JOINT REVIEW: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
This is the fifth (!) book in the Psy-Changeling* series that Janine and I have reviewed together. One more and I think we get a set of steak knives. – Jennie
Jennie: * Technically, Silver Silence is the first book in the new Psy-Changeling Trinity series, but I didn’t note much difference between this book and the previous books in the original Psy-Changeling series. Some new characters, yes, but a lot of familiar faces and conflicts, and the structure and tone were the same as in the previous series.
Anyway, on to our story. It opens with Silver Mercant, familiar from previous books as Kaleb Krychek’s ultra-efficient second-in-command, opening the door of her Moscow apartment to Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater Bear pack. This is not the first time Valentin has gotten into her apartment building by mysterious means, ostensibly to conduct business but clearly also to flirt. Except Silver doesn’t flirt. She is Silent, and she’s a Mercant, meaning she’s pretty much perfect and precise in her every thought and action. If there is some vague stirring of emotion deep inside her when Valentin comes around, she does an excellent job of hiding it.
Valentin is pretty much the opposite of Silver – charming, playful, and in spite of his alpha ruthlessness (and some secret, pack-related sorrow), a happy-go-lucky guy. Still, he’s drawn to Silver, whom he suspects of harboring a “secret fire.”
Their brief encounter (playful on Valentin’s part; irritated, if irritation didn’t break Silence protocols, on Silver’s) is interrupted when Silver falls to the floor and convulses. Valentin immediately summons help, and then uses his extra-keen bear sense of smell to confirm what he already suspects – she’s been poisoned.
Thanks to Valentin’s quick actions and the work of the Psy doctors summoned by Kaleb Krychek and Silver’s grandmother Ena Mercant, Silver recovers from the poisoning. But while she is being worked on, Valentin and Ena come up with a plan to safeguard Silver until her attacker is unmasked: she will travel to the StoneWater den under the conceit that she’s working to strengthen Psy-Changeling bonds, particularly as StoneWater is the controlling Changeling presence in the area.
Silver is the director of the worldwide Emergency Response Network, otherwise known as EmNet. EmNet is tasked with coordinating disaster response under the authority of the Trinity Accord, the fledgling organization of humans, Psy and Changelings trying to build a new and more equitable world for all three groups. As such, she’s a visible target for those who don’t want the Trinity Accord to succeed. The reader is given the perspective of one such person, an unnamed human who hates and distrusts the Psy. But Silver and her grandmother also suspect that a Mercant had a hand in the poisoning, because no one else would’ve had access to Silver’s food supply.
The only Mercants Silver can continue to trust are her grandmother, the matriarch of the tight-knit Mercant family, and her brother Arwen. Arwen (his name put me off – isn’t that the name of one of the elves in Lord of the Rings?) and Silver have always had a special bond, which seems odd to say given that all of the Mercants were Silent before the recent change in Psy protocol that allows Psy to choose for themselves if they want to maintain Silence or not. But the fact is that throughout the series there have been Psy who, while technically Silent, have had emotional connections with each other.
This is one of those aspects of the series that I’m unclear on – is it the author’s intention to show that following Psy protocols completely is impossible? Or are we supposed to believe that certain Psy are “perfectly Silent” even when that doesn’t seem to be the case?
Janine: My reading is that the only Psy we are meant to believe are truly perfectly Silent are the cold killers and the sociopaths. The Psy protagonists in these books have flaws in their Silence, but many conceal those flaws so well that they fool most people—and in some cases, even themselves. Silver might be one of the latter; I got the impression that she was influenced by the empathic Arwen’s presence in her family in ways she did not always acknowledge.
Jennie: You’re absolutely right – Silver might easily be more perfectly Silent without Arwen. Her other close connection is Ena, her grandmother, but Ena is a much better at presenting a facsimile of Silence than Arwen is, I think.
Anyway, Silver has a mysterious reason, frequently referenced but not spelled out, for feeling that giving up Silence isn’t for her. At one point she tells Valentin that she has a mutation in a genome that makes breaking Silence dangerous for her. It feels like something we’ve heard before; someone else will no doubt remember what books/characters had similar conflicts in regard to breaking Silence.
Janine: Judd is the one who immediately comes to my mind. He could not break Silence for fear that he would lash out at people with his telekinesis and harm or even kill them unintentionally. I’m pretty sure Faith had to stay Silent too, but I’m fuzzier on her story.
Jennie: I knew you would remember at least one example!
