JOINT REVIEW: Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
Janine and I have done joint reviews of two previous books in the series, Tangle of Need and Shield of Winter, and when she suggested doing a joint review of the newest book, I was more than game. — Jennie
Jennie: Allegiance of Honor marks the 15th (!) book in the Psy/Changeling series, and the first book that does not feature a central romance. That is to say, it does not introduce any new hero/heroine pairings; instead, it revisits the couples featured in the previous fourteen books, weaving them into a few main storylines.
The first storyline involves the threat that the Consortium (the newest Big Bad in the Psy/Changeling world) represents to the Trinity Accord, the alliance of Psy/Changeling/human who are trying to usher in a new era of cooperation, peace and equality among the three races.
The Consortium remains a shadowy force throughout the book: they are suspected in the attempted kidnapping of Naya, the young daughter of Lucas and Sascha from the very first book in the series, Slave to Sensation. As the first child born half-Psy/half-Changeling, Naya represents a huge threat to those who want to keep the races apart. She is, after all, a living symbol of their intermingling.
Another prominent storyline features the search for Leila Savea, a water-based Changeling who was kidnapped by unknown persons (but probably the Consortium) and is known, by way of a message in a bottle she was able to smuggle out, to be being tortured by her captors. The search for Leila is spearheaded by Miane Leveque, the alpha of the Water Changelings, but she receives significant cooperation from Psy and human characters as well.
Meanwhile, Xavier Perez, human and erstwhile priest, is in the mountains of South America, searching for his lost love Nina. Xavier was once a member of a secret triad (the other two members being Psys Kaleb and Judd) that helped bring about an end to Silence. (To back up a sec, for those that don’t know, Silence was the century-long Psy practice of ruthlessly suppressing emotion, ostensibly to prevent the outbreaks of madness and violence the Psy race are given to.) Since Xavier is on his Nina-hunting quest alone, we get his POV through letters he writes to her.
A much lighter storyline involves both the DarkRiver leopards and the SnowDancer wolves eagerly awaiting the arrival of the “pupcubs” – Mercy and Riley’s multiples, the number, gender and disposition (wolf or leopard?) of which is the subject of heavy betting throughout the book.
Finally, there’s an investigation into the cause of and solution to the continuing problem of rot in the Net, the Psychic network (almost) all Psy are plugged into and need to survive.
So, there’s a lot going on, as well as a huge number of characters being visited. If I counted right, there are 80 people listed in the “Cast of Characters” guide at the beginning of the book. I’m not sure if that represents every single person mentioned by name in the course of the book, even in passing, but I would say a significant number of them make substantial appearances in the book. By “substantial” I mean, what you get out of their scenes as a reader may well depend on whether you can remember who they are in the first place or not.
Of course, you can always go to that Cast of Characters section for a refresher, and actually usually the characters are briefly identified within the text – say, as “a leopard Sentinel mated to so-and-so”, or whatever. But knowing that isn’t the same as remembering them or caring about them, so the number of characters tracked really was overload for a reader like me, who *doesn’t* remember the vast majority of minor characters, and hasn’t read most of the novellas that accompany the series.
A reader on the opposite side of the spectrum may get a lot more out of a half-page scene with Singh’s version of “Hey, it’s that Guy (or Gal)!”
Janine: I have read all the novellas as well as the novels in this series and I remembered all the novella couples (Nate and Tamsyn! Annie and Zach! Emmett and Ria! Grace and Cooper! Bastien and Kirby!) as well as all the couples from all the novels (too many to list) but even so, there were times when I felt like the ball in a pinball machine being shot from one blissful couple to the next.
Jennie: There’s a Grace and a Cooper?
Janine: Yup. It has a dominant / submissive conflict which makes it not my favorite of the novellas, but it wasn’t bad.
But back to the couple-itis, I couldn’t decide if this diligent inclusion of every single protagonist and each of their offspring was a strategy for pleasing every character’s fans, or if it was clever product placement to remind readers of stories they might have missed.
Jennie: It may work as the latter for me as I’m now somewhat intrigued and thinking about trying to hunt down some of the novellas.
For what it’s worth, Lucas and Sascha get by far the most time, followed probably by Kaleb and Sahara.
Janine: I didn’t think that sounded right so I checked by searching my digital ARC for a handful of character names and Vasic (206 mentions) and Hawke (194 mentions) both have more mentions than Kaleb (181). Fellow Judd lovers, fear not, he has 172.
Among the women, Ivy at 153, Miane at 152, and Mercy at 151, all have more appearances than Sahara (96). There may be others as well since I barely scraped the top of that character list. Also, name mentions aren’t conclusive, since some characters, like Leila and Nina, are mentioned by others a lot but don’t spend much time on the page in person.
But there’s no question that the feline first family, Lucas, Sascha and Naya, are the stars of this particular show, with 624, 454, and 334 mentions respectively.
Jennie: Oh, good idea – I didn’t think to be that scientific about it. I think maybe Kaleb and Sahara *felt* like they got more time than they did because most of their scenes are with each other rather than interacting with the other characters the way Judd or Hawke maybe did.
Janine: Yeah, they had a lot of couple time though Vasic and Ivy may have had more.
I’m going to contradict myself by saying that despite the inclusion of so many characters, I was disappointed not to see more of Brenna. Considering how much page time Judd gets in these books, it feels like she’s become peripheral to the series. I loved their book and I would love to see her utilized in a subplot sometime, the way characters like Judd, Faith and Dorian were in this book, but it feels like Singh is done with her.
Jennie: I agree! (That I’d like to see more of Brenna; I don’t know if Singh is done with her.)
I took a peek at some preliminary reviews on Goodreads, and wasn’t surprised to see that one of my big issues with Allegiance of Honor was mentioned more than once: it feels like a book-length epilogue at times, one where the reader gets to revisit all of her favorites and see how blissfully happy they are. Yes, there are storylines, but there’s also a lot of downtime, and it often felt repetitive.
