why should we intrinsically believe that Riaz’s choice of Adria over Lisette is the final word on their love, when we’ve been told repeatedly how powerful that bond is?

    So I guess I believe in Riaz/Adria because I want to, despite the problems Singh has introduced into their situation.

  14. Janine
    May 30, 2012 @ 15:57:58

    @Las: I missed this excellent comment earlier. Your point about Max in Bonds of Justice is well taken. I remember that Shuzluva she was frustrated by the Drew/Indigo thing in Play of Passion, but I thought Mercy and Riley were equally dominant in Branded by Fire. Weren’t they?

  15. rachel
    May 30, 2012 @ 16:33:45

    @Janine: There are only two more books??? Has Nalini said yet who the next series will be about? Sam was the wolf that Adria flirts with early on, Lucy is the younger wolf healer, and Mariska works with Brenna doing something with computers. I’ve also wanted Kit to get a book of his own as well.
    The submissive/dominant thing and the fated mates thing has never bothered me as much as it does others. In a straight up contemporary romance an alpha dominant hero makes me BANANAS because it seems so divorced from reality but in a world populated by animal people and people connected to a universal consciousness I willingly suspend my disbelief.

  16. rachel
    May 30, 2012 @ 16:50:05

    Also, I would agree her heroes tend to be alpha types but I think that the genius of her writing is that she’s able to create different varieties of the alpha type. I never confuse her characters the way I do with some other PNR and urban fantasy series. Drew, Judd, Max, Dev, Hawke, Lucas, Riley all have really distinct personalities despite sharing many alpha characteristics. The same can be said of her female characters: Adria, Indigo and Mercy are all dominant females but I think Nalini does a great job of showing how their backgrounds, relationships (romantic and family) have shaped their personalities. My only (very small) gripe is that I hope she doesn’t make any more of her heroines red-haired because she has at least three of them now.

    -I also just realized that I called her Nalini twice now like we are friends rather than just an author that I’m a huge fan of. She is seriously one of the only people whose book I stay up until midnight just so that I can immediately download it onto my Kindle the second it’s released.

  17. Lisa J
    May 30, 2012 @ 16:58:35

    @rachel: I have to agree with everything you said. This is one of my favorite series and I don’t mind the alpha males in it. They are all distinct and their personalities work for me.

  18. Readsalot81
    May 30, 2012 @ 17:02:55

    @ Janine That’s a really good question. :) I will say, my first immediate thought was that she did that to justify sticking them in the story in the first place. My reaction was that of “hmm.. well.. Ok then.” But I really love Mercy and Riley.. so maybe the working of that particular storyline could be a good thing.

  19. Jennie
    May 30, 2012 @ 17:22:46

    @Sarah: I think if you like it, you like it – there are definitely series (and books) that work for me in spite of issues that I feel like I *should* have with them.

    I’ve become increasingly militant on alpha males in romance. I am not saying that one couldn’t be written in such a way that it’d work for me, but in general I find it a turn-off.

  20. Jennie
    May 30, 2012 @ 17:35:01

    @Las: I suspected that was the case – that the human males in the series were just as alpha – but I honestly don’t remember those books that well. A lot of readers seem to like the dynamic – it’s not that I don’t understand why. Maybe I’d like it more if it was a little less…obvious? Maybe I’m just annoyed that I find the books compelling enough that I keep reading them even when they bug me.

  21. Jennie
    May 30, 2012 @ 17:38:40

    @Readsalot81: I actually didn’t mind the Alice Eldridge storyline because it wasn’t a huge part of the book and I do find her intriguing. I think I felt that way about Kaleb’s mysterious search though – I am intrigued by Kaleb but we didn’t really learn ANYTHING about who he was searching for, did we? Or why? It was all just teaser and I had a feeling that it would be when I was reading it, so it annoyed me.

  22. Jennie
    May 30, 2012 @ 17:44:42

    @Anu: I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you said, but especially this:

    No matter what we’re *told* about the heroes (Clay as aloof and silent, Riaz as lone wolf, etc) when the story focuses on them, the men lose their specific personalities and blur into one Generic Singh Hero who is all about dominance and possession and his woman.

    The heroes really don’t feel distinct to me, because so much emphasis comes to be placed on their possessiveness and emotional intensity. It blocks out all of their other characteristics.

  23. Janine
    May 30, 2012 @ 18:14:48

    @Anu:

    SPOILER
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    I was able to buy into Riaz’s decision regarding the mating bond better than you did, I think, but like you, I felt that the way the mating bond had been approached in all the previous books worked against that. I was torn between liking the bittersweetness of their story and at times feeling that Adria was second best in Riaz’s heart. Still, a lot of what I appreciated in the Riaz/Adria storyline was that the mating bond was ultimately presented as equal to, but no more than, the love that we human beings are capable of feeling for our spouses and partners.
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    END OF SPOILER

    @rachel: Yes, someone on Twitter, I wish I could remember who, said she’d interviewed Singh and was told the series would have thirteen books total, though there might be some other books (Stand alones or perhaps a new series? I don’t recall anymore) set in the Psy/Changeling world.

    @Readsalot81: At first I was glad, and then as more information was revealed, I wasn’t so happy anymore. Like I said to Jennie, I don’t want Mercy to lose her strength and independence, and I really hope that doesn’t happen.

  24. rachel
    May 30, 2012 @ 18:33:17

    I have never posted this much on DA but clearly these books bring out the chatty side of my nature. On Nalini Singh’s blog there is a GREAT comment in the spoiler section about Kaleb and the possible identity of his mysterious ‘her’. I’m pretty convinced the Ghost is Vasic because Kaleb seems to have romantic feelings for someone and the Ghost seems so be devoid of emotion.
    Spoiler?…

    The comment suggest that Faith Nightstar’s missing cousin Sahara is the ‘her’ that Kaleb is searching for which seems like a really good guess to me based on what info there is about F-psys and I think there was something in ToN suggesting that Kaleb is using Anthony for an unknown reason.

    Okay, that is seriously enough from me for now. Thanks so much Janine and Jennie for your joint review, I really enjoyed reading what other people thought about ToN.

  25. Anu
    May 30, 2012 @ 18:39:50

    @Jennie:

    The heroes really don’t feel distinct to me, because so much emphasis comes to be placed on their possessiveness and emotional intensity. It blocks out all of their other characteristics.

    YES. At this point in the series, Singh should trust that we understand the nature of predatory changelings instead of repeating those descriptions through every book. Spend those words on other aspects of the heroes’ and heroines’ natures that might provide fresh new points of depth and conflict.

    Also, in thinking about dominance as portrayed by female changelings. I think Singh is confusing assertiveness with dominance. If dominance is about bending others to your will, then where do Singh’s heroines ever do that – as opposed to simply making sure that their voices are heard and wishes are considered?

    I may be wrong about this, but does anyone recall an instance of Adria expressing dominance? Against Riaz, against other soldiers? I do remember when she’d declare what she wants and refuse to give in (immediately, anyway) to someone else’s demands. But that’s not dominance as defined in Singh’s world, not as expressed by changeling males who are the default in this arena.

    What about Mercy or Indigo, the two other overtly dominant females? I remember them expressing dominance in physical fights, but what other ways? Actually, I could see Nikita as a dominant.

    It seems to me that in Singh’s world, dominant men are dominant, but dominant women are simply assertive – and their very acts of assertiveness are deemed as attempts to dominate. H/H power dynamics in the Psy/changeling series are fundamentally within the conventions of alpha romances, but she tries to elevate them to something bigger.

    Hey, I’m happy to have assertive women, and I’m glad Singh gives them their due. But dominant females as presented in Singh’s world are a sham.

  26. Anu
    May 30, 2012 @ 19:18:14

    @Janine:

    I was torn between liking the bittersweetness of their story and at times feeling that Adria was second best in Riaz’s heart.

    I actually never thought that Riaz saw her as second-best, although I understand completely why Adria did. I saw their relationship as a healing (and equal) exchange – each was the other’s way of putting the past heartache to rest, regardless of the nature of that heartache. For much of the relationship, Riaz couldn’t see/wasn’t ready to see what Adria was to him, but that I saw more as a matter of time. It was only six months before TON that he’d found Lisette, after all. I believed that Riaz would come to grips with his feelings for Adria and reconcile what he thought he’d wanted with what was right in front of him.

    At one point, Riaz thinks to himself that Adria is not the one who makes his soul sing, but that she gives him other things of value. I eagerly anticipated how delicious it would be to watch him realize how untrue that was.