Silver settles in at the StoneWater den and is able to view up close, for the first time, a very different way of living. The closeness, the nosiness, the physical affection are all, obviously, alien to her. Meanwhile, Valentin is continuing his courting of Silver and it’s beginning to work. Despite her super sekret reason for not wanting to break Silence, she begins to consider engaging in a physical relationship with Valentin so that she knows what she’s giving up by maintaining her current lifestyle. Valentin wants more, of course (he’s definitely one of those heroes that are all in from page one), but he’s willing to be patient (sort of).
So, there are a few plotlines going on here: one, obviously, is the shadowy, seemingly human-driven entity that wants to disrupt EmNet and the Trinity Accord, both by poisoning Silver and later by terrorist acts targeted mostly at humans. Then there is Valentin’s grief and an impending decision he needs to make about the division in his clan, one that apparently occurred when he took over from the previous alpha. There’s Silver’s own struggle to maintain Silence and resist Valentin’s charms, all while dealing with a potential traitor in her own family. Then there’s the actual romance running through it all, as Valentin and Silver are thrown together and learn more about each other, and as lust and intrigue deepen to love and respect.
As I stated early in this review, none of this is structurally or thematically different, IMO, from the first 15 Psy-Changeling books; the only difference is that we’re supposedly in a “post-Silence”/Trinity Accord world now. I suppose the introduction of a new changeling group, the bears, could also qualify as a change of sorts.
The bears are a little different from the leopards and wolves we’re familiar with from the earlier books. Their personalities seem to be generally more light-hearted and playful (they have a reputation for raising hell in the Moscow bars). As someone who has never been that into the “animal” aspect of the Changelings, I didn’t care *that* much, but there is something viscerally less romantic, I think, about bears. I think of them as shambling rather than sleek (I guess while leopards are sleek, wolves aren’t really. But come on, wolves are cool). After a while I stopped being concerned with that aspect of the story, though. It helped that we didn’t spend a huge amount of time with Valentin in bear form.
Janine: I just could not get into the bear thing, and it didn’t help that Valentin was said not to lumber, or that he and his sister were described as having grace, because trying to picture a graceful bear just brought up the image of the bear from the Charmin toilet paper commercial. Along similar lines, when, during a love scene, Valentin spoke of Silver’s pussy “glistening with your honey,” my mind called up Disney Winnie the Pooh imagery, which wasn’t conducive to a sexy mood.
(Incidentally, the word “pussy” jarred me too. I expect it and have no problem with it in erotic romances, but I think it’s new to the Psy/Changeling books.)
Jennie: Ha, I think I stopped on “pussy” too – I wasn’t consciously aware that it was on the graphic side for Singh, but it did give me pause (not “paws” – the ursine humor just keeps coming). I didn’t even notice the “honey” mention but it seems unfortunate in this context.
Janine: In addition to mentally tripping up over pop culture bear iconography, I was disappointed that the bear changelings were so similar to the leopards and wolves in their characteristics—warm, loving, close-knit and fierce defenders of those they loved. I would have preferred that this book deal with the loner ocean changelings of BlackSea. That would have felt like something truly new, rather than a surface change.
Jennie: I’m afraid that even the BlackSea members would get the same treatment if they were to get their own full-length book. Singh has developed such an iconography around the Changelings; I’ve complained about it at length before. They are imbued almost entirely with positive traits, and a lot of their representation is tied up in how cute the little ones are and how protective and flawless the adults are in their treatment of the babies and children.
I mean, she could prove me wrong, and represent BlackSea differently, but it doesn’t surprise me that the bears are familiar, because the leopards and wolves have always been very, very similar to each other.
There were developments fairly late in the book that engaged me more than the first 3/4ths or so; the earlier part felt familiar to anyone who’s read the series, especially the books that feature a Psy-Changeling pairing.
Janine: I was frustrated and frankly, bored with the first 70% of the novel because the plot revolved around three tropes that have already gotten a lot of play in the series, from the Psy heroine who discovers the warmth, love and emotion of changeling life (Sascha in Slave to Sensation, Zaira in Shards of Hope) to the Psy character who must, at all costs, remain Silent (Faith in Visions of Heat, Judd in Caressed by Ice), to the character facing the possibility of impending death (Sascha in Slave to Sensation, Katya in Blaze of Memory, Vasic in Shield of Winter).