(I should note that I was at first unclear on whether this book is meant to end the series, but in checking Singh’s website it seems more like she wanted to give closure to the arc that she began with Slave to Sensation; there will be other books set in the Psy/Changeling world.)
Did the epilogue-esque feel of AoH bother you, Janine, or did you like having the opportunity to see everyone? What did you think of the structure of the book? What was your favorite storyline?
Janine: I’ll address the structure first. I’m not a fan of epilogues, and yes, at times this read like one. It’s not that I’m a grinch, but rather that a plethora of blissfully happy, gorgeous, successful couples within the same community bears so little relationship to my experience of real life that I often find my suspension of disbelief in short supply when I see so many couples whose relationship conflicts are far behind them.
Jennie: I guess that’s inevitable when all your HEAs hang around for subsequent books. Though I agree that there could have been less emphasis on all the bliss.
Janine: For that reason, I was glad to see Hawke and Sienna have a serious fight, one that put their happiness in jeopardy. It was great to see a couple have to hash out a conflict *after* the HEA, and I thought it played out in a very believable way. I could believe that Hawke would do something like that and that Sienna would react as she did. And that the resulting bump would create a hurdle, but they’d overcome it.
Jennie: Yeah, but did the conflict have to be *that*? Without spoiling too much or complaining about things I’ve complained about at length in previous reviews and told myself that I wouldn’t complain about any more, it was disappointing to have the conflict be about the men (and it wasn’t just Hawke, which made it even more disappointing/annoying) treating a woman as less than equal.
Janine: Yeah, that aspect was disappointing, but it was still more interesting to me than all the bliss and baby cuteness. Also, we almost never see couples in this genre have arguments after they arrive at their HEA, but conflicts are a part of any relationship, so I was really appreciative of seeing that portrayed in a romance series.
To get back to the novel’s structure, I knew going in that this was an arc-closing book with no central romance, and I had the sense that it might be epilogue-ish, so that helped some with that issue too. Ultimately, there was enough other stuff in the book to keep me turning the pages. I picked up this book in the middle of a reading slump, and it still engaged me, so that’s a point in its favor.
As for my favorite storyline, it was one your recap didn’t mention.
Jennie: I probably found the search for Leila the most compelling storyline, though I doubt it could have sustained a full book.
Janine: Yes! This was my second favorite storyline. I recently described to a friend how the initial scenes of the DarkRiver teens finding Leila’s message in a bottle, and the delivery of the message to Miane, had me crying within less than two pages. There are very few authors who can get me that emotional that quickly, but Singh does it with ease.
Jennie: Xavier and Nina were a snooze for me – it didn’t help that 99% of their story was Xavier recounting stuff that had happened in previous books via letter to Nina.
Janine: Judd fan that I am, I actually enjoyed Xavier’s take on his introduction to Judd, but I thought Xavier and Nina’s reunion suffered from other problems in addition to the one you note. Not only was there not enough time to get to know Nina, but after so many years apart, the reasons behind their separation felt a little insufficient and contrived.
Jennie: The threat to Naya was compelling at times but brought out my perpetual annoyance at one of the strong themes in the book (and the series): Changelings really love their kids (more on that later).
Janine: Agreed. I could’ve done with fewer words devoted to Naya’s cuteness, Naya’s first shift, Naya’s stuffed toy, and Naya’s vocabulary. The Hallmark card daycare moments made me a little grumpy. Then the kidnapping attempt happened, and suddenly this story got interesting. I loved the related subplot about a Changeling pack called SkyElm (Even though I didn’t know the word ocelot. I thought it sounded like something that should be a pendulum). I also enjoyed Naya’s introduction to Nikita.
Jennie: Naya’s meeting with Nikita was great and I think will be very satisfying to long-time fans of the series.
I was a little more ambivalent about the SkyElm stuff because of the resolution.
(I did know what ocelots were, because I’m a certified Crazy Cat Lady and conversant with all felines great and small.)
Aside from the major plots, there were also some smaller but no less satisfying “easter eggs” for longtime readers, like Annie’s long-awaited reunion with a certain boy from her past, Faith’s first meeting with her younger half-brother, a poignant development with Kit, and Lucas and Hawke’s struggle to work out the politics of who should speak first at a gathering of both their packs. I was also glad to see Kaleb humanized, even if it’s not entirely consistent with his earlier characterization.
The other thing that I thought was interesting in this book was that we got to see and know more about both the Mercant family (we meet Silver’s grandmother) and Pax Marshall. I’m starting to think of Pax as “Baby Kaleb” because he’s this powerful and badass Psy who may or may not be evil, which is how Kaleb was first introduced. We’ll see if Pax, too, is headed for a romance.
In terms of other characters whom I hope are headed for starring roles in books – I would love to see more of Silver, Miane, Alice, and Kit.
What about you, Jennie? What’s on your wish list for future books?
Jennie: Definitely Silver! I find the Mercants intriguing. I am interested in Alice but almost fear her story is too sad for a convincing HEA.
Though my interest tends to be focused more on the Psy than the Changelings, Miane is an intriguing character. A female alpha (or at least as close as the Water Changelings have to an alpha), and different for being water-based. I’d be interested in reading about her.
Switching subjects, I’ve complained at length in previous reviews about some central issues that I have with this series (they boil down to: Changelings good/Psy bad; women are equal, but not really; everyone is so damn histrionically emotional all the time!), so I’m going to try not to focus on those this time. Alas, I have new complaints specific to this book, some minor and some not so minor. First the minor:
Is Naya really the first Psy/Changeling kid in history? What about before Silence – there weren’t any then? That detail and a few others served to remind me that the Psy/Changeling world is very detailed in some respects but oddly hazy about others. There’s not a good sense at all of what the world was like before Silence, or at least not that I remember being detailed.
Janine: Great point. We know that humans and Psy had children which resulted in the Forgotten, so it stands to reason that there should have been some Psy/Changeling couples in the time before Silence, but it doesn’t appear to have been the case.