    Yes, that happened to the extent that he decided to go all-in with Adria in Venice. But I still thought that was a rich vein that wasn’t mined as much as it could’ve been. In the final quarter of the story, that element was dropped in favor of Singh’s one-note standbys – growled declarations of devotion and possession coupled with cute seductions that the Pack can wink and grin at. These felt like lazy go-to’s, easier to do than the actuall work of figuring out how to get Riaz from point A to Z. That’s what I mean about dropping specificity of character in favor of generic alpha characterization.

    Still, a lot of what I appreciated in the Riaz/Adria storyline was that the mating bond was ultimately presented as equal to, but no more than, the love that we human beings are capable of feeling for our spouses and partners.

    I have no issue at all with Riaz/Adria non-bonded pairing, and as I said previously, I totally buy into it. I just think it 1) could’ve been executed better on its own terms, 2) the actual execution was at the expense of worldbuilding.

    Also, small clarification: The equal value of non-bonded love was established with Bonds of Justice (psy/human pairing).

  27. Kristal
    May 30, 2012 @ 19:45:00

    This is from a USA Today interview:

    Pamela: How many more books do you have planned in the series?

    Nalini: Because of my writing style, I’ve never had a set number of books planned. I’ll continue the series so long as there are stories to tell in this world — and it is such a complex, fascinating world, filled with characters I adore, that it’ll probably be for a while!

    After I complete what I see as the main series arc, I’d like to do some tangent books about characters or parts of the world we might not have had a chance to explore yet. I hope readers will enjoy going off on these tangents with me — though I should mention that because of the way the series is structured, characters we already know and love won’t simply disappear. I’m way to nosey for that — I want to know what they’re up to!

    (http://books.usatoday.com/happyeverafter/post/2012-05-28/nalini-singh-interview-tangle-of-need/702953/1)

    I haven’t been able to read this yet, but my understanding of the mating bond has always been that it requires an acceptance from both partners. There’s been a big deal made of that. That’s not what it’s sounding like from this review and the comments. If there is a mating bond between Riaz and and some oblivious woman, I’ll have a hard time rolling with it.

    I’m reminded of an old Jayne Ann Krentz novel – Shield’s Lady. The male-only Shields can only reproduce with a woman who is psychically compatible. They can recognize such women on sight, and will immediately marry them, as it is a matter of species survival, but it is made clear that this bond doesn’t guarantee a happy relationship. The hero’s friend admits he was relieved when his Shieldmate died, and is now in a non-bonded relationship in which he can be happy.

  28. Janine
    May 30, 2012 @ 19:53:32

    @Anu: I deleted your comment to Jennie as requested, and edited the “please delete” out of the duplicate so that they wouldn’t both be deleted.

    @Anu:

    BIG SPOILERS
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    Yes, that happened to the extent that he decided to go all-in with Adria in Venice. But I still thought that was a rich vein that wasn’t mined as much as it could’ve been. In the final quarter of the story, that element was dropped in favor of Singh’s one-note standbys – growled declarations of devotion and possession coupled with cute seductions that the Pack can wink and grin at. These felt like lazy go-to’s, easier to do than the actuall work of figuring out how to get Riaz from point A to Z. That’s what I mean about dropping specificity of character in favor of generic alpha characterization.

    I don’t agree with you on that. I enjoyed the courtship section of the book, and the little things Riaz did for Adria, such as making carvings for her. I’m more of a gesture person than a words person so that spoke to me. And I loved the things he said to her in the next-to-last scene with the elderly couple.

    The equal value of non-bonded love was established with Bonds of Justice (psy/human pairing).

    Perhaps so (there was also Blaze of Memory, even earlier) but I think it was brave of Singh to situate such a story within a changeling pack and play it out with changeling characters. In Bonds of Justice readers could not expect a mating bond to snap into place at the end of the story; here they could (especially after Hawke and Sienna’s story), so she took a real risk by defying reader expectations and having something different happen.
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    END OF BIG SPOILERS

  29. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:02:37

    @Janine: They pretty much were equal in dominance for all intents and purposes, but it was mentioned a couple of times that Riley was just a tiny bit more dominant, not enough to effect the balance of their relationship, but enough that it was taken for granted that when they mated Mercy would be the one to lose her bond to Dark River.

    It’s kind of unfair for me to lump them in with the rest of the “males are always more dominant” group, since that dynamic really didn’t factor in Mercy and Riley’s relationship. (The one scene that made them my favorite was one where they were arguing about Riley not trusting her around the sentinels from her grandmother’s pack, and he had the realization that if he didn’t control himself he would lose her. It was wonderful, because I was sure that he was right…Mercy would absolutely tell him to fuck off forever–and mean it–if he couldn’t accept the woman she was. ) But since Nalini made it a point to mention Riley’s dominance several times, I figure they’re part of the pattern.

    @Jennie: It’s not even that I dislike the whole alpha-male thing, really. But when it’s the same alpha male trope, played out in pretty much the exact same way, in book after a book in the same series, it stand out in a really bad way to me. While I was “meh” on the couple, I remember Max from Bonds of Justice vividly for that reason…he’s not a changeling, and yet the way his feelings were described, the way he thought, the way he acted, it was pure changeling, and it made that couple pretty much interchangeable with most of the others. I would have been less bothered if he actually were changeling.

    Thinking about it a bit more, though, I have to say most of the couples in the series sort of blend. Mercy/Riley and Ashaya/Dorian are the clear standouts for me. Brenna/Judd are pretty great, too. I like Sasha/Lucas, but I think that might be more of a nostalgia thing, since they were the first–Slave to Sensation really suffers when compared to subsequent books. Every other relationship just feels like filler. For me, Nalini’s strength lies in plotting (and great sex scenes!), and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.

  30. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:12:25

    @Anu:

    What about Mercy or Indigo, the two other overtly dominant females? I remember them expressing dominance in physical fights, but what other ways? Actually, I could see Nikita as a dominant.

    Oh, you are so right about Nikita. That explains why I love her so much (and why I’ll be really upset if Nalini softens her too much).

    You know, the only time I can think of Indigo expressing dominance was when she was talking to that teen, when he asked her a personal question. But not a single instance where a fellow adult dominant–male or female–backed down because Mercy or Indigo’s dominance overruled theirs, something we see all the time with the male dominants. Hell, the way Riley’s described, he’s practically equally dominant to Hawke–actually capable of beating him in a fight, and yet Indigo is explicitly described as being less dominant than Hawke, with a line about how her wolf would be confused if she were to ever outrun Hawke in a race.

  31. Diana
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:34:30

    Great joint review. :D I feel like I’m going to skip this book, though. The whole mating bond issues just seem wildly inconsistent with the world building and previous info on the mating bonds. We’re told frequently that mating is A BIG DEAL, bigger than marriage, and that people are so into their own mating bonds that they frequently die when their mates die, that’s how strong this whole deal is. But yet, just kidding bros, not really? This makes it seem like the mating bond is less a real, organic thing and just…plot specific, designed to create drama and roadblocks as the story calls for it.

    re: generic Alpha heroes. I agree this seems more problematic as the series goes on. Even the human and Psy heroes suffer from a wild excess of Alpha-ness, that often seems disproportionate to their earlier characterizations. I remember in Max’s book, Bonds of Justice, he was crazy possessive and needy…when he had been previously shown to be a pretty chill and easygoing guy. The Psy-Changeling world is one I find interesting, but ultimately, it’s limiting — the same scenarios and pairings are presented over and over again, very repetitive (like the review said). It would be interesting if Singh would explore the different issues that her world building presents — like pairing a dominant female with a weaker male — rather than just molding everyone into the tried and true romantic stereotypes, the Alpha guy and his (slightly less competent in every way) female mate.

    That said, I always do end up enjoying Singh’s work. Like Janine, I find these books ridiculously readable, despite all of the issues and problems I have with them. :)

  32. cbackson
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:43:49

    You know, this series is perfectly disposable to me. I agree that the rules that govern the world seem to shift over time, and I find that the characters run together. Only a few stand out for me (Judd, frex). What’s strange is that I love, love, love Singh’s Archangel books – I think they’re exquisitely conceptualizer, written, and characterized. So it’s strange to me that I find these so meh.

    It’s kind of like Meljean Brook’s Guardian books – they’re fine, and I’ll always read them (and some books in the series are really, really great), but in general they’re a step below her Iron Seas books.

  33. Kate
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:49:10

    Wow what a thoughtful (epic!) review and discussion thread!

