REVIEW: Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
Dear Ms. Singh:
Book four was a bump in the road for my love of this Psy/Changeling series. While the worldbuilding was strong as usual, the relationship arc didn’t work for me. Despite that, I was still looking forward to reading this entry but I admittedly worried about the setup of the Psy woman with the Changeling man because we’ve read about that dynamic twice before.
Ashaya Aleine has been secreted in a lab formulating a secret Psy chemical that could make a radical change in the world. But Ashaya is no ordinary Psy. Psy’s have mind powers. I think the idea of the Psy is that they are able to tap in at varying degrees of success to the unused power of the brain. Physiologically speaking they are the same as humans, but mentally much more powerful. Each Psy has a special gift that has differing skill levels. Some might be empathetic. Some might be able to foretell the future. The Psy are all connected to the PsyNet which is like a computer server that links all these other minds together. If you go out into the Psynet, like if you could tunnel into the computer and see the connections between the Psynet and everyone else, you would be able to see the light of each and every Psy.
On the other end of the spectrum are Changelings. Changelings are shapeshifters who rely mostly on sensation through touch, smell, vision. Where the Psy are devotees of the mind, the Changelings focus on physicality. They are exceptionally powerful, able to heal quickly, and enjoy physical interaction.
All Psy’s are deemed to be emotion free and go through a rigorous brain washing scheme from the earliest age possible until all emotions are drummed out. Those who do exhibit emotions are considered to be flawed and removed to asylums. Ashaya does experience emotion but has been able to hide it because she has a secret link to her sister. Through this conduit the twins have exchanged emotional responses under the watchful eye of the Psy governing body. They are both brilliant scientists and brilliant deceivers. They’ve used their personal link to further their own plans. Ashaya’s plans are to get her son out of the Psy network to safety. The plans of Amara, the twin, are not so benevolent.
Dorian, the changeling, had suffered a terrible loss at the hands of the Psy and he is predisposed to hating them all, including Ashaya. Dorian’s healing process has taken place over several books and comes to a conclusion in this one. I didn’t find Dorian to be as compelling as previous Singh heroes and that may be, in part, that I didn’t find him to be differentiated in attitude or personality from the other Changeling men. This was the greatest weakness in the book for me.
While the relationship arc of Ashaya and Dorian is strong, romantic and satisfying, it is all of the other parts of the story that make this series so compelling for me. As DA reviewer, Jennie, noted (although she didn’t really enjoy this book), the twinship between Ashaya and Amara was intriguing. Amara’s character was a bit hazy. She was, on the one hand, sympathetic as someone who had been tormented by the Psy into being emotionaless. She also presented the danger, the dark side of the Psy conditioning programs, but it wasn’t quite clear how Ashaya had been able to fight clear of the dark pyschosis that held Amara.
The suspense aspect was quite strong as well. Would the Psy Council discover Ashaya’s betrayal before she could escape? Would Amara sell out Ashaya if Ashaya tried to break away from her? Could Ashaya and her son ever truly be free of the Psy and safe?
I don’t mean to give short shrift to the love story between Ashaya and Dorian and I don’t think that the story ignored that element for the sake of the overall series plot arc or the secondary characters but I do know that it is those latter two elements which I found most fascinating in Hostage to Pleasure. The future of the series isn’t propelled by sequel bait, but instead by the advancement of the Psy rebellion and the changing landscape of the Psy/Changeling/human interaction. I also found that this entry tried to nuance the Silence more showing that it was acceptable and perhaps even necessary for some. There are few in the romance genre that are writing such strong paranormal fiction and I can tell how much thought you’ve put into not just the characters, but the overall series. B
This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.
B- for me. I read it last week, and I can barely remember it–the romance, that is. The rebellion storylines were the best parts. But the romance felt rushed and mechanical. Singh’s romances arc through fascination –> possession –> mating bond –> love. Dorian and Ashaya went through those stages fast. I appreciated Dorian’s struggle with this feelings, but so much of their relationship feel undeveloped. I was surprised when the book ended and was left feeling, huh, that’s it? The epilogue was also a letdown: an important part of Dorian’s character was dealt with in a few lines. This book had a real going-through-the-motions feel to it. I wonder if Singh just wasn’t especially interested in one or both of these h/h.
The build for Mercy’s book though was awesome. I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
Umm…Where’s the grade?
In the last line (B+)
I just finished this last night and more or less feel the same way: world-building was intriguing, but the relationship wasn’t as…well-written? developed? as I was expecting. I also had some reservations about their relationship, but I don’t know if that’s from Twilight (wank) hangover or what (some of the same things were bothering me with Joanna Bourne’s My Lord and Spymaster too). I’m a little hesitant to re-read Singh’s other books, because I’m finding these types of “alpha” male characters especially grating – they’re not my favourite types to begin with – and I don’t want to discover they don’t hold up for me. Maybe I should just avoid these types of heroes altogether.
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
The alpha-ness doesn’t stand up to re-reads, but the books in general do (cept the second one, which I felt lukewarm to anyway). Singh’s language for capturing the alpha-ness and ferocity of the romance is jarring and heavy-handed. Everything is so extreme. Lucas would “rip apart the world” for his mate, Clay felt cut off at the knees at the thought of Tally (or something). Tally teases him about something and Clay’s response is “You know you’re my heartbeat.” These quotes aren’t from big suspenseful points, but just run-of-the-mill thoughts. It’s all so dramatic, language that calls attention to itself, that it’s wearing and de-sensitizing. If there’s no build, no nuance, if you try to keep the emotion at a fever pitch all the time, you lose me. The romance needs down-time as much as the up. And let me as the reader infer emotions, enjoy subleties in relationships.
That’s my biggest knock on Singh, her writing style. It’s a bit too obvious and heavy-handed.
YES! This is one of the strongest points of this series. I am always intrigued by the Psy and always wanting to see the conflict that the rebellion brings to that supposedly, unified society.
But my favorite is still the amazing heroes she writes. I thought Hostage to Pleasure was one of the best books in the series and I love, love Dorian.
Next book is Changeling and Changeling! And it’s Mercy!
I finished this up last night. And I agree with the review. I loved how she showed more about the Psy and Silence and how none of the races are all good or all evil.
Nalini Singh is one of my favorites and I like this series. The books all build off the one before and the world is fascinating. Also, I do not mind the strong alpha males. The female counterpart is usually more than capable of taking on the male and when necessary putting him in his place.
I am definitely looking forward to Mercy and Riley. Cats and dogs normally don’t mix, so this one should be very interesting.
I think this time around, the book would’ve been a lot stronger if the romance had been a bit more secondary. Or if there had been a gradual build up of trust, this seemed to have reached the ‘we’re soulmates so no matter how scary the other person gets, it’s okay’ type deal to explain away things that are said/done.
Still loved it, and I like the way the humans are creeping in, wondered when they’d get their time to shine. I loved the ideas of the twins, although I wonder if she’ll give us a corrupt heroine. Mercy seems more feisty then dangerous, I would love a heroine who’s dangerous in that it would be easy for her to go rogue and it’s the male who has to temper her out. I’m thinking it would probably have to be a Psy/changeling female/human male type thing for that to work though since Nalini loves alpha males too much to tone it down for a pairing like that.
And I really liked the way she’s showing the repercussions of certain actions that the council has taken and I wonder how that’ll pan out in the future.
Definitely a good/sexy/ hot read. If you want to see the excerpt of Mercy’s book, it’s in nalinisingh.com