Don’t Psy have any other problems in their lives? I feel ready for some romance tropes we have not yet seen in this series such as a friends-to-lovers story in a Psy or changeling setting, a secret baby kept hidden because of his/ her Psy abilities, or a marriage of convenience story. Heck, I would even take a fake romantic relationship which is one of my least favorite tropes.
Jennie: Ooh, a marriage of convenience would be interesting! Maybe between two Psy?
Janine: The main thing that saved this book, to the degree that it was saved, was that the last thirty percent of it did introduce a brand new trope I have not seen used in this series—or elsewhere in the genre, for that matter.
Jennie: Without going into spoilery detail, Valentin and Silver’s relationship is basically reset and I found the action in the last quarter poignant, engaging and romantic.
Janine: I’ll go into BIG spoilers, but hide them:
Spoiler (“spoiler”): Show
I agree that this last section was far more engaging than the first three-quarters. It felt fresh and different in a good way and provided the story with a satisfying conclusion, but for me, that felt like too little, too late.
I don’t often restructure novels in my imagination as I read them, but in this case, I found myself wishing that this book had been structured differently, beginning with this last section and then telling the earlier part of the story in flashbacks interspersed between Silver and Valentin’s dates, because doing so might have lent the first 70%, which was so familiar and tired, that same poignancy and high emotional stakes that the final third had.
Jennie: That would’ve been interesting. I think I was just glad that the good part was at the end, though, because it left me finishing the book with a happy feeling.
I was pondering why I think I liked this book better than I have many of the other books in the series, and I think a big factor is that Silver felt more like an equal than the heroines in many of the Psy-Changeling books. I have often complained that the books give lip service to heroines being “badass” or challenging to the hero’s dominance. But inevitably it’s made clear that he’s really in charge, and that he’s stronger, faster, more dominant, etc. In Silver Silence I felt like Valentin really did admire Silver’s strength, and they were actually pretty evenly matched. I liked that a lot.
Janine: Yes. I’ll agree with that. I got a little weary of the oft-repeated “Silver. Fucking. Mercant.” meme, but your point stands. Silver has always been a badass and I’ve loved that about her since she was first introduced as Kaleb Krychek’s assistant a dozen or so books ago.
I’ve been waiting a long time for her to get a book worthy of her and for me, this was not that book. I liked Valentin and I agree he was a good match for her, but in addition my main issue (tired tropes in the first two-thirds), I also felt that the external suspense plot involving the attacks on EmNet and Trinity lacked freshness and suspense. I was never truly scared for Silver’s safety or that of the Trinity accord.
Jennie: Fair, and I feel like terrorist attacks have been a central theme for a while now (am I remembering right?). I don’t like the overreliance on them, and it hits a little too close to home these days.
Janine: Yeah. I could not help but compare this book to Slave to Sensation, the novel that began the previous arc and the Psy-Changeling series itself. Maybe that comparison is unfair, since the series was completely new and it’s impossible to compete with the freshness of that. Slave to Sensation was not a perfect book and I had some issues with it, but at the time, Lucas, Sascha and their allies were underdogs fighting the all-powerful Psy Council, so the threat to them felt real.
Here, so many powerful people and groups have now signed on to the Trinity accord that the accord does not feel truly vulnerable. If anything, it is actually Trinity’s shadowy enemies who are the underdogs in this conflict, and their defeat feels like a foregone conclusion. That doesn’t give me much reason to keep turning the pages.
Jennie: If I were to have a quibble (I always have quibbles!) I would say that for a book set in Moscow and featuring ostensibly Russian characters (well, I’m not clear if Silver is supposed to be Russian, since she doesn’t have a Russian name, but she’s based in Moscow, and Valentin definitely is), the setting and characters didn’t feel very Russian to me. There were Russian words thrown in here and there, but I never got the sense of a different culture, with different worldviews and history and foods. I guess one could argue that in the Psy-Changeling world, Russia isn’t “Russian” the way it is here, but I was disappointed not to get some local flavor out of the setting.
Overall, though, a book that started off for me being another B-/C+ (or so) Psy-Changeling book was really elevated by the last quarter. I am giving it a B+.
Janine: Usually I grade Singh’s books a bit higher than you do, but in this case, it appears we are reversing positions. The first two-thirds were a C- for me, and the last quarter, a B. And since the later section was considerably shorter, I have to give the earlier one more weight. It’s a C for me.
Good review, didn’t read the spoiler so I’m keen to see what happens in the final part of the book which is unusual for genre.