Jennie: And okay, this sounds petty, but have there always been such copious descriptions of what everyone was wearing throughout the books? Because I *really* noticed it in AoH, and it felt like the book would’ve been 5% shorter without the constant sharing of what color shirt Judd was wearing or what Miane’s outfit looked like. I know some people like more detail; I guess it makes the story come alive? But for me it can be distracting and feel superficial.
Janine: You’re cracking me up. I didn’t notice that so much, but what I do notice about this series (and have since the beginning, since it’s always struck me as extremely unlikely) is that for a world with different technologies than our own, peopled by characters with enhanced abilities we don’t have, the fashions they’ve produced in 2082 are almost exactly like our 2016 styles.
Jennie: Maybe they’re just coming back in again!
Besides the clothing descriptions, there were occasional little bits of prose that seemed to give extraneous detail in a jarring way. An example – Clay and Lucas are driving in San Francisco: “Clay slowed the car to permit a pedestrian who’d miscalculated the light change to cross safely onto the sidewalk.” Later on the same drive: “Stepping out into the salt-laced air of the waterfront after putting up the passenger-side window, Lucas shut the door…” These instances weren’t so numerous as to constitute a big problem in my reading, but when they occurred they took me out of the story. Again, maybe it’s a case of “some readers like more detail” but for me when you mention the pedestrian or the open window I get yanked out trying to figure out if the details are relevant to anything. Is the pedestrian an assassin? Does the open (then closed) window have some significance?
Janine: I’m familiar enough with this technique of Singh’s that it doesn’t distract me, but that’s a very good point.
While we’re picking nits, am I the only one who was slightly disturbed by the constant reference to the babies as pups or cubs? I know they are part animal but it still unsettled me.
Jennie: Yeah, I thought it was a little…creepy is too strong a word, but evocative and not in a good way, necessarily? (I also found “pupcubs” in reference to the Riley/Mercy babies too precious by half.)
The larger complaint I have, though, which probably goes hand-in-hand with the epilogue-feel complaint, is that Allegiance of Honor felt very repetitive at times. A few themes were illustrated over and over again as the various characters made their appearances: how much Changelings love and protect their children (unlike humans? I know Psy under Silence weren’t supposed to, but I would expect that humans would also be loving and protective of their children); how possessive and protective Changelings are of their mates (also Kaleb because he’s an alpha hero for all that he’s Psy); how idyllic life is for all of the mated couples and their families, in spite of the various external threats that the characters still face.
Janine: I think it’s pretty much what you get when you try to wrap up an arc that covers fifteen romance novels and five romance novellas. Twenty couples is a lot of rainbows and unicorns. I could have done with less of that, too. A scene in which Sascha and Ria bond over how sexy their guys are when they hold the babies was almost enough to make me wish they would bond over exhaustion from midnight feedings and changing poopy diapers.
Jennie: Ha! I felt that way about all of the illustrations of how wonderful all the Changelings were as parents. Like, I wanted one of them to yell at their kids because they’d had a bad day and the kids had made a mess and not cleaned it up, or something.
Janine: I can’t say I wanted that. Like I said before, there was enough here to keep me reading and that’s no small feat considering the slump I was in the middle of when I picked up this book. It’s also worth noting that I can’t think of another series I’ve stuck it out with this long. And there was even something refreshing about not having a central couple, and putting the focus on suspense plots instead. Gripes aside, I enjoyed this one enough to give it a B.
Jennie: Fair enough! I think it’s a B- for me, which is pretty in keeping with my grades for the series as a whole.
I can’t look up the references here at work — but there are mentions of Psy/Changeling pairings from pre-Silence throughout the series. But I don’t think that there is supposed to have been any since Silence was established. I believe that in a couple of books it’s mentioned that one of Lucas’s grandmother (maybe great grandmother) was Psy. There was a senior Snow Dancer who had weak Psy powers and tried to warn the pack right before the Psy attempt to destroy the pack that resulted in death of Hawke’s parents and the previous alpha. And I think that there are other mentions.
I’m only part way through the book and the thing that has been puzzling me has actually been more the reaction to Mercy and Riley’s “pupcubs”. Singh has said in other books that they are not first cross-species Changeling pairing — yet a lot of the time in this book it feels like something that has never happened before. So my response has been similar to yours about Naya and world building. The world building is strong in many aspects, but also hazy or a little inconsistent when comes to other details (and yes the clothing styles resembling today’s style feels a bit odd to me as well — although it is a consistent feature in Singh’s books) .
But overall I’m enjoying the book. I actually like the multiple storylines — it means I can read this book at a more leisurely pace since each chapter is one set scene about one storyline. It allows me to take break between chapters — which means I can read this book over the week instead of waiting to the weekend when I have a larger chunk of free time. And the letters to Nina work for me (at least so far) since they are supposed to be letters that have been written over the past 10 years –so I think of them more as diary entries.
@Kathryn: Great comment. I had forgotten about Lucas’s grandmother or great-grandmother! There are so many details to remember with this series. I can’t recall what was said about pupcubs other than Riley and Mercy’s, either.
I agree about the multiple storylines (that was what I meant when I said it was refreshing not have a focus on a central couple). And I’m with you on the letters to Nina, too. I enjoyed them more than I expected to.
Jennie, Your mention of copious clothing descriptions made me laugh because it’s something I noticed previously and was first to catch my attention in AoH – I actually started a tally and made it to ten just a few chapters in before I gave up counting. Once into the story, it’s not as noticeable but still annoying enough to occasionally disrupt. I can suspend my disbelief that 2082 fashion is more or less the same as today; I take issue because I don’t think it adds to the story (detracts, when I find it distracting), so I resent it for being there. The extraneous prose detail I’ve also noticed though, like you, it’s not so irritating. If only allowed one word to describe AoH I would call it saccharine. It was just too sweet for me, and I’m not much for sentimentality to begin with. I mean, Naya is cute and all but, two or three look-at-Naya-oh-she’s-so-cute scenes are more than enough. The epilogue-y feel did make story repetitive at times, slowing the narrative and making the extra detail in the writing more obvious.