    Your drawing out the dominance/possessiveness of male characters over strong female characters gives me a chance to voice my biggest problem with the series, and that’s the use of the label “brat” given by males to any female character whose dared speak an opinion that contradicted the male’s. Thankfully, this is verbal brow-beating of central female characters has all but disappeared in the series. In KoS, Sienna shuts Hawke down when he tries that one on her, and I actually cheered. But, yeah, it was a problem for me in some of the eariler books.

    Having said that, I am a fan of this series. It compels me even with some of the issues others have mentioned.

  34. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 20:53:51

    I feel completely differently about the mating issue. I think that Nalini changed the narrative so that it’s a much bigger deal now than it was in the beginning of the series. Not that it wasn’t always a big deal, but before it was treated like a wonderful bonus. It wasn’t a rare occurrence, but it wasn’t all that common, either. It was well established that non-mated pairs had life-long fulfilling relationships, and those relationships weren’t seen as less. That’s why I disliked Hawke/Sienna so much. Now to be honest, those two never stood a chance with me for a whole bunch of reasons, but the fact that 95% of their interactions in KoS was nothing but emo angst over their inability to mate when we all knew they were going to end up mated pretty much sealed the deal. There was no reason for either of them to be so upset about the lack of mating (especially since Hawke’s “mate” was five years old when she died!).

  35. Brie
    May 30, 2012 @ 21:11:09

    @rachel: I’m about to act like a fangirl on steroids, ready?

    OMG!!! O.O I’ve had that theory for ages! He’s so looking for Sahara Nightstar. And I do think he’s the Ghost because there’s one scene in either KoS or PoP (can’t remember which) where Judd asks the Ghost if he wishes to see everyone destroyed, if he doesn’t care about anyone, and the Ghost says that there’s one person he wants to protect. So the Ghost does have feelings for someone, just like Kaleb does. Conclusion: they are the same person. (My powers of deduction are amazing and so logical!) That. Is. All.

    I’m back to normal now.

  36. Maili
    May 30, 2012 @ 21:30:12

    @Anu:

    These men are really limited. No matter their personalities, it always always comes down to Dominance, Possession, and Growling About Both.

    This makes me laugh so much. Perfectly put. This is one of main reasons why I didn’t read more than the first two of this series. This as well as some issues that Jennie’s already addressed in the review above. In honesty, I gave up as soon as I learnt:
    a) the mated fate thing is a Very Big Deal in this world-building. It’s one of my least favourite tropes.
    b) that the series will be long. I’m not committed enough to tolerate more than a three-book series, or six if all pieces of an universe fit well for me (and when sequel baits aren’t so blatantly obvious)
    c) I’ll probably get beaten up for this, but the first two I read reminded me a lot of Feehan’s Dark/Carpathian series. Same kind of relationship dynamics, same tropes, same kind of world-building and same repetitiveness.
    All that said, it’s very easy to see why so many get sucked into this series. I also quite liked Singh’s writing voice so I’m happy to wait for the day she’ll move away from this universe to something else.

  37. Maili
    May 30, 2012 @ 21:39:55

    @Las:

    I think that Nalini changed the narrative so that it’s a much bigger deal now than it was in the beginning of the series. Not that it wasn’t always a big deal, but before it was treated like a wonderful bonus. It wasn’t a rare occurrence, but it wasn’t all that common, either.

    I didn’t get that impression when I read the first two. Admittedly, I have fuzzy memories now, but the impression seems strong enough for me to believe the trope was very much part of this universe. Perhaps it’s a question of aversion on my part? As in, reacting to a mere mention the way I’d react to a wild-eyed foaming-at-mouth monster heading my way? Either way, if the trope becomes a bigger deal later in the series, then I’m relieved I signed off early.

  38. Las
    May 30, 2012 @ 21:54:15

    @Maili: Mating has definitely always been a big part of the Changeling world, but there was more of an out earlier in the series. I remember a character mentioning that many people formed long-term relationships after their mates dies for example (and those pairing were considered just as important as mating), and now if a someone dies, their mate dies soon after. Hell, a mate can often prevent their mate from dieing by sending them their life force or something threw the mating bond. If a person didn’t find his/her mate, then they’d eventually meet and fall in love the old fashioned way. One of the characters had parents who weren’t mated, and now unless a couple if fully mated there’s no chance of conceiving. Not mating was a perfectly normal thing before, and now it’s so important that a man refuses to form long-term relationships because his mate died in childhood. So yes, I’d say mating has become a lot more important later in the series.

    I feel the same you do about the whole mating thing. I have no idea how Nalini made me okay with it for so long.

  39. Anna Cowan
    May 30, 2012 @ 22:01:34

    “Her dominance was staggering, demanding his wolf’s absolute attention.” – I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK.

  40. Anu
    May 30, 2012 @ 22:10:54

    @Janine:

    Thanks for fixing my posts!

    I enjoyed the courtship section of the book, and the little things Riaz did for Adria, such as making carvings for her. I’m more of a gesture person than a words person so that spoke to me.

    Does it strike you as a matter of show v. tell? To me, it looks like shortcuts chosen in favor of deeper characterization. I do like that scene at the Golden Gate though.

    @Las:

    Oh, you are so right about Nikita. That explains why I love her so much (and why I’ll be really upset if Nalini softens her too much).

    My favorite Nikita scene is in Bonds of Justice (just skimmed through today). There’s a hit out on Nikita’s crew and Sascha might be targeted. Nikita takes out the assassin and then calmly calls Sascha to ask whether she’d received some contracts that Nikita had sent over. Singh thankfully doesn’t spell it out, but right there in a couple of lines, you get great insight into who Nikita is and how she works.

    Mercy/Riley and Ashaya/Dorian are the clear standouts for me. Brenna/Judd are pretty great, too.

    Mercy/Riley are my favorite (followed by Clay/Tally). As much as I’ve criticized the series in this thread, I have to say Mercy is one of the best romance heroines I have ever read. She is completely comfortable in herself, has nothing to prove to anybody, including Riley, and she knows it – she’s not out there being fiesty or spirited, working out hurts or insecurities, etc. She never questions who she is or what she has to offer. That’s incredibly rare in a romance heroine (I daresay, female characters in general). I lean towards darker h/h myself, but I totally love her for that uncomplicated and calmly assertive confidence. And I love her and Riley together.

    Nalini’s strength lies in plotting (and great sex scenes!), and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.

    Hm, do you mean the larger plots related to the world? I agree that that’s where Singh’s strength lies. I’m fascinated by her world and want to see more of it. I’m just constantly disappointed by how weak the h/h and their stories are – which is a problem because this is ultimately supposed to be a romance series.

    Also, Las, I love everything you’ve said in this thread. Especially re: Hawke/Sienna – PREACH IT.

  41. MandyM
    May 30, 2012 @ 23:22:21

    This is the first time I’ve read a joint review and I LOVED it! I really felt like I was in the middle of your conversation and wanted to interrupt and put my ten cents worth in too. All great points. This is the first book where I’ve been really aware of Vasic and yes, he could be the ghost. That would be very interesting. I’m also ambivalent about Kaleb’s book. Often when a character has a huge build-up, the story doesn’t quite reach the heights you expect. But I still think Singh did a fab job pulling all these characters and subplots together to make a gripping novel. It’s a far cry from her Harlequinn style in the first book, Slave to Sensation. I think she has really grown with her craft.

  42. Leela
    May 30, 2012 @ 23:47:37

    The alpha-non-alpha bonding pairs bothered me slightly when they were in the foreground, but it was a background pair that smacked me in the face. I’m not sure now, but I think it was Mercy’s aunt, maybe, who was the reason Mercy was so leery about pairing up. The one time we meet Mercy’s aunt, she seems like a pinched, bitchy woman with a miserable, hen-pecked husband. According to the narration (and this part I do recall), the problem was that no wolf or whatever the guy was wants to be ‘under’ someone else, even his life-partner. He’d always be struggling for dominance, because he couldn’t accept his partner’s dominance.

    So basically, the message seemed to be: if a woman’s dominant, the relationship is doomed, because the only bluntly-stated, explicit, on-page relationship I can recall seeing that specifically stated “female alpha, male non-alpha” was a bloody miserable mess. (And worse, it was implied they were stuck together because of that whole bond-thing.) And the message the heroine took from it was that if she wanted a happy relationship, she had to be the one to give way, because if she tried to retain her dominance, she’d end up just making her partner thoroughly miserable because of his instincts.