I like the idea of a marriage of convenience between two Psy who (perhaps) marry because of their genetic compatibility or because they have an enhanced possibility of having a child with stellar abilities. Then fast forward a few years, they have some children and each is secretly in love with the other (because of course they aren’t properly Silent) but thinks the other is truly Silent . Hmm, daydreams for a bit.
Ooh, I like the way you think! There is much that can be done with this world, but I feel it needs an injection of some new elements because the series has been going for so long.
I adore Valentin. He’s a different alpha, for sure. I just want to cuddle with him. :-)
The whole point of the first arc (which basically culminated in Heart of Obsidian was that Silence was a deeply flawed concept. And that none of the Psy except the sociopaths were ever completely Silent. The only good to come out of it was they can now adapt the tools and protocols to teach young Psy to control their abilities but in a humane way that doesn’t involve torturing them.
Silver’s family was different in that they had the power to keep their children, even those who would normally have been drafted into the Arrow squad or Council. And we learn in this book that they’ve never induced the pain feedback loop to control their abilities (like Judd and the other Arrows had as well as Faith to a much lesser extent). She didn’t really explore what the Mercants did instead if they’d had a child who was a Tk (I think it was the last book maybe where Judd thought about the fact the Mercants had a way of holding on to their children). I wish that had been detailed more.
I agree that the Changeling packs are too often described as perfect, which is why I was really hoping the Architect would turn out to be a Changeling. But that seems like it won’t be the case. But at the same time I do enjoy most of the stories which have been set at the various packs and enjoy the antics of the young cubs and pups, etc.
I felt when the Architect and the new group of baddies was introduced that it seemed too generic, but I was still intrigued. I don’t have a good list of suspects. And overall it is just not as interesting a mystery as who was the Ghost. Maybe that will change as the arc progresses.
I thought the book had pacing issues, but overall I enjoyed it. I liked the romance (both versions). I wanted to know more about the hero’s mother and hope we see some actual interactions between her and her children in future installments. I liked that Valentin was trying to be sneaky like a cat, yet remained a “gentleman” bear. And the whole ongoing feud with the wolves. We haven’t met enough members of BlackEdge yet to wonder who could make a good pairing between the two packs, but as long as the main conflict isn’t another who-is-more-dominant issue like Mercy & Riley I could be onboard with a StoneWater/BlackEdge pairing.
I am sad about Bo and we’ve a whole year to wait to find out what happens. I am of two minds. On the one hand, he’s one of my favorite characters so I really want him to get his own story. On the other hand, even though there has been a lot of death, we’ve only lost one character who was a main good guy. Lots of Psy were killed in Shield of Winter and lots of humans in this book, but the impact wasn’t really felt as the main and secondary characters never feel in danger. That was one of my main issues with Kiss of Snow even though on the flip side I am really glad some of my personal favorites did recover. And I’m not saying I want her to kill off major characters (because ultimately these are romance stories). So I really want Bo to get better, but I think Singh could pull it off if he didn’t.
While the fall of Silence and now the Trinity Accord and adapting to the Post-Silence world make a good backdrop for the political maneuverings of the series, the books are ultimately just as much if not more about with the slice of life moments. So I don’t see the structure of the books changing any time soon. There are still so many unanswered questions though that I plan to go along for the ride.
@library addict: I completely agree that Silence has been presented as a deeply flawed concept and protocol, but what I find confusing is that every once in a while a character is described (in another character’s POV) as coldly, perfectly silent. But… is anyone really perfectly silent? Is it even possible to maintain perfect silence for a lifetime?
Maybe the Mercants are just fortunate enough to have no children with the Tk-cell ability? It seems to be rare.
Like you, I would love to see more flawed changelings and the occasional changeling villain. I wonder if the Architect will turn out to be a former Councilor. I’m trying to remember if Ming has been ruled out. I think the reason the mystery of who was the Ghost was so much more fascinating is that the Ghost was operating on the good guys’ side within the net but in a dangerous way.
I liked Valnetin’s mom too. The final scene between her and Silver was great and I hope that in some future book they find proof of what happened with Valentin’s dad to give to his mom. Maybe we’ll learn more when one of Valetntin’s sisters gets a book?
I don’t yet care much about BlackEdge and whether someone from there ends up with someone from StoneWater, but that could change. I am intrigued by the fact that BlackEdge has a female alpha and I hope to see her story told.