I have many similar ongoing quibbles (Changeling/good, Psy/bad; women equal but not equal; vigilante justice; changeling overprotectiveness and possessiveness). I think the way protectiveness and possessiveness is portrayed and justified in this series is a good way to demonstrate something I’ve noted about the Changeling/good, Psy/bad theme (though I highly doubt it’s an intended theme it often resonates that way). Protectiveness and possessiveness, though also common characteristics to alpha trope, are frequently attributed to a changeling’s animal nature. It’s typical of other shifter and paranormal romance so whatever, it’s fine.
However – many times throughout this series the importance of a changeling’s duality is acknowledged. They are not all animal and not all human, but both. Overall equally, though maybe more animal or more human in certain moments. That’s fine too, until changeling nature is used to justify the possessive behavior, knee jerk reaction to dispatch threats with violence and death, etc. What about the human part in these situations?
There are numerous occassions in the series when various Psy (usually Councilors) think Changelings lowly, savage and lesser, seeing only the animal and not the human. And plenty of changelings recognize the fallacy of this Psy mentality. Would the vigilante justice and violent protectiveness Changelings have for their mates and children be as unquestioningly accepted from humans or Psy?
If Changelings are equally human and animal and want Psy and humans to treat them thusly they should start acting like it. And to be my own devil’s advocate, humans can be and are violent too so maybe the addition of a Changeling’s animal nature makes them more predisposed? Even if it does, humans apologize for mistakes, try to make amends and find a better way. Animals don’t. Maybe others don’t see it quite this way and maybe I’m over simplifying but it seems to me in the Changeling world the answer to violence is more violence and this is okay because of their animal natures.
The Psy had such a problem with psychopathy and insanity, were hurting themselves and others and took ultimate responsibility for it by conditioning their entire race out of emotion. And not precipitously – after ten years of debate and discussion with the whole race participating. Maybe it was the wrong answer, but the Psy accepted that, even if part of their nature, their violent actions couldn’t be dismissed and then tried to do something about it.
If any group can be forgiven for some poor behavior it is the Psy. All Psy grew up in Silence, suppressing their emotions and some their abilities. All Psy were raised in unfeeling environments with only the most mercenary of objectives banding them together: money, power and genetic legacy which is really a nicer way of saying offspring are another familial asset considering Psy tend to select reproductive partners to produce the most psychically gifted children possible. The Psy MC’s we’ve had and, now that their society is starting to recover, Psy as a whole seem to be taking responsibility – once again – for their actions under Silence, though they didn’t choose Silence and, until recently, had a strictly regimented society that discouraged dissent from the established norm. That in itself isn’t a healthy form of governance as remarked in SoW and SoH, but that level of stringency was a facilitating of tenet of Silence.
Lucas concedes somewhere in AoH that Changeling packs cannot remain isolated and insular in the new post-Silence world, and it’s obvious the series is working toward interaction and equality of the three races. If Changelings want to lead by shiny example they need to make a few other changes. If they want to be both animal and human then actually be both, not acting like animals and using it as justification for actions that we condemn in those of a human (or in this case, non-Changeling) nature.
I think this series sometimes wants to explore bigger ethical questions without first asking the smaller ones. Like attempting to solve child hunger in all of Africa while forgetting there’s a family across the street that can’t afford to eat. The Psy-Changeling world is so big, so nuanced and while it’s clear the Trinity Accord and United Earth Federation (which I have all sorts of problems with) have a long, long way to go until realization, I really hope Nalini Singh takes the time to address some of these issues, fill in the worldbuilding gaps, before she takes another big bite.
Now that my rant is over I did actually enjoy AoH more than I thought I would – all the gooey happiness and quibbles aside, I liked many of the same subplots. I had several emotional moments and Silver is also at the top of my get-their-own book wishlist. I really loved Faith’s brother Tanique, and he’s next on my list. A new type of Psy! One thing I definitely can’t complain about is the worldbuilding for Psy abilities. I particularly liked Faith’s observation about the relation between F and Ps abilities – reminds me of Sahara’s thoughts about Psy with backsight and Justice Psy in HoO.
Thanks for the joint review – I really like the joint reviews for such a long, complicated series! It really helps me sort my own thoughts even if they sometimes take a massive detour…
Thanks for the comprehensive review Jennie and Janine! I think I’m going to give this book a pass. I’ve absolutely loved some books of the Psy/Changling series and have had to DNF others (due to issues I had with pacing and repetitiveness). This one will most likely fall in the latter category if I attempt it. I still look forward to the next one in the series.
Like @Alex, I have also disliked the justification of the Changlings’ possessiveness and over-protectiveness by attributing it to their animal natures. However, my gripe is more about the fact that possessiveness, over-protectiveness and their tactile natures are about the only attributes that the Changlings inherit from their animal parts, and the rest of their thought processes are perfectly human. I would like to see them show more of their animal halves in their thinking (e.g. struggling with some aspects of human logic like Ilona Andrews’ Jack does). The lack of complexity in their characters is perhaps why the Changlings interest me less than the Psys.
@Alex: Cosign me on the Naya cuteness.
Certain aspects of the worldbuilding are well done. For example, I liked the mention of how Naya’s new shifting ability affected her coordination while in human shape, too. It was interesting to think about childhood development in changelings.
I also agree on Tanique.
@Jo Savage: OTOH, I’m with you, Jo, on the way the animal natures are portrayed. Although the changeling characters have enhanced abilities in human shape, too, we rarely see the animal aspect affect their mindset outside of the possessive stuff. Was it in Mercy and Riley’s book that a changeling child lost his family and almost went rogue (Turned animal and never shifted back to human)? I liked that a lot because it was a different aspect of the animal affecting the human than just the fated/mated stuff.