    If it hadn’t been an ebook, it would’ve hit the wall. What about her dominance? What about her instincts? And why the hell can’t you have a happy relationship when the woman’s the alpha? I’d say I’m the strong-willed one in my relationship, and my husband has major beta-tendencies, but he doesn’t mope like a beaten puppy, nor does he resent me for being strong. What kind of message is this, that the one time I saw an explicit, on-page alpha-female relationship, it had to be loaded down with this horrible judgmental message?

    But perhaps I was already prone to wariness, seeing how a paragraph in an earlier book had tripped me up, and DNF’d the book for almost a year before I was bored enough to randomly skim the rest, and try another in the series. It was introducing the mating dance, saying that although the woman had the yes/no rights, the changeling men just ‘knew’ what they needed to do to make the bond happen — and even just ‘knew’ who that bond would be with, even. It felt way too much like the guy does the deciding (“I’ll pick girl #2″), and the woman only gets to say yes/no — and even her yes/no is negated because, well, the guy already knows, and he’s got all the info in his head to court her properly… Her “no” really only amounts to denying a settled fate, not a true negation of his invitation. You boil it down, that’s all she gets — yes, or yes-but-later. No isn’t really an option; it’s just lip service.

    Suffice it to say, that really pissed me off, because it felt like justifying the guy becoming a stalker. He’s already decided she’s the one, and if he just pesters her enough, eventually she’ll give in. Granted, Singh goes out of her way (as do most romance authors using this trope) to make the woman’s decision her own choice, but that’s really just a lot of smoke and mirrors covering what’s not really a choice at all. And that bugs me.

    Also, why the hell do the books always use “male” and “female” as nouns? Those are adjectives. Not nouns. The male did this, the female did that. What’s wrong with “the man” and “the woman”?

  43. nasanta
    May 31, 2012 @ 02:03:37

    @Las: Yes! I had that same problem with Indigo and Drew’s book! I have this same problem with many of the books, romance and fantasy with a romantic element, where we supposedly have a strong heroine – and the strong hero still manage to overshadow them!

  44. cleo
    May 31, 2012 @ 08:22:02

    I have this loaded on my Nook, but I’m saving it for tomorrow (we’re going camping and I’m saving it for the drive – plus, if I start it today, I know I won’t pack and that would be bad). I’ve only skimmed the review and comments – I’m looking forward to reading it more thoroughly after I read ToN. I love Jennie’s Australian Shepard metaphor – that’s how I feel too.

    I love these discussions. I am completely invested in this series, and I don’t really understand why. I’m not a fan of fated mates, I despise serial killers in my romance, I don’t like having to remember so much from book to book, and yet, there’s something so compelling about this series. I’m in it until the end. Kind of like I was with LOST.

    I agree about the feminist / dominant issue in the other books (I’m still kind of mad about Indigo and Drew). Another thing that bugs me is how heterosexual this world is – in 10 books, there’s been one mention of gay characters that I remember (a mated gay pair briefly appears in KoS). It’s odd given how diverse the series is racially and ethnically, and given that it’s set in and around San Fransisco – even an alt hist SF should have *some* gay people. Are there any more gay characters in ToN?

  45. Las
    May 31, 2012 @ 08:56:24

    @Anu: Thanks, Anu!

    Nikita takes out the assassin and then calmly calls Sascha to ask whether she’d received some contracts that Nikita had sent over. Singh thankfully doesn’t spell it out, but right there in a couple of lines, you get great insight into who Nikita is and how she works.

    That scene alone was worth the price of the book.

    Hm, do you mean the larger plots related to the world?

    Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t all that into many of the romances, because I was so absorbed with the Psy/Changeling world. It really wasn’t until Ashaya/Dorian, which was the fifth book, that I got really into the story because of the couple (I didn’t really appreciate Brenna/Judd until I reread their book). Most of the h/h’s stories are means to an end for me. I think it’s because very few of them are all that different from your standard Romance h/h.

    @Leela: It was actually Indigo’s aunt, Adria, who had the less dominant partner (they weren’t mated). And she’s the heroine in Tangle of Need, which is one of the reasons I’m not all that excited about it. She was such a doormat in Play of Passion, which is always unacceptable to me, but it’s even worse since she’s supposed to be a dominant.

  46. Praxidike
    May 31, 2012 @ 09:22:20

    Well, I am about 3/4 through this book, and I have to say it’s been a hard slog. I am much more in Jennie’s camp than Janine’s camp when it comes to this series, and this book isn’t doing anything to make it more attractive. I will finish it because I’ve come this far, but I don’t think I’ll be happy doing it.

    I don’t even know where to begin. If I say everything I’m thinking, it’s going to be an EPIC comment on an already-epic review. I agree with everything people have said about Singh basically playing lip-service to “strong” female women without actually portraying a “strong” woman. The only strong woman we’ve seen in the past was actually Adria, and it turned out that her being a strong woman ruined her relationship with Martin. Now, of course, that was Martin’s fault more than Adria’s because Martin couldn’t handle her dominance, but there’s a better-than-subtle message here that it’s the male changelings that are the true dominants in the society.

    More than that, people keep commenting that Singh is an excellent writer. I won’t deny that she can write an evocative line or paragraph. But she constantly, constantly tells rather than shows. For example, after Riaz says something to someone else (my Kindle isn’t in front of me, mea culpa), she puts, “A harsh statement.” Well, okay, Ms. Singh – if it’s harsh, shouldn’t I be able to tell that from the context and the words themselves? If not, get back to work because you shouldn’t need to tell me it’s harsh. That is all over this book. Not to mention my perpetual pet peeve with her tendency to say something like, “the blankest of blanks” instead of editing the work.

    I feel, ultimately, like she needs a good editor. I’ve certainly noticed a lot of editing flaws in this book. Misplaced commas, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, misplaced apostrophes – I’ve seen several of each of those so far. She’s a very successful writer. Frankly, I expect better for a $13 book from a writer who’s 11 books into this series.

    And, more to the content, I liked Adria and Riaz, but I couldn’t seem to get into their romance. I would have to say that I am skimming the majority of this book, and then going back to re-reading some sections. Maybe my review’s not as valid as someone who sat down and took the time to scan and appreciate the whole thing. When I tried to do that, though, I found myself bored and drifting away.

  47. CK
    May 31, 2012 @ 09:39:36

    I liked this book better than Kiss of Snow (which had my all-time fav couple, go figure.) I had structural issues with KoS and will say that, for me, the first 100 pages or so of ToN was a repetitive, bloated mess.

    Interestingly enough, I totally agree with Janine about the Hawke/Sienna age difference. It has never bothered me before but I got a distinct feel of Sienna being akin to the pampered, much younger aristocratic wife.

    I definitely agree with female dominance issue and the need to ‘soften’ the female soldiers. I wonder if that is Singh’s vision or if she’s been encouraged to do so. Shelly Laurenston comes under fire whenever she has the seriously bad ass heroines like Dee-Ann Smith. Perhaps Singh is just going to the lowest mainstream denominator that demands ‘femininity’ over equality?

  48. srs
    May 31, 2012 @ 11:11:42

    I can’t quit these books but really, really want to. I keep reading because I’m invested in the world and broader story arc, but after 11 books feel like she’s started dragging things out and should wrap it up already. The fact that that she doesn’t have a set number of books planned for the series and can keep things going indefinitely, in dribs and drabs, worries me.

    And I agree with most of the issues others mentioned. The power imbalance b/w the women and men has always bothered me, never more so than in Indigo and Drew’s book. Plus, I’m so over the changelings and feel like the humans have been given short shrift. I know there’s been a book or 2 with non-psy/changling characters, but they feel like the least developed and followed up on of the series. Changelings/weres are not my favourite anyway, and I’m not a fan of the fated mate trope (which is weird, because I LOVE marriage-of-convenience) so having this be the 3rd book in a row to focus on the wolves is doing nothing to pique my waning interest and enthusiasm.

    And yet, I keep reading. I think my experience with this last book bordered on a hate-read, but I still read it the day it was released and will probably do the same for the next, so she’s obviously doing something right.

  49. Janine
    May 31, 2012 @ 12:48:06

    @Anu:

    Still, I think the series allows for a broader range of portrayals of femininity (Tamsyn, Mercy, etc) than masculinity. These men are really limited. No matter their personalities, it always always comes down to Dominance, Possession, and Growling About Both. This really struck me with Walker’s story in KOS. Previously, he’d been portrayed as something of a beta, but as soon as he got his own story, it was the same vocabulary and thought processes of alphas/dominant changelings. No matter what we’re *told* about the heroes (Clay as aloof and silent, Riaz as lone wolf, etc) when the story focuses on them, the men lose their specific personalities and blur into one Generic Singh Hero who is all about dominance and possession and his woman.