I pretty much agree about Bo, too. His sister is interesting, though, and if he dies, it could have powerful ramifications for her.
I agree about the dearth of deaths (forgive the alliteration) in this series. All this danger but few actually die. I also agree Kiss of Snow is a good example of that; I had a similar issue with Archangel’s Legion. Remind me what main character was killed? Off the top of my head I can only think of Zie Zen and Dorian’s sister (Kylie?), but they are both side characters for me (Dorian’s sister even more so, since she was dead when the series began).
I don’t think a change in structure is necessary (although I would have preferred a flashback structure for this book, and I think the slice of life moments could have been worked into that just as well). But I think some kind of change is needed. After 15 books, and with a new series title, I expect something to be new and different. The bears just didn’t feel different enough.
I think the series could be injected with freshness with new tropes or with a changeling pack that behaves differently, or by fast-forwarding some years into the future or giving us characters that are different in age or background (I would love to see the story of how Kit starts a young pack, for example). A different structure is just one of many options.
What puzzles me is how the Guild Hunter series just keeps coming out with one strong book after another, while the new Psy/Changeling entries can’t compete with the caliber of the earlier books in the series. YMMV, of course. Still, I’m seriously contemplating whether to continue with this series and if the next couple books are on par with this one, I may not. I am enjoying the angel books so much more.
@Janine: I don’t read her Guild Hunter series, so I can’t really comment on the differences. I’ve only read one book and some of the newsletter short stories.
Yeah, it wasn’t a Tk-cell issue as that is super rare. In one of the books it was either Judd or Aden who was reflecting on the fact that there were Mercants who should have ended up in the Arrow Squad, but because the family was a shadow power that they always managed to keep their children to raise themselves.
Maybe the Falcons will be a bit different if she ever tells Adam’s story. I would also like to get back to Remi’s pack to further explore how so many loners manage to interact together. The only trope that I’m tired of in the series is the who-is-more-dominant that we had with so many of the wolf books. I like it when each character shows different strengths and weaknesses so it’s more of a balancing act between them or where the dominance issue just isn’t a factor.
Zie Zen was the character I was thinking of. I agree he wasn’t a major character, but he was featured in multiple books and was a POV character in a few. No one else except bad guys has been killed off. I wouldn’t even count Kylie since she was already dead when the series started.
I would like it if Silver managed to find proof that Mikhail had been experimented on. I know it’s another bad Psy subplot, but it seems a more reasonable explanation then he woke up one day and decided to be a serial killer.
I think that’s why I liked the mystery elements of Jem & Kenjis story because it showed a Changeling being vindictive. Or the backstories about Kenji’s parents and Nathan’s parents. Just things that show Changelings aren’t all perfect.
Ming seems much too obvious and has been ruled out if the Patriot guy was right that the Architect is a Psy female.
Shoshanna seems too obvious a choice as well. But we also know from Aden’s book that the Architect is highly recognizable and from Allegiance of Honor that the Architect knows Ena Mercant. So the Psy part seems to be a given and if it’s a female character the question becomes have we been introduced to them already? If so, the suspect pool seems pretty short. Besides Shoshanna, there is Jen Liu, Payal Rao, Kalini Chastain? I don’t suspect any of the Arrows or Dara Faison or Ida Mill. But we don’t know for sure it’s someone we have met yet. And I’m probably leaving off some suspects.
I want to know who the traitors are in BlackSea and the Forgotten. I was kind of bummed the minor villain here didn’t turn out to be one of the family, though I can also understand why she didn’t go that route.
@Alison R: I like that idea! I’ll admit that part of my enthusiasm is that I tend to prefer the Psy characters to the Changelings, in part because Singh idealizes the Changelings so much.
@Carolyn: I found myself won over by him in the end almost in spite of myself. As I said, I’m not really into the bear thing, but since I don’t have a lot of interest in the Changelings in their animal form anyway, that ended up being not as big a deal. Valentin was pretty cute. :-)
@library addict: The whole point of the first arc (which basically culminated in Heart of Obsidian was that Silence was a deeply flawed concept. And that none of the Psy except the sociopaths were ever completely Silent. The only good to come out of it was they can now adapt the tools and protocols to teach young Psy to control their abilities but in a humane way that doesn’t involve torturing them.