And I so agree with you on Ilona Andrews’ Jack. He is probably my favorite of all her characters. His animal nature is so well done. Do you read Patricia Briggs? I also loved the portrayal of Charles and Bran in the Alpha and Omega books, especially the early ones.
Thanks for the joint review!
I’m a little behind on this series since I waited for the price drop before picking up Shards of Hope and haven’t read it yet. But, otherwise, I’ve read all the books and (I think) novellas–many of them in a single glomfest* a couple of years ago when the DA squeefest over HOO finally broke me down. Even so, just reading thru all the names you mentioned, I felt a bit lost. For starters, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to keep all the S-named women straight in my head without extra concentration. (Seriously, what the heck was up with that? I, personally, like names starting with S, but that’s just over the top.) I probably need to do a series re-read before I continue with the new books in order to do them justice, but I’m not sure I’m ready to commit the time right now.
*When you glom any author/series, you really notice their tics, and Singh certainly has her share. It started to bother me after awhile, but then I was able to mostly shrug it off. It makes you wonder, tho, if she has beta readers, or if her editors bother mentioning things like that to her anymore. I guess they figure, rightly in my case, that it’s not enough to put most people off the series and to not overly mess with a good thing.
@Janine: I’m sure you already know that Jack makes an appearance in the Andrews’s Clean Sweep series, right?
I find the huge cast of characters one of the main draws of the series. All of the friendships, sibling relationships, mentorships, etc. help make the characters more well-rounded because it’s never just the hero/heroine on their own in a vacuum the way some romance books can be. I’ve reread the entire series multiple times so I don’t usually have a problem remembering who characters are when they’re mentioned, though at times I might need a clue since so many names are similar (Zara/Zaira, Andre/Andrea/Andrew, Ena/Enid, Mica/Michael/Micah, Ria/Rina just to name a few). But usually the people with similar names are from different groups, so it’s not that bad to keep track of.
I’m with Janine in that many of the novella couples are favorites (particularly Annie & Zach, Ria & Emmett, and Kirby & Bastien. Also Tamsyn & Nathan and Lara & Walker, but they’ve also been heavily featured in other books at least more so than most of the novella couples). I think the huge payoff that was the Annie and Kaleb scene in AoH would seem so much less without having read the background. Especially since I was unsure they would ever meet up again and that the small moment in Heart of Obsidian when it was confirmed Kaleb had been Annie’s rescuer would be all the closure we’d get.
As for which characters got the most page time, when I reread the series this year I was shocked at how little page time the emails exchanges about Alice actually took in Tangle of need. When I first read the book it seemed like a lot, yet there are only three exchanges in the entire book. When Shield of Winter released I remember the review here said that Sahara and Kaleb seemed to take over the story, but they only had POV scenes in 9 of the 60 chapters. And I was surprised at how relatively little page time Lara & Walker actually had in Kiss of Snow vs. what I thought they did. Obviously some storylines can feel like they overshadow others in both good and bad ways.
The changeling characters have referred to their children as cubs or pubs in every book of the series, but I can understand why that stood out so much this time around for both Jennie and Janine. The first time I read Shield of Winter Lara and Tamsyn are only referred to as “pack healer” or “the other woman” a few times and not by name. But during one of my rereads of the series I realized Singh actually does this with characters quite a lot. It just doesn’t seem as jarring when Lucas or Hawke are referred to only as “alpha.”
I liked Xavier’s letters to Nina and was surprised by Xavier’s initial plan for Judd. But I felt Nina barely had any page time. So there was closure but no real middle to their romance.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. It was nice to see the characters reflect on how much their lives had changed since the series began. There were so many great scenes in the book but my top 5 non-romance ones in order of appearance are: (1) Naya’s first shift, (2) Faith meeting Tanique, (3) Nikita meeting Naya, (4) Teijan and Zane’s arrival for the party , and (5) Annie thanking Kaleb. Honorable mention goes to the pilot reveal and Bowen taking Lily on the gondola ride. I also love the idea that Kaleb and Sahara are filling up their memory wall.
I didn’t see what Lucas did to the ocelot alpha as vigilante justice. We’re told over and over in the books that the Changelings have a very clear set of pack laws that have been enforced since the end of the Territorial Wars. The ocelot alpha broke those laws so Lucas was the one met out his punishment. Now I may not agree that all the offences which seem to result in death are a case of the punishment fitting the crime. But this was not a case of Lucas deciding to take the law into his own hands for vengeance.
After the events in Tangle of Need I’ve not felt that Hawke actually does see Sienna as his equal partner, so his behavior in this book was not surprising. I did appreciate that he gave a full, unconditional apology. But it won’t surprise me if he does something similar in the future. I like them as a couple, but they aren’t one of my favorites.
As for Kaleb, he was such an unreliable narrator in his own book. I don’t see the scene with Annie as at all inconsistent with his earlier characterization. Especially if you take into account all of the scenes in earlier books from the Ghost’s POV knowing he is Kaleb. He was a much better judge of his own character in those scenes.
I want the Architect to be a Changeling because so far most of the main bad guys have been Psy (Santano, Henry, Ming, Blake, etc). So I’m hoping the Architect is Changeling because it does seem like they’re portrayed as the least flawed race of the three. Also, the fact the other big “guess the identity” character (the Ghost) is Psy. Since we know from Shards of Hope that the Architect has a “highly recognizable face” I suppose that rules out most of the Changelings since they are not well known. Also the fact the Architect knows Ena Mercant (or at least acted like he/she did) seems to indicate he/she is a Psy. But I’m still hoping the author will surprise us somehow.