    @rachel:

    Also, I would agree her heroes tend to be alpha types but I think that the genius of her writing is that she’s able to create different varieties of the alpha type. I never confuse her characters the way I do with some other PNR and urban fantasy series. Drew, Judd, Max, Dev, Hawke, Lucas, Riley all have really distinct personalities despite sharing many alpha characteristics.

    I’ve been thinking about these two comments a lot since yesterday and I think I’m probably in the middle between these two POVs. I can see the distinctness of the men, like Rachel, but at the same time, like Anu, I also feel there is a similarity in their alpha natures that gets irritating after a while. I’d love to see a greater variety in terms of their alphaness and also in terms of the vocabulary used to describe their feelings.

    @Kristal: Thanks so much for linking to that interview! I think the person who tweeted about hearing from Nalini Singh that there were only two books left after this one in the current story arc was @BookThingo. I’ve tweeted her and asked her if I’m remembering right, but she’s in Australia so it may take her several hours to reply. I’m hoping she posts here so you guys can hear it from her but if not I’ll let you know what she says.

    @Las:

    They pretty much were equal in dominance for all intents and purposes, but it was mentioned a couple of times that Riley was just a tiny bit more dominant, not enough to effect the balance of their relationship, but enough that it was taken for granted that when they mated Mercy would be the one to lose her bond to Dark River.

    I remember that as being a fear Mercy had, but not something that was ever actually true. When their mating bond finally formed, it turned out they had been exactly equally dominant, which is why both of them were able to retain their bonds to their packs.

    For me, Nalini’s strength lies in plotting (and great sex scenes!), and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.

    On this I couldn’t agree more. Plotting (especially of the overarching Psy/Changeling war storyline) is her greatest strength.

    @Diana:

    The whole mating bond issues just seem wildly inconsistent with the world building and previous info on the mating bonds. We’re told frequently that mating is A BIG DEAL, bigger than marriage, and that people are so into their own mating bonds that they frequently die when their mates die, that’s how strong this whole deal is. But yet, just kidding bros, not really? This makes it seem like the mating bond is less a real, organic thing and just…plot specific, designed to create drama and roadblocks as the story calls for it.

    I bought into the rationale that Riaz could turn away from the bond because it was only partially formed. But I can see your POV as well. That was the way I felt about Hawke unilaterally and very quickly making decisions to ally SnowDancer to other packs without including Lucas in the discussion or taking that much time to consider the decision. It felt plot-specific and contrived.

    re: generic Alpha heroes. I agree this seems more problematic as the series goes on. Even the human and Psy heroes suffer from a wild excess of Alpha-ness, that often seems disproportionate to their earlier characterizations. I remember in Max’s book, Bonds of Justice, he was crazy possessive and needy…when he had been previously shown to be a pretty chill and easygoing guy.

    That point was made by Las as well and I think Anu made a similar point about Walker. You guys aren’t wrong.

    It would be interesting if Singh would explore the different issues that her world building presents — like pairing a dominant female with a weaker male

    That was done in Play of Passion but some readers were frustrated that Drew was said to have the growth potential to someday exceed Indigo in dominance.

    That said, I always do end up enjoying Singh’s work. Like Janine, I find these books ridiculously readable, despite all of the issues and problems I have with them. :)

    Yes! I feel like some readers in this thread are misinterpreting my statements in my conversation with Jennie to mean that I don’t mind the lack of gender parity and the generic alpha-ness of the male characters. That’s not the case — these things do irritate me at times.

    They just doesn’t chafe me as much as they do Jennie because (A) I have accepted them as part the price of admission with these books and (B) I find the books hugely readable and I honestly think that these very issues that bug me also create much (but not all) of the tension that keeps me turning the pages. The latter is something I would love to see examined.

  50. Janine
    May 31, 2012 @ 13:12:55

    @cbackson:

    You know, this series is perfectly disposable to me. I agree that the rules that govern the world seem to shift over time, and I find that the characters run together. Only a few stand out for me (Judd, frex). What’s strange is that I love, love, love Singh’s Archangel books – I think they’re exquisitely conceptualizer, written, and characterized. So it’s strange to me that I find these so meh.

    Hm. I liked the first and fourth Guild Hunter books very much but the second and third didn’t do as much for me. But then I prefer series that don’t have the same protagonists for multiple books. Additionally, I find the violence in the Guild Hunter series even more disturbing than the violence in the Psy/Changeling series, which disturbs me enough. There is also a warmth to the Psy/Changeling books that is missing from the Guild Hunter books, but the Guild Hunter books have more vivid imagery. So it’s probably a toss up for me as to which I prefer.

    @Kate: I loved that scene in KoS!

    @rachel& @Brie: Did you guys see Jane’s “Theories on Kaleb Krychek” post? The Sahara Nightstar theory was brought up in that discussion as well and I think it’s dead on.

    @Maili:

    All that said, it’s very easy to see why so many get sucked into this series. I also quite liked Singh’s writing voice so I’m happy to wait for the day she’ll move away from this universe to something else.

    Have you tried her Guild Hunter (angel) series? It is set in a different universe from this one.

    @Anu:

    Does it strike you as a matter of show v. tell? To me, it looks like shortcuts chosen in favor of deeper characterization.

    I can see your PoV but it strikes me not as show vs. tell but rather as courtship vs. non-courtship. So many romances leave out the courtship, the doing of caring things for one another, out of the equation. These days a lot of books are composed of long sex scenes with a little conflict thrown in between. But in order to believe in a couple’s happy ending, I need to, as a friend of mine recently put it, have an idea of what they’ll do with themselves all day besides have sex and fight.

    One of the things I really appreciate in the books set in the Changeling world is that Singh shows her characters working together to solve problems on the job, and also that she shows them doing sweet and thoughtful things for one another. The latter is where the courtship comes in, and along with the former, it reassures me that they really do care about each other and know how to work together, so that I can imagine what their relationship will be like after the book ends.

  51. Brie
    May 31, 2012 @ 14:19:01

    @Janine: of course I saw it, I’m the one who brought it up. He he ;-) I love that post, I go back and read it once in a while.

  52. rachel
    May 31, 2012 @ 14:44:12

    I had totally forgotten about that post! I’m planning to go back and read it again. I agree too about the Guild Hunter series being more violent than I really can handle. One of the reasons I like the Psy/Changeling world is because the violence is tempered with warmth and family connection. Raphael, to my mind, is an example of an alpha taken to an extreme that I’m not as comfortable with even though his character makes sense within the context of the story. Singh could have made Riaz, with his lone-wolf nature, similar to Raphael but instead shows how his bonds of pack and family keep him from going to a crazy extreme.
    I also find Singh’s female characters a refreshing change from the usual ass-kicking, leather pants-wearing, tough because of some type of abuse ‘warrior princess type’that has become so prevalent in paranormal and urban fantasy lately. I like that she considers maternals and healers to be of equivalent strength with soldiers going all the way back to the first book with Sascha and Lucas.

    @brie: Let’s be friends and never stop talking about our crazy theories=)

  53. Jennie
    May 31, 2012 @ 18:35:41

    @Anu: Great point about dominant v. assertive. The dominant females of the pack are rarely dominant in the way that the males are – there is just no comparison in terms of how their intensity and possessiveness is portrayed, either. And I noticed in this book more than the others that there’s an effort to make sure the reader is clear that the dominant females have traditionally female qualities.

    It’s not like I even *want* the females to be like the males. For one thing, the constant reiteration of the males’ dominant qualities gets on my nerves, so I don’t need it from the females as well. And I’m not even a reader who necessarily wants to read about really dominant, aggressive, kickass heroines. But what I really hate is when the reader is told that a heroine has certain qualities, but then it’s not shown, and I feel like it’s partly in service of making the hero look stronger and more competent than the heroine. I’ve had that issue with some spy romances where the hero and heroine are both spies or government agents – I’m thinking maybe Joanna Bourne’s? – and it just bugs me SO much, I can’t even tell you.

  54. Jennie
    May 31, 2012 @ 18:41:20

    @Las: I think you’re right about the plotting – I am probably reading these books more now to see how the overarching story plays out than for the individual romances. Those really do blend together for me.