Janine and I had actually talked about this – I guess what I don’t understand about the sociopaths being completely Silent was that there were sociopathic Psy in the series who were depicted as enjoying torturing others, and that enjoyment is at odds with my understanding of Silence as a concept. Enjoyment, even sadistic enjoyment, suggests emotion to me, which to me is at odds with being Silent. I’m more of the view that none of the Psy were ever totally Silent, and that perhaps perfect Silence was not an achievable goal.
@library addict: I hope we get Adam’s story. The falcons could be interesting and also weird. Like are they born the human way, or do they hatch from an egg?
Even Zie Zen wasn’t killed, but died a natural death of old age. Someone needs to be killed at some point IMO. Obviously it can’t be a protagonist.
That aspect of Kenji and Jem’s story was interesting, though it bugged me that Kenji kept his secret for so many years into adulthood, and deprived himself and Jem of time they could have been together.
I think in some instances they were “possessed” by the DarkMind. (That’s not quite what happened, but I can’t think of a better word). At least that’s what I remember about Amara in her sister’s book. But killers like the scientist who was torturing the Forgotten kids (Larson? I’m blanking on his name) were just sadistic. I agree it’s likely that no one was probably ever totally Silent. But the ones who took to the protocol best (the psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists) were the people with behavioral issues it was meant to stop.
@Janine: I had a lot of issues with Kenji in that story, particularly since he never apologized for his behavior. I had sympathy for him, but he deliberately hurt Garnet and continued to do so for years. I expected an apology at minimum.
That’s a good point about Zie Zen dying but not being killed. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
One of the things I want to know most is how/if the NetMind and DarkMind will ever re-merge. I have a long list of characters I would like to see stories for, but I know they all won’t happen. There are a number of Changeling characters I consider favorites, but mostly I’m all about the Psy.
I like that the first season had a definitive arc. From interviews, etc. with the author, I do trust that she has answers to the questions and isn’t just making everything up as she goes along.
I did not like this book. Boring and long with a quick ending. Plus I guess she is jumping on the male on make couple bandwagon now, why.
Based on what I’ve read (and of course, this is real-world stuff, so Singh’s universe could work differently), sociopaths are characterised by having no empathy to start with, so something that interferes with their empathy wouldn’t affect them in that respect. So possibly it works if you assume that the “enjoyment” they get out of it is a sort of entertainment, which conceivably could be more intellectual than emotional? Though you might predict that people would then turn to torture for intellectual entertainment who otherwise would not have been so inclined, because the emotions that would ordinarily prevent them from hurting people would be gone.
Sadism would definitely be affected, though, because one of the things it’s rooted in is empathy. No more empathy, no more sadism.
First I have to say N.S is one of the authors that I read and enjoy. However, I really did not like this book at all. I felt like I already read it a couple of times previously. I had to take it apart to see why I felt this way.
1. Psy Heroine and Alpha Hero (read this before numerous times)
2. Psy H that most certainly will die if she brakes silence (red this before numerous times)
3. Alpha h with pain because his pack struggles on some level (read this before)
4. Psy H that is in danger from Psy (read this before numerous times)
5. Psy H that comes from silent but loving, protective family ( I think Fay had the somewhat if not very similar family )
6. Psy H interacts with extremely cute and adorable baby bears ( I was actually surprised there were no twin bears LOL)
7. The bear pack is very loving, living together and working together (wolfs)
I think for me the start was extremely slow and truly I did not learn anything new or interesting. I do not feel like this book brought anything to the table except a new Bear pack. I also feel like the bear clan was somewhat cartoonish. They liked to drink a lot of vodka (a stereotype that I do not appreciate), they like to decorate their drunken pack mates with glitter , and the twin brother although very dominant like to fight with each other in their spare time (I am rolling my eyes ).
Now I was born in former Soviet Union and speak fluent Russian and I absolutely hate when authors use Russian language in books because most times they do not do a good job. I usually feel that unless you are Ilona Andrews do not use Russian in your books. However, I have to say Nalini did an admirable job, for the most part the language was used correctly. There were only a couple of words that did not work as intended in the book and took me right out of the story, and I can really see why she thought she can use them.
Now for the Bear names, I am fluent in Russian, I am familiar with all the names but the variety of names drove me nuts and confused me. Pasha, Yasha, etc, etc. Too many names I could not keep up.
I really hope her next book in the series will be much better than this one. Like I wrote before I really like the author .
@Bookgirlroz: Yes, I agree although I did like the last 30%. That’s why I gave it a C grade.