And while I’ll agree as I said that the Changelings are presented as the least flawed, they aren’t presented as without flaws. One of the biggest issues I take with Changelings is the whole I-can-only-live/enjoy-life-if-my-mate-is-alive-and-our-children-aren’t-worth-sticking-around-for vibe. I understand Lucas’ father dying as he was severely injured. So once he knew Lucas was safe, he let go. But Hawke’s mother seemed to choose to die. And though Clay’s Human mother stuck around, she ensured her son grew up with little to no knowledge of his Changeling identity and caused him harm by not wanting him to shift and moving them to the city. How is Persephone (the child rescued in the previous book) supposed to feel growing up knowing her mother is just waiting for her to come of age so she can die?
I am hoping Pax will turn out to be the bad guy he’s presented as being. Kaleb jumped off the page as one of the most interesting characters in the series from the moment he was mentioned in Visions of Heat. Pax does not come off the same was at all for me. I don’t want him to be the Architect for the reasons listed above, but I’m fine with him being one of the villains.
I am looking forward to Silver, Bowen, Finn, and Remington’s stories the most plus Teijan’s if we ever get it. And I was intrigued by the introduction of Kiya. Also Adam, Rina, Lissa, Selenka, and Miane. There’s a long list of characters I’d like to see find their HEA, so I’m very much looking forward to the “second season.”
Oops, the same way at all (not was at all).
Thanks for the review. I’m still on the fence about this one. I do not have the best memory for character names or misc plot points. And I really don’t have patience for tons of perfectly happy couples being perfectly happy together.
This is the first Psy/Changling I didn’t pre-order since maybe Kiss of Snow and I don’t regret it at all. I will probably read it eventually, because I am still a fan of the series, but I don’t feel the need to read this one at the same time as everyone else.
@Kathryn: I agree that Xavier’s letters read a bit like diary entries, but I just didn’t find his voice very compelling.
I actually think I like the multiple storylines; it was just the content that felt repetitive. I found myself much more compelled by the “action” scenes – the attempted kidnapping, the Leila storyline – than the endless scenes of domestic bliss.
@Alex: However – many times throughout this series the importance of a changeling’s duality is acknowledged. They are not all animal and not all human, but both. Overall equally, though maybe more animal or more human in certain moments. That’s fine too, until changeling nature is used to justify the possessive behavior, knee jerk reaction to dispatch threats with violence and death, etc. What about the human part in these situations?
I personally feel like in the world Singh creates the animal side is shown to be innately superior. In a way the Changelings are much simpler creatures, loving and hating unconditionally (they wouldn’t call it “hate” but they have very black and white ideas about wrongdoing). I love animals but I don’t think that animals are “better” than people. Certainly there are qualities that they seem to manifest in purer form than humans do, but I would hesitate to anthropomorphize them too much. Maybe the changelings are just biologically programmed to be great parents and mates? But that’s less romantic, I guess.
@library addict: I find the huge cast of characters one of the main draws of the series. All of the friendships, sibling relationships, mentorships, etc. help make the characters more well-rounded because it’s never just the hero/heroine on their own in a vacuum the way some romance books can be.
I can definitely see why that would be the case for a lot of readers. I think for me it’s a matter of 1) not remembering all these characters to begin with, which is simply down to my memory, which isn’t what it used to be and 2) the fact that the references to other couples or characters often feels clunky to me. For instance, I’m reading a novella of Singh’s now and there is a reference to Drew’s courting of Indigo – for others it probably reads as a great reminder – “oh, yeah, Drew and Indigo – I love them!” but for me it reads sort of “…as you know..” expositiony.
It just boils down to the fact that I keep reading the books, I definitely don’t hate the books, I find the series compelling enough to keep up with, but STILL – a lot of Singh’s quirks as a writer don’t work for me the way that they work for a lot of readers. As I noted in the review, it’s hard not to whine about stuff I’ve whined about multiple times in the past (but it’s HARD NOT TO!!!) but sometimes there are other things I have to whine about instead. :-)
I have lots of thoughts about this book. Primarily, it felt like an end of series clip show, where a bit of action happens at the front and end, with a lot of pleasant fluff in the middle. It was a solid read in that I like her flow, her voice as a writer, but while a lot happened there was very little ramping up of tension. Even the kidnapping threat on the perfect princess loomed more than it acted. For all it was mentioned, there was only one easily thwarted attempt.
And as for the actual kidnap victim, lots of thumb twiddling by so many super powers with disperportionate access to outstanding resources. The “near” catches seemed too contrived as a way to simply extend the story. Would have been more compelling without the happy ending and she did become what the kidnappers intended. Although, maybe she did and that is the set up for the next phase of the series, but it feels too close to the implant-mind control plot by Counselors Henrey and his wife.
I found Xavier’s letters compelling. Perhaps because in my mind he is a more mature and humanly flawed character among all these oh so shiny, perfect 25-35 year olds. His losses seemed more poinent to me, as was his personal quest for redemption, but that is my reader bias as an older reader myself. And yes so many miracle cures, but maybe that is the gift of living 100 years in the future. IDK
Also, while I don’t generally read for realism, the precious and precocious children were a bit much for me to swallow. If you put that many moderately supervised, small children together there will be tears, fists, poop and bodily fluids galore. Not once did these changling kids pee on themselves while running around naked, and the last scene where babies are being passed like hors d’oeuvres at a party, not once did they cry, fuss or spit up on any of the lovely formal wear the guests chose to wear to a party/baby shower in the FOREST.
There felt like a lot of plot and logic holes, and to be honest, I wish I’d held out for paperback pricing or a library loan. I usually love her storytelling, this one just didn’t do it for me. That said, I’ll gobble up the next book in the series to see if it comes with some fresh perspective. Also, I have a raging toothache, so my opinion may be a smidge tainted.
Thanks for the joint review. You helped clarify issues I’ve been having with this series. I fell out with this series awhile ago because it began to feel like Singh lost sight of where it was going and decided to just keep writing it as long as it sold . I was planning on reading this one because I thought it was the final book but it clearly it’s an epilogue wrap-up which is probably fun for long-time fans but one I think I’ll have to pass on. I wonder if it would make more sense to read the previous book when the fall of Silence happens. Would that be easy to pick up if you’ve skipped the previous few books?