  55. Jennie
    May 31, 2012 @ 20:49:07

    @cleo: That’s a good point about gay characters. I don’t remember any in ToN, but Janine’s barely exaggerating when she mentions a cast of thousands, so I might’ve forgotten. The series has been great in terms of ethnic diversity, and I appreciate that about it.

    @Leela – I always just assume the “male” and “female” as opposed to “man” and “woman” is meant to emphasize the changelings’ animal nature. I’m not a fan of it either.

    @Praxidike I think Singh is a competent writer but I really think her main strength is plotting. I agree about on the “show v. tell” issue and I think she also just overemphasizes certain points to death. I was keeping count of how many uses of the phrase of “predatory changeling male” ToN contained, but it turned out to be relatively few compared to some of her other books. Still, if I never read that phrase again I would be perfectly happy.

  56. Heather Greye
    May 31, 2012 @ 21:56:46

    Wow, after reading the review and the comments I feel like I should feel guilty for enjoying this book with all the squeeing fangirl love in my heart. :-| But..screw that. I enjoyed ToN. It’s not my favorite in the series (that’s probably Caressed by Ice) but I think she can write circles around a lot of published authors.

    I thought it was quite brave of Singh to take on the mating bond the way she did, especially given some of the outcry that followed KoS. And, as usual, I enjoyed the glimpses into Kaleb and the Arrows. (Dear Nalini, please give us a series about all the Arrows. Thanks!)

    I was a bit surprised and taken aback by the amount of Hawke & Sienna in this book and agree with whoever commented that it felt like they overshadowed Adria and Riaz. I tried to think of it like Sascha and Lucas appearing in the books that occur in Dark River, but it seemed like it wasn’t as balanced as those books were.

    This book caused me to change my mind about the Ghost — I’ve always been partial to it being Kaleb, but now I can see it being Vasic.

    Regardless, the 12 month wait to the next book will probably kill me. *le sigh*

  57. Elise S.
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 01:47:41

    Nah don’t feel bad Heather. I marathon read ToN and really enjoyed it. Was a bit surprised as well at how much we saw of Hawke and Sienna along with everyone else, but only because I kept wanting to see more of Adria and Riaz. It felt a bit like fan service but when the characters are enjoyable I can get on board. Also, I like Hawke and Sienna quite a bit more now after seeing their relationship in action.

    I was pretty nervous about Riaz and Adria’s HEA , but in the end I was happy with how it turned out and it did feel like a risk given how people reacted to KoS. I did struggle with the idea of the mate bond not being the be all end all somewhere in the middle of the book.

    I’m starting to doubt Kaleb as the Ghost although I’ve got no idea who else it could be since to me, Vasic doesn’t quite fit. Mostly I want to know who the next couple will be. Kinda hoping for a shift to the Psy since I’m a bit burned out on the SnowDancers.

  58. Heather Greye
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 10:41:20

    @Elise S.: Glad I’m not the only one who pure enjoyed it. :)

    I’m starting to doubt Kaleb as the Ghost although I’ve got no idea who else it could be since to me, Vasic doesn’t quite fit.

    This is where I am. I want it to be Kaleb and I can lean toward Vasic, because I think it has to be someone that we’ve met already. Singh is so good at layering all this stuff in, that I’ll be sorely disappointed if it turns out to be someone brandy-brand new. She hasn’t worked that way in the past, so I’m not worried…but I just can’t figure out who it is! argh!

  59. Janine
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:27:19

    @Anu:

    As much as I’ve criticized the series in this thread, I have to say Mercy is one of the best romance heroines I have ever read. She is completely comfortable in herself, has nothing to prove to anybody, including Riley, and she knows it – she’s not out there being fiesty or spirited, working out hurts or insecurities, etc. She never questions who she is or what she has to offer. That’s incredibly rare in a romance heroine (I daresay, female characters in general). I lean towards darker h/h myself, but I totally love her for that uncomplicated and calmly assertive confidence. And I love her and Riley together.

    You’ve articulated the reasons why Mercy is my favorite heroine in the series, especially when you say “She never questions who she is or what she has to offer.” I love that sense of security in her. Sienna is also a favorite of mine but Mercy is really special.

    @MandyM: Glad you enjoyed it!

    But I still think Singh did a fab job pulling all these characters and subplots together to make a gripping novel. It’s a far cry from her Harlequinn style in the first book, Slave to Sensation. I think she has really grown with her craft.

    I agree she has grown in her craft and is writing more complex and vivid books now. There are some great Harlequins out there, though.

    @Leela: I think you rare talking about Indigo’s aunt, Adria. She is actually the heroine of Tangle of Need. The book you are discussing, Play of Passion was one I enjoyed, but then as I’ve said before, I’ve adjusted my expectations of this series when it comes to the gender and dominance issues.

    @cleo:

    I love these discussions. I am completely invested in this series, and I don’t really understand why. I’m not a fan of fated mates, I despise serial killers in my romance, I don’t like having to remember so much from book to book, and yet, there’s something so compelling about this series. I’m in it until the end. Kind of like I was with LOST.

    Me too, and I felt somewhat similarly about Lost as well. As for why it’s compelling, I can only answer for myself. The overarching plot is a big part of it, but I don’t think it’s all of it. The characters, whatever else we may say about them, are frequently endearing. I do care about them. The sex is sexy. The writing style has a vividness to it, and all that intensity of emotion, even though I agree with those who say it is over the top, still sucks me in. Even the gender power dynamics, frustrating though they are, IMO serve to create a lot of sexual tension.

    And the series premise in which some characters are overpowered by emotion while others have to repress it makes for an engaging clash between the two cultures. Plus we get the satisfaction of seeing the seemingly emotionless discover emotion, including love. I’m thinking not just of the early books but even of scenes like the one in ToN in which the Ghost watches Judd in the changeling’s milieu, when he is with Brenna. That scene mesmerized me almost as much as it did the Ghost because it told so much about his unacknowledged longing for connection.

    @Praxidike: I think we discussed Singh’s prose style when I reviewed Archangel’s Blade. I’m still of two minds about it. I can see all the points you’ve made, and when I’m not sucked in I get annoyed by the same things. But much of the time I’m riveted enough not to care, and I think the vividness and intensity of the writing has something to do with that.

  60. Maritza
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:45:26

    All in all I think everyone has valid points. Nalini’s superstrong alphas don’t work for everyone.
    But her world building most definitely works for me.
    These are the things I’m looking forward to finding out:
    I want to know what happens to Alice, I want to know what happens to Vasic & Adren. I want to know if Anthony in the Nikita hook up. ;) also Nikita to me is the female version of Dimitri from her other series.
    I want to know who the damn ghost is and I so hope he is Kaleb and that his story is really good. By the way, thank you ladies for posting this review. Although I don’t necessarily agree with everything both of you mentioned it was insightful.

  61. Janine
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:52:41

    @CK: Great point about Hawke and Sienna. I hadn’t put my finger on that image of Sienna but now that you say that, I agree with you.

    I wonder if that is Singh’s vision or if she’s been encouraged to do so. Shelly Laurenston comes under fire whenever she has the seriously bad ass heroines like Dee-Ann Smith. Perhaps Singh is just going to the lowest mainstream denominator that demands ‘femininity’ over equality?

    That’s an interesting question but one that is ultimately impossible for us to answer. I need to try Laurenston sometime.

    @srs:

    And yet, I keep reading. I think my experience with this last book bordered on a hate-read, but I still read it the day it was released and will probably do the same for the next, so she’s obviously doing something right.

    I would love to hear more theories about why these books are addictive enough that we’re still here discussing them eleven books in. I don’t think it’s just the broader story arc, because as you say, that’s given out in dribs and drabs. For me at least, there is more to it, as I detailed in my reply to Cleo.

    @Brie: I wondered if that was you!

    @rachel:

    One of the reasons I like the Psy/Changeling world is because the violence is tempered with warmth and family connection.

    Agreed. That’s another of the things that makes this series enjoyable to me as well.

    @Jennie:

    I’m not even a reader who necessarily wants to read about really dominant, aggressive, kickass heroines. But what I really hate is when the reader is told that a heroine has certain qualities, but then it’s not shown, and I feel like it’s partly in service of making the hero look stronger and more competent than the heroine. I’ve had that issue with some spy romances where the hero and heroine are both spies or government agents – I’m thinking maybe Joanna Bourne’s? – and it just bugs me SO much, I can’t even tell you.

