I’ve been reading this series for many years, the series which started as Psy-Changeling, and through it all, I know enough to give a quick elevator pitch style summary. There are three races; human, Psy and changeling. Psy used to live in something called ‘Silence’ constructed to prevent madness. Once three separate races, they now work together for the benefit of all, though the Psy could be very cruel in the past. In recent years, Silence fell.
The only protection for Psy was the PsyNet. “The PsyNet would’ve already failed if not for Designation E. The empaths were literally holding it together using the bonds of emotion.” Empaths were historically seen as dangerous myths.They were now, however, the glue that held the minds of thousands together.This particular instalment starts with a“crushing grief,” crashing into wolf Alexei, “his already battered and bruised heart aching, but he knew the grief wasn’t his own.” The ‘E’ or E designation/empath, psy are what it says on the tin – empaths with the ability to feel emotions and in some cases, use them to heal others. With the E-Sigma, an unknown entity, their powers are not open knowledge, but when Alexei – a wolf shifter from SnowDancer pack – experiences the grief of this empathic psy, he is desperate to find her.
Whilst scouting the area in the woods, he finds a trapdoor and bunker behind a crack in the mountain. And inside, a padlocked cage holding a psy woman prisoner, crying out her grief at the loss of a cat; her pet, died of old age. The grief echoes his own – the loss of his family, still devouring him. His brother Brodie had gone rogue a year ago, echoing the insanity of their father when Alexei was a boy. He helps the captive (Memory) escape, and takes her to a substation for warmth, comfort and food, whilst he messages Hawke, his alpha.
The story going forward concerns a bond between the E and the wolf, a hidden darkness within the PsyNet causing some Psys to go insane, and the further development of the Trinity.
I have to say, the scenes after the escape as Alexei leads Memory through the woods, helps bury her cat, and ensures she can leave the substation if she wants – inbetween threatening to eat her, hits all the feels. Grumpy, loner Alexei, dealing with a yearlong bout of his own particular grief, is just like a cuddly doggie/wolf – despite his denial of this! Of course his particular grief, is knowing that he might’ve prevented his brother from going mad, and he might be in danger of going rogue himself.
“Keelie Schaeffer had sent a message to all predatory changeling groups around the world, requesting dialogue with anyone impacted by a rogue.”
At the time, Alexei couldn’t face it, but now, in the face of a potential mate, he wants answers. Just as Memory wants to know that Renault, who abducted and controlled her since she was eight years old, will pay for his crimes.In their own way, they are both grieving; her, a mother and a life lost, him, family, and the belief in a future he thinks he can’t have. As Memory gets to know the other Empaths, it’s telling that Alexei and Ashaya bring her hair care products for her wild curly hair; stay with me on this.
I might be reading too much into this, I don’t know. Only Nalini Singh can answer that, as the author. However, I have some thoughts.
Memory, Alexei notes, when he helps her escape, has brown skin, that has an underlay of grey, from being kept mostly inside. Her hair she keeps wild intentionally, to thwart Renault, who makes her straighten it to appear ‘normal’ when he makes her act as his business assistant. This is her act of rebellion.
Now free, she wants that curly hair back; a symbol of what he took from her, what he ‘misappropriated’, an integral part of who she is as a person of colour. When Alexei gives her some products that may help, he is trying to understand and support her. But when Ashaya, also a person of colour, treats, conditions and curls her hair she is helping Memory reclaim her identity as a free person of colour.
As for other techniques I love in this book, and the whole series; I love the ‘excerpts’ at the beginning of chapters. As well as historical and scientific, we have my favourite – the ‘Wild Woman’ online magazine; think Elle for changelings and women who like them.“It is the opinion of the Wild Woman team that wolves like to brood. They are the champions of changeling brooding … but crack that hard shell and oh my goodness.”
These excerpts are incredibly funny, as well as giving insight into the particular type of channeling/shifter animal.In between the larger world building, we get to see some familiar characters from other novels, and see hints of future pairings as well as an overall story arc.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing Yuri and his future plus that of the ‘twins’. I’d also like to see more of the sea changelings. Overall, another excellent book in this series, and with each one, I become more addicted to this world.