I’ve also always wondered if anyone was ever baffled by the “century of Silence” like I was. These are high-tech, long-lived characters but Singh treated 100 years as millennia where fact faded into myth and legend ala Lord of the Rings. I always tripped up on ideas like The Forgotten and the legend of the Arrows when the time frame felt much too short to support it. It speaks to the question of no previous psy-changling progeny too. Even if born before Silence, why couldn’t there still be some alive?
@Susan: I laughed at your mention of all the S names — Sascha, Sienna and Sahara (not to mention Sara in the Guild Hunter series) are easy for me to keep track of, but I’ve noticed, that this author loves names that start with S.
@Susan: Yes, I did know that. I need to get on reading those books, but I’m still trying to catch up on Kate Daniels ATM.
@library addict: Ria / Rina is one that trips me up, but I don’t even remember many of the other characters whose similar names you mention (except Drew, if that’s Andrew).
I don’t know that the novella couples have been my favorites though I do like Bastien and Kirby and Ria and Emmett a lot. I’d forgotten that Walker and Lara had a novella; I’m not sure I’ve read that one. I mainly remember their secondary romance from Kiss of Snow.
But even though novella couples haven’t stood out that much to me, I’m reading her upcoming novella collection, Wild Embrace, and one of the novellas there is So. Good. And that’s probably all I should say on the topic since the book won’t be out until August.
The thing I remember about Tangle of Need, besides those emails about Alice, is that there were a lot of Hawke / Sienna mated bliss scenes that did little for me, if I’m thinking of the right book. Between the Hawke / Sienna scenes and the Alice emails, it seemed like a fair amount of filler.
I agree on Xavier and Nina, and I like your top 5 although a couple scenes from the Zie Zen storyline would be in my top spots.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
I get what you mean about vigilante justice and I had a similar thought– that if Lucas had reported it to enforcement, enforcement would have been useless. But nonetheless, for Lucas to personally kill someone smaller and weaker than himself and however evil, grieving and therefore perhaps not entirely in his right mind, didn’t sit entirely right with me.
It was easier for me when Councillor Enrique was killed because he was more powerful and what he’d done (killing Dorian’s sister; capturing Brenna and using his powers to torture and rape her) was worse than an attempted but unsuccessful kidnapping. That’s not to say that the ocelot leader did not deserve to be punished; of course he did.
I also think within the world that Singh has created, what happened needed to happen to be consistent with the rules of the world, but it still wasn’t one of my favorite scenes in the book (although I did love the conversation with the elderly healer and the aftermath).
When I referred to Kaleb being humanized, I didn’t mean the meeting with Annie, but rather, the playing with all the kids. I dunno; his willingness to do that just struck me as something that should have evolved more slowly, although I’m not sorry to see it happening. Maybe he and Sahara will adopt a child someday? If so I hope they wait a while.
The Architect knew Zie Zen as well as Ena Mercant; that seems unlikely if he’s a changeling, but it’d be cool if he were.
END OF SPOILERS
I agree with you regarding the changeling death wishes.
Agreed. Also agree on Xavier, and +1 to your comment about the kids.
I think if you’ve skipped some books, then the ones I would most recommend reading because they are pivotal to the overarching psy-changeling war / fall of Silence plot would be Kiss of Snow, Heart of Obsidian and Shield of Winter. All three of those have big developments on that front IMO.
I just had the funniest thought after reading this comment — that instead of teleporting all these kids, Kaleb could have spent his time at the gathering ‘porting all their poop into a nearby latrine! ;-)
I can see why Lucas being the one to do so could seem unfair because he was personally involved in the situation as it was his daughter. But my main point was that the alphas and their sentinels/lieutenants/seconds ARE enforcement for ALL changelings. Because Enforcement has no jurisdiction whatsoever over changelings. Only changeling laws apply (due to the treaties, etc. signed at the end of the Territorial Wars). So it was in essence Lucas’ job to do what he did. And it would have to be either a higher level alpha or the pack’s own sentinels who killed the ocelot alpha. Since all of the SkyElm’s sentinels were dead, only another alpha with a higher ranking could do it and Lucas was one. That’s why the two dominants stay to bear witness.
Enrique was a case of the changelings taking matters into their own hands because they had no legal authority to kill him. But since Enrique was Council and the Council was actively covering for his crimes, in that case it didn’t bother me. (I’ll grant that Marshall and Enrique may have been the only Councilors who actually knew Enrique was this particular serial killer. But all of the Councilors knew they were covering up for more than one serial killer, even though they didn’t know fellow Councilor Enrique was one of them.)
The only time Enforcement has any authority over changelings is if a changeling commits a serious crime against a human. That’s why they were able to arrest Clay when he killed Orin.
Okay that makes more sense. Though Kaleb has always had a soft spot for kids, I get why him being shown playing with them could’ve seemed rushed. Since it was only one kid and then Kaleb started talking to Judd it didn’t strike me as out of character.
I think Nalini said in a Q&A Kaleb and Sahara are nowhere near ready to have children and I agree. One of the things I liked in this book was several of the couples talking about how they weren’t ready to have kids yet. Though I would think that’s the type of conversation one should have before mating/marriage/bonding.
I forgot about Zie Zie when I was making my list. Agree that should have been on it.
My biggest gripe with this book is the abundance of plot moppets. The children all seemed more like devices to underscore how fabulous their parents are rather than authentic personalities. I’d have liked to have seen someone lose patience with Tamsyn’s twins. I get it (as a mom), children are precious and need to be nurtured, but Singh veers into treacle at times. Sigh. This emphasis on heteronormativity often undercuts how her books relish diversity. I love how diverse her world is and find comfort in the author’s insistance that love builds bridges while hate sows discord. Oh, that was a message I needed after what happened in Orlando.
@Janine: Confession time. I DNF-ed the first book of the Alpha and Omega series a few years ago (for reasons that I can’t remember). Maybe it deserves another go?