    The comparison to Joanna Bourne is so interesting to me because I had huge problems with that when I read Bourne’s debut, and by comparison to how irritated I was with that book, the Psy/changeling intereferes with my enjoyment much less. Part of it was that in The Spymaster’s Lady Annique made some IMO incompetent moves, all while being praised by the secondary characters as an amazing spy. Say what you will about Singh’s heroines, they always come across as competent at their jobs, and the secondary characters don’t go around having whole conversations extolling them.

    But maybe another reason for that in my case is the sexual tension that derives out of things like the heroine’s awareness of the hero’s dominance or her awareness of his height. That just works for me on the sexy level. OTOH, things like the heroes besting the heroine’s at footraces do bug me and I wish there was less of that.

    @Heather Greye: I don’t think you need to feel guilty — and judging by the number of reviews of Kiss of Snow on Amazon, you are not alone in enjoying the books in this series.

    @Elise S. & @Heather Greye: : I’d love for the Ghost to be Vasic, actually, because it would be an unexpected choice. For me he does fit. But on further thought, I think it’s more likely to be Kaleb, because most of the build up before this book pointed in that direction, and probably a lot of readers would be disappointed if it was anyone other than Kaleb.

  62. Janine
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 13:56:47

    @Maritza: You’re welcome! Interesting comparison between Nikita and Dmitri. I don’t much care for Nikita but I also disliked Dmitri before I read his book, which is now my favorite in the Guild Hunter series. So I am sure Nikita could be made to win me over too.

    And I’d love for Anthony to get a story! He is such a wonderful character. I’ve often thought that I would love a romance between two Psy who are both trapped in the PsyNet, but I don’t know if we’ll get that or not.

  63. Anu
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 16:06:05

    @Las comment #45

    It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t all that into many of the romances, because I was so absorbed with the Psy/Changeling world.

    My friend says the same thing, and I think you’re both right. The romances rarely grab me, but the world is very intriguing. That speaks to Singh’s talent – that her books connect with readers for a range of reasons.

    @Praxidike comment #46

    I won’t deny that she can write an evocative line or paragraph. But she constantly, constantly tells rather than shows.

    I too think she’s only a competent writer. Some turns of phrase are quite evocative and plain beautiful, but those are few and far between. But I agree her style is very much “tell” not “show.”

    Another thing that grates for me – she relies on extremely emotive words to do the work. Characters growl and snarl, knuckles turn white, claws come out, voices are deadly. Everybody acts, thinks, and speaks in the strongest adverbs and adjectives possible. It’s too much! Everything is at a fever pitch all the time – and so nothing is really important. That’s probably because we’re mostly with the changelings, but as others have alluded to, even Max/Sophie’s story was at a high pitch. The Psy scenes are actually a relief to me.

    So, in general, I think her writing style often distracts rather than reveals.

    @Janine comment #50

    I can see your PoV but it strikes me not as show vs. tell but rather as courtship vs. non-courtship.

    I think my thing with the quarter of Riaz/Adria is that Adria’s issue re: mating bond was completely and utterly valid. She was absolutely to worry about considering the elemental nature of the bond. In addition, she’d just been through a relationship in which the guy kept insisting on a relationship and ignored the problems between them (at one point, Adria wonders why Martin kept coming back to her when they were both so unhappy or some such).

    But the story glosses over these really important concerns (on both Adria’s and the reader’s parts, btw) to focus on Riaz’s cutesy actions. It became about – aww, isn’t it adorable? Take him back Adria and forget that he couldn’t even have sex just months ago because of his HUGE DEVASTATION over losing his mate – you know, that mate that’s sposed to be the end-all/be-all of changeling romantic life.

    I mean, Riaz, can you address Adria’s concerns more deeply than to leave her carvings here and there? He talks to Hawke about the bond, but not to Adria? He confirmed to his satisfaction that what he feels is real, and comes to her to insist that she just believe him.

    This ties into my sense of Riaz devolving into the generic alpha – we’ve been here before with the rituals (Drew) and the flat-out declarations that h/h belong together (every single book in the series). So the courtship stuff felt like a stunt to me.

    I dunno, as I write this, I get a sense that I’m post hoc reasoning this out. Perhaps it’s because I feel like I took the mating bond thing more seriously than Singh does. All I can say is that I became dis-invested in the h/h after Adria called it quits, and I think it’s because of Riaz’s actions felt lazy (on both the authorial and character levels), and not where the real story lay.

    So many romances leave out the courtship, the doing of caring things for one another, out of the equation.

    So true! My favorite romance author is Jo Goodman for that very reason. Her romances often move at a glacial pace, but in general, I appreciate the h/h’s quietly developing affection and knowledge of each other. That rarely involves courtship per se, but I’m still always convinced that these two will be together forever.

  64. Anu
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 16:21:03

    @rachel comment #52

    I like that she considers maternals and healers to be of equivalent strength with soldiers going all the way back to the first book with Sascha and Lucas.

    I think this is very true. I like the variety of female roles – Tamsyn the healer/earth mother, Brenna the techie, Ashaya the scientist, Mercy the sentinel. It’s refreshing to see that if you’re a woman, you are by definition feminine.

    @Jennie comment #53

    But what I really hate is when the reader is told that a heroine has certain qualities, but then it’s not shown, and I feel like it’s partly in service of making the hero look stronger and more competent than the heroine.

    Completely and totally agree. That’s my peeve with the whole “dominant female changeling” type too. I think in the changeling world, women are equals *up to a point* but never *more* powerful than the men. And that’s (mostly) fine! I don’t need women to dominate, I just want them to be equal, and I’m satisfied that in most arenas of changeling life, they are. Yes, they give in much more than changeling men – sure it bugs, but I accept that as the price of admission, as Janine would say. Just don’t tell me dominant changeling females get HEAs in this world, because they haven’t.

  65. Janine
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 22:38:34

    @Anu: I guess we disagree re. the courtship stuff, because for me no amount of talking to Adria about the bond with Lisette would have changed that situation either, and things like the carvings served to show Adria, and more importantly, me as the reader, that Riaz really did love her. That’s what I mean about my being a gesture person — thoughtful acts are at least as effective as declarations of devotion, if not more so, for me, in terms of making me feel one character’s love for the other’s.

    I do agree with you that the courtship stuff didn’t directly address Adria’s concerns — but I don’t see how anything else Riaz could have done would have addressed those concerns either. The problem lies with the way the mating bond has been established as so important in the previous books and as a part of changeling culture.

    This made me feel that Adria would never have it all by changeling standards — never have the guarantee of always and forever being first in Riaz’s heart that a mate could have (but we human beings have no such guarantees either, and it doesn’t make our love any less valuable). That was the nature of this particular plot conflict, and I really don’t see how it could have been resolved completely. The answer here is that Adria has to either live with her insecurities, break up with Riaz, or trust in Riaz’s feelings for her and take a leap of faith.

  66. Anu
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 23:12:18

    @Janine:

    Janine, I think you’re right: let’s agree to disagree. I was skeptical of the courtship-y stuff, and I think it diminished the romance – you feel the exact opposite. I think we’ve taken this as far as it can go:)

  67. Anu
    Jun 01, 2012 @ 23:20:56

    Re: the theory Vasic=Ghost. What’s Vasic motivation to take on two different identities with Judd? I think there was a scene in TON where Judd meets with Vasic and Aden and then directly after, meets with Fr. Xavier and Ghost. Why maintain that pretense with Judd?

    And two moments from TON that I loved: 1) During sex, Riaz perceives that Adria is thinking about her ex and says, “No one’s in this bed but you and me.” So hot. 2) Riaz/Adria’s night in Venice was perfectly romantic – I could imagine the night so clearly. My favorite moment is when he’s translating a Venetian song, and Adria presses her lips to his neck – I’m a sucker for a man’s neck.

  68. Janine
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 00:03:04

    @Anu: It was stated in Kiss of Snow that Judd knows the Ghost’s other identity. Judd has programmed his mind to erase that knowledge if he’s ever taken by the Psy, and he refuses to look at the Ghost’s face because images are harder to erase than thoughts. Therefore, whether it’s Kaleb or whether it’s Vasic, Judd would know, and thinking of that person as “the Ghost” is either something he does to help conceal that knowledge from anyone who tries to mine his mind for information, or else simply a contrivance by Singh in order to keep readers in ignorance.

  69. Janine
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 12:48:06

    @rachel: Nalini Singh replied to this question on Twitter after I got into a conversation with @BookThingo and a few others. She says there are 2-4 books left in the current arc, and then they’ll be followed by what she calls “tangent” or semi-spinoff (not total spinoff) books set in the same world.