@Anonymous: That is really interesting about sadism and I actually think the Psy-Changeling world contradicts that. There are still sadistic killers like Councilor Santano Enrique, Kaleb’s dad. He tortured Brenna when he held her and I think it was for personal enjoyment. The books say that Silence was conceptually flawed and actually resulted in more killers like Councilor Enrique (I believe that is stated in the first book). So either it never successfully rid the psy of empathy, or the books got something wrong.
@Natasha: I agree although for me the last 30% did feel fresh. Did it for you? The rest, I agree, read like a book we’ve read before and moved slowly for that reason. I am also really glad that someone with a Russian background weighed in. Thank you for addressing the stereotyping and also, for mentioning that Singh got the Russian language mostly right.
LOL! And good to know that Singh did her research here.
ETA: BTW, I love that you use capital H for heroine and lowercase h for hero, in contrast to all the people who do the opposite. I usually just say h/h or spell out the words, but yours is a refreshing change.
@library addict: That’s a good point about the DarkMind. But Anonymous’s point about the sadistic ones is interesting to think about. Maybe no one was ever Silent, but I remember in the earlier books the changelings said that some psy had a metallic smell, and now I wonder what that smell was supposed to signify because I thought it was supposed to indicate the person was Silent.
@library addict: Yes, Kenji should have let Garnet make up her own mind about them. It was her decision to make and he had no right to take it away from her, no matter how kind his motives. Also, I think that premise was ableist. So I agree that he owed her a heartfelt apology at the very least.
Zie Zen’s death was disconnected from the level of danger in these stories, and I think someone needs to die in a dangerous situation. I like Bo so I don’t want him to die, but if he does, it will pack a lot of power, so I’m not opposed to it either.
I too trust that Singh has a plan– she could not have written such a strong overarching plot for the earlier arc without one–but I hope this plan includes some changes that go beyond the superficial. Substituting bears for leopards or wolves doesn’t feel like more than a surface change.
Also I forgot to mention the relationship between two male characters . I felt like the author was testing the water with this one. When I started to read I had hoped that she would finish what she started. I was disappointed she did not took their relationship further. I know not everyone wI’ll share my opinion on this one.
@Natasha: Their relationship was nice, but I feel like we didn’t really get to know them enough. Hopefully we’ll see more of them in future books. As for testing the waters–are you thinking that Illium and Aodhan are headed for couple status in the Guild Hunter books? Because it sure seems that way to me.
@Anonymous: I guess it’s possible. I’m just thinking in terms of: the Psy that are supposedly Silent don’t even eat food for enjoyment, and in fact seem not to even understand the concept. So *my* vision of a totally Silent Psy, were he a sociopath, would be one who only tortured and killed for a purpose, not for entertainment or enjoyment.
@Janine, regarding Illium and Aodhan I actually don’t know if Nalini will write them as a couple, it sure would be interesting to read . If memory serves me correctly Illium had a woman he loved, but I guess he could be bisexual.
As for the Silver Silence, I felt like she did not finish what she started with male characters. Are they going to have their own book or maybe their relationship will be shown later on in a different books? For me it was a teaser and I wanted to read more about them because at least it was more interesting and new then the main characters love story.
I enjoyed the first few books, stopped around Judds one because the stories are far too formulaic. I wonder if its part of the contract for this series or one of the publishing team is forcing it. Vastly prefer the Guild Hunters series and I can’t wait for the next book.
@Natasha – oooh. I’ve been waiting for a loooooong time for queer characters to show up in this world.
I came back to read this once I’d finished the book.
I was quite disappointed with it and think part of my issue is there was no real conflict between them getting together – we have previous examples of psy breaking silence when they were sure they couldn’t do it due to their powers (judd and faith) so I never believed it would be a real problem. Two powerful changling packs already have psy / changling alpha mates so no reason for the bear pack to worry about it being unusual – the most interesting part was the last 30% as it was different, but even that reminded me of katya and dev when she had the brain problem that was miraculously healed by two children.
im hoping the next book is an improvement
@Natasha: I don’t have any insider knowledge re. Illium and Aodhan, but that relationship feels like it’s heading for a romance to me. In the last book Aodhan made a comment to indicate that he was bisexual and that biseuxality was accepted among angels. And some of the stuff in their history as well as the way Aodhan watched the skies for Illium signaled romance to me. I could be wrong, though. Singh could still pull a J.R. Ward at the last minute!