@library addict: I guess if it’s the changelings’ job to function as enforcement, and it seems that it is, I would prefer that they jailed criminals rather than executing them. However, that wouldn’t be consistent with the frequent statements about how they would turn violent if a loved one were harmed, which is why I say that it had to happen the way it did in this book for consistency’s sake. That doesn’t change the fact that more violence as a response to violence isn’t something I like.
@library addict: Glad to hear Kaleb and Sahara will wait a while. I appreciated the “We’re not ready for kids” conversations, too.
Tell me, am I imagining things, or was it said early on in the series that changelings don’t have many children? Maybe I’m mixing it up with some other series.
@Laura Bayne: Good points. I get the kids mixed up except for a few– the gentle empath boy, the Forgotten boy, and the TK-cell child Judd helped (I would have loved to have seen him in this book, but he was only mentioned). But off the top of my head, I don’t remember their names.
@Jo Savage: I really love that series. Did you start with the novella, or with the first novel? The novella (titled Alpha and Omega) is the beginning of the series, despite the fact that Amazon mis-labels Cry Wolf (the following novel) as the first book. A lot of people start with Cry Wolf because of that and feel lost because they didn’t read Alpha and Omega first. Maybe that happened to you? I would say that if you read the novella and it doesn’t grab you, I would still go on to the novel which is soooo good. If (after you’ve read the novella) the novel doesn’t grab you either, then this series is probably not for you.
I agree that “more violence as a response to violence isn’t something I like.”
No, it’s been mentioned a few times.
From Tangle of Need:
@Laura Bayne: Yes, the endless patience and twinkle-eyed fondness everyone seems to have with the children in the changeling world aggravates me. I think it would be easier to take if there wasn’t so much type devoted to it – it’s not just the unlikely depiction of absolutely PERFECT families, it’s that their perfection is emphasized over and over and over. I’m sorry to sound so cranky over it but it makes me quite cranky, for some reason.
Overall, I liked “Allegiance of Honor”, but it wasn’t my favorite book in the series. I agree with many points the reviewers and commenters made and disagree with some. What bothered me a bit in this book is that as animalistic as Changelings are there was no mention of breastfeeding at all. Not for Naya (she gets milk with chocolate at barely 1 year old?) and not for pupcubs, which is even more surprising. All that skin to skin contact and no breastfeeding. I don’t think bottles were mentioned either, so at least that is something…
@T.: That’s a great point, T.
I skimmed this book, for the most part. First, as many have mentioned, Singh desperately needs an editor. I can’t believe I keep reading her books when I actively hate her writing style. It’s just so overwrought and way too wordy. It constantly brings me out of the book, which ruins the reading experience.
Second, the children were unbelievably annoying. Yes, yes, the children are cute and everyone is an amazing parent; how wonderful. But seriously, let’s have a little realism about the difficulty parents face, even parents who have a willing village to help raise the kids.
Third, I am so tired of the sexism in these books. The women are described as strong, but the men are unnecessarily suffocating and it often seems like Singh pays lip service to strong female characters without actually writing them. It’s a classic example of an author telling us something, but not actually showing it anywhere in the books.
Fourth, Singh needs a fucking editor. It can’t be said enough.
@Alleira: I would love to read about a female character who rides roughshod over the wishes of one of these bossy men. I’d especially have liked for Sienna to do something like that to Hawke.
@Janine: No kidding! Or, for once, maybe have a dominant changeling woman get together with a submissive male (does such a thing exist in the changeling world? maybe not, but there are definitely “submissive” human males). Singh wrote an entire novella about, IIRC, Grace (supa-submissive) and Cooper (supa-dominant) and how they had to wait and wait and wait for her inner wolf to trust Cooper’s inner wolf. But we NEVER hear the opposite of that even though real life relationships always involve some sort of power dynamic.
Someone else commented on this, but I was really surprised about Sascha not nursing Naya. Instead she’s giving an almost-one-year-old milk with shavings of chocolate? First of all, I call foul on a baby being able to taste shavings of chocolate in milk (but Singh makes sure to tell us that it’s not enough to harm, Naya; thank God, otherwise we’d all assume Sascha is a negligent mother). Second of all, the implication is that it’s cow’s milk or some other type of milk, but definitely not breast milk (because there is no way Singh would not spend 3/4 of a page talking about how the Medela Pump-in-Style allows Sascha to work AND mother). And third, it is just not believable that changelings don’t nurse, especially considering how Singh goes out of her way to talk about how much they adore and cherish their children AND she plays up their atavistic/animalistic natures (note: I am NOT implying that women who don’t nurse their kids do not love them; I am similarly not implying that women who do nurse their kids are animalistic).
There is one mention of nursing in the book where Kirby (Lynx changeling with a leg injury) is given some kind of long-acting NSAID by the DarkRiver healer and the healer assures her that it won’t harm the baby she’s presumably nursing. (And can we talk for a moment about how Kirby has had a ton of medical help through the years but her doctor somehow doesn’t recommend this NSAID for her long-term pain, but the healer knows about it and prescribes it without so much as an exam?)
Ugh. I need to stop reading these books.
Actually, there is a novella *exactly* along these lines in Singh’s upcoming anthology Wild Embrace, and the submissive hero is a SnowDancer wolf changeling (the dominant heroine is from DarkRiver). I really think you should give that a shot if you’ve been craving a story along these lines from Singh. Plus, another novella in the same anthology has a psy / human pairing in the era of Silence, so the emotion in that story is more suppressed than is typical of these books.
I think you might be mixing up Kirby with Annie (I don’t think Kirby has a baby, and Annie has an old leg injury), but it’s been long enough that I’m not 100% sure. But yeah, the parenting in this book seems to be a complaint a lot of readers had. As mentioned before, I really wanted to see Sascha and Ria bond over new mother exhaustion, rather than just how sexy their mates look while holding a baby.