  70. MarieC
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 14:39:27

    I finished reading the book last night and I think I would have rated the book higher (I’m a rabid fan of the series!) . I didn’t really have any issues with the whole dominance thing, but I would have liked to see more relationships where the female is dominant, like Mercy’s Brazilian grandmother (she’s an alpha who appears to have a healthy relationship).

    Regarding all the other characters’ storylines, I enjoy them, as they appear to enhance the whole ‘pack’ mentality-thing.

  71. Las
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 20:54:33

    So I just read it (the plus side of a sprained ankle is having a good excuse to do nothing but read all day). I actually liked both Adria and Riaz, and I didn’t think I would. I felt like I understood where both of them were coming from and why they made the decisions they did. I had a problem with the way their relationship developed, though. It’s like several of their scenes must have been cut. There was no transition from “Because I don’t like you,” to “I can’t stop myself.” Likewise from the jump between friends with benefits to a relationship–which was a shame, because I was really looking forward to some fun FWB scenes. There just wasn’t enough time spent together to justify those shifts, and it was really jarring. I was actually satisfied with the way the mating issue was handled, though it’s a poor substitute for what should have happened with Hawke/Sienna. (And if the next book happens to be a changeling couple, I really don’t want mating to be an issue. Just let them be mates, and let the conflict be about something else entirely.)

    Way too many Hawke/Sienna scenes. And not even with other characters, developing the story, just Hawke and Sienna being what I assume was meant to be “cute.” First, they’re book was just before TON, very little time has passed, so their presence was overkill. It’s not like there was anything to catch up on. Secondly, their scenes just emphasized the age/experience difference. More than once I got a very definite paternalistic, teacher/student vibe from them. Those were some strange writing choices.

    I really missed the cats, and there were way too many scenes where their absence didn’t make a bit of sense. And I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see Mercy get mean with the pregnancy…that would have a nice change of pace from the surrounding drama. Sweet Mercy just isn’t as much fun.

    I really loved all the Psy stuff. I have no idea what to think of the Ghost now. I’m still going to assume that it’s Kaleb, but this was the first time I could see why it might be Vasic. That scene during the mating ceremony felt a lot more like Vasic than Kaleb.

    It seems obvious that Kaleb is getting the next book, but I’m not sure I want that. I love Kaleb, but I love him because he’s complex, a mystery, and not a “good” person. If he gets his own book that would change, he’d probably be completely whitewashed and his appeal would be greatly diminished. I feel the exact same way about Nikita, and I cringe at the idea of her getting her own book–I love that ruthless bitch just as she is.

    Is it just me, or is there a…vibe between Aden and Vasic? I’ve felt it since their first scenes together. I’m sure it’s nothing, but…let’s just say, if I were at all interested in fanfic, I would be all over that.

  72. cleo
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 15:12:21

    Ok, I’m late to the party, but I finished the book and I’m back in civilization, with Internet, so I have to comment again.

    I did enjoy this book – although I did not get that giggly, wow-this-is-great feeling I got reading KoS. I was into Adria and Riaz for the first half to 3/4, and then lost interest after Riaz went into “you’re mine” mode.

    I did not notice any gay characters, and I was looking for them, but at least there were a couple references to gay-ness (Adria notices all the women and some of the men noticing Riaz somewhere, maybe in Venice).

    @Janine:

    the series premise in which some characters are overpowered by emotion while others have to repress it makes for an engaging clash between the two cultures. Plus we get the satisfaction of seeing the seemingly emotionless discover emotion, including love.

    That’s definitely a big part of the draw for me and the addictiveness of the series – I like the metaphors Singh uses, and I can relate to them. Sometimes I feel like I’ve shut down my emotions and have to rediscover them, and sometimes I feel like I have a wild beast clawing inside of me. Now that I think about it, I watched LOST for the metaphors too – and Star Trek The Next Generation and Buffy. Really, that’s why I like SF/F – you get interesting and important issues packaged in escapism.

  73. Allison
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 10:33:29

    I had a really hard time with ToN. It just didn’t work for me as a whole. I felt like Adria and Riaz’s story wasn’t the main focus and there was so many scenes where the focus was on Hawke and Sienna (I enjoyed the peak into their life after their HEA), and Kaleb, and Mercy and so much other information that needed to be imparted that I didn’t really feel like I got to know Adria and Riaz. I think the Arrows really stole the show and I can’t wait to see more of them. I don’t know if Nalini Singh has a guideline or a summary of the story to date on her website but that would’ve been nice before I read ToN because I have a hard time remembering everything that happened in past books that then show up in future books. I’m more into her Archangels series at the moment.

  74. DarkKnightRules
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 15:13:06

    I just finished this book last night, and lord, I thought Dorian’s book was difficult to get through, but Tangle of Need was like pulling teeth.

    I agree with Jennie, that too much of this book was focused on Hawke and Sienna. Though I loved their book, they already had their story told and I felt like Riaz and Adria, were pushed to the side and became second/minority characters instead.

    If Nalini Singh wanted to give the readers more of them, I personally think, she should have put it in a separate anthology or something. Too much was taken away, and it was over halfway through the book that she started focusing on Riaz and Adria.

    But for me, the first book, Slave to Sensation and book three, Carressed by Ice, Lucas/Sascha and Judd/Brenna’s stories are my favorite, because of the emotional punch they both provide, as well as Nathan and Tamsyn’s story in Beat of Temptation.

    I think Singh keeps changing what a mating bond is; in Beat of Temptation, it was explained, that just because Tammy was Nathan’s mate, didn’t necessarily mean that he loved her. It just happened that he fell in love with her first and THEN the mating bond kicked in or whatever. It’s all so very confusing, as is the exposition!exposition!exposition! in Tangle of Need, that I found myself, for the first time EVER, skimming past all of Hawke and Sienna’s scenes, as well as the too difficult to understand the PsyNet stuff.

    In Slave to Sensation, Sascha did die when she cut herself off from the net–it so happened, that she was, after all Lucas’s mate and that’s what saved her life. I think we’re just supposed to accept it, and that the bond is not exclusively for changelings. Or maybe Singh changed her mind and decided it wasn’t.

    Also with the whold mate bond in this book was very convoluted. Riaz didn’t even KNOW Lisette, and hadn’t “opened” the mating bond, so the fact that he was so devastated that she was married to someone else just made me roll my eyes. The whole universe is just getting more and more complicated, and I find it’s interfering from my enjoying the books. I don’t want to have to think so hard to try and figure out what’s going on and what everything means. It gave me a headache.

    And I was so looking forward to reading Tangle of Need, and it was such a disappointment.

  75. Rebecca
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 16:19:59

    I’m loving this discussion and the joint review. I mildly enjoyed ToN. I’ve been able to gloss over my questions in other books because I ultimately really enjoyed the story. The different handling of the mating bond, plus the aggressive “dominance” thing made me think about a few other things. Maybe I’m just tired of changelings, but I have a few annoyances with the changeling world. For example, such a big deal is made out of the wolves and cats being predatory changelings, yet we never see them actually BE predators in wolf or cat form. All they do is go for runs in the forest. Wouldn’t you think they’d need to go hunting for a deer or something once in a while?

    I think Patricia Briggs is the gold standard for how to write about a werewolf or changeling type creature and have it feel real. These changelings–maybe in the beginning of the series there was more attention paid to what made a changeling a changeling. Now I feel like the changelings are humans who have a wolf or cat costume they put on once in a while and it gives them excuses to behave badly.

  76. Janine
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 17:31:28

    @Rebecca: I haven’t been replying to comments on this thread this week but your comment made me LOL so hard, I had to salute you. I’m a huge fan of Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series and I agree that the animal aspect of Briggs’ characters feels more real. But then, her characters feel more real in general. I wonder if part of it is also the difference in the genres — Briggs writes Urban Fantasy and Singh writes PNR. Perhaps PNR authors choose not to show their characters taking down deer in animal form for fear that romance readers won’t find that romantic or HEA-worthy.

  77. Brooke
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 17:39:17

    Great discussion! Personally, I really enjoyed Tangle of Need and liked Riaz and Adria. Also liked that they didn’t have the mating. The best parts for me but was Hawke and Sienna. Loved their page time. I also have to admit that I have no problems with the dominant stuff and actually wish the series had more submissive females (Mercy, Indigo, Adria were dominant females).

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