I doubt Arwen and the bear who likes him (I forgot his name) will get their own book, but again, I could be wrong.
@Variel: I think I must like the psy/Changeling series better than you but I prefer the Guild Hunter books, too.
@cleo: I know, right? And isn’t it funny that when queer characters do show up, it’s not in San Francisco but in Russia?
That’s a great point and one I wish I’d made in the review. I remember thinking this when I was reading the book.
The last 30% did feel very different for me because of the way it reset the relationship.
I’m on the wait list for this at my library – I’m less comitted to this world and series than I used to be, and it’s certainly no longer on my pre-order auto-buy list, but I’m still curious to read this one.
I like bear shifters. I tend to like big cuddly men irl and I’ve enjoyed other bear shifter books. And after finding swan, hawk, raven and magpie shifters sexy in Kim Dare’s avian shifter series, I guess I tend to just go with the odder sounding shifters.
@Janine – I thought the same thing about Russia and San Frsncisco.
@cleo: How did you like the Kim Dare series? It sounds interesting.
Maybe they didn’t get a lot of page time, but Inés and Simran are a lesbian mated couple and appeared in both Kiss of Snow and Tangle of Need.
I guess with her referring to this new arc as the second season of the Psy Changeling series I wasn’t expecting as big a change as many of you seem to have been. It’s still the same world and she’s said multiple times we wouldn’t be leaving all of the previous characters behind. I think part of the repetition of the book was her trying to include enough backstory for new readers, though obviously not all (how many times we were told Zahaan was out on long-range patrol?).
@library addict, I understood that the new arc would be in the same world as an old books. However, I am disappointed because there was nothing new in a new ark for me. She just replaced cat and wolf clans with bears that’s it. As for lesbian couple in previous books, they were casually mentioned so I did not expect a story from them. The bear and the psy (already forgot their name) were more flashed out so I thought that we would get at least a little bit more, when we did not I was again disappointed.
@Janine, I stopped reading J.R. Ward many years ago, but now I am curious what did she pulled ? LOL
@library addict: what Natasha said. I’d forogtten that couple existed and even now I can’t remember them. They must not have featured prominently in those books.
@Natasha: It was in book four of the BDB series. Leading up to that book, a lot of readers (I was not one of them) felt that the chemistry between V and Butch was stronger than between Butch and Marissa, and when Butch was paired with Marissa, they felt the rug had been pulled out from under them. Later V was paired with Jane who was killed and then returned as a ghost (don’t get me started on that).
So what I’m saying is: the signs point to an Aodhan / Illium pairing, but Singh could still pair one or both with a female character.
@Tartan: I’m surprised that I liked the book as much as I did because the negatives that you and others mention have bothered me for a while with the series. Maybe I was weirdly slightly more receptive because I *expected* to have those problems with the book? I don’t know. All I know is that the last quarter moved and engrossed me to a surprising degree. And I ended up liking the h/h quite a bit more than previous ones.
@cleo: The fish shifters are the ones I’m iffy on. Do they smell fishy in human form? :-)
@Jennie – lol. I guess I just don’t think about the smells of shifters. But yeah, I can see how the fishy smell could be an issue – with mermaids too.
@Janine – I really enjoyed the Kim Dare series, but the writing and world building is very uneven. I don’t think I can recommend it to you. The first one is Duck! It’s a gay bdsm retelling of the ugly duckling and Sarah F reviewed it here ages ago. The second one is better written but still silly. (And I love both of them).
@library addict – yeah, I thought about putting in a disclaimer about that lesbian couple in my earlier comment. Whenever I mention the odd (to me) lack of queer rep in a series set in and around San Francisco, someone usually helpfully mentions that couple. And I am glad that they exist – but one lesbian couple that gets only a few mentions out of all of the couples (major and minor) in like 15 books still feels like almost no queer representation to me. I didn’t notice it in the first several books, but at some point I wondered why no one living in SF seemed to know any queer people – it seems like someone would at least have a gay uncle or something. And then I couldn’t unsee it.
I’ve mostly let go of it – it feels kind of unfair to criticize Nalini Singh for lack of queer rep when she does such a good job of other kinds of diversity – and I wonder if part of why it bothers me is because of the other diversity. Harry Potter is equally straight and a lot whiter and the lack of on page (I don’t count Dumbledore as on page) queer rep didn’t bother me nearly as much (it was also only 7 books and not set in a well known queer mecca).
@cleo: Ah, I see. Good to know.