LynneC’s review of Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling Series, Book 12) by Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance published by Berkley Hardcover 4 Jun 13
I’m going to spoil you with the hero and heroine’s names. I can’t write a meaningful review without doing that. But before I do, may I say that this is, hands down, the best book I’ve read this year, and I’ve had the good fortune to come across at least two others I enjoyed thoroughly. But in this one, Singh delivers. Read it. Love it.
So here we go. Now I’ve spoiled myself and you know what I think, here’s why.
The book delivers on its promises. It gives a searing, wonderful romance between two characters I actually believe belong together and deserve each other, and it develops a believable world.
One of the reasons I don’t read much urban fantasy is that I can’t believe the premise. Too many of the books I’ve sampled create a world that is pretty but has no depth, so problems are too easily explained away or the world is too black and white, no nuances and no understanding that under the doings of the great, ordinary people like me live and work.
This world doesn’t do that. Singh has inserted her Changelings and Psy into a world like ours, but with that one difference. It gives depth I’ve rarely read elsewhere, and because we’re familiar with our own world, it can take some things for granted. That’s been true all the way through the series and this, the culmination, explores it like few others. The background works and is integrated into the characters’ lives.
Others have done that and failed. At some point the line breaks, and the author has to insert a hastily concocted “Only on Tuesdays” rule that doesn’t quite fit. A bandage that only half covers the wound. I only notice one bandage in this book, and it is what they are supposed to be—a temporary fix until the real source is ready to be revealed. Since it’s late in the book, I won’t explain in detail, just to say it’s something to do with Sahara’s abilities. Because I was enjoying the read, I didn’t bother to explore it, and Singh earned the trust with a later scene. If she hadn’t done that, one of the key parts of the story would have unwound too early, and that, let me tell you, is this writer’s constant nightmare, but she copes with it better than I do.
So, the hero. Kaleb Krychek, who has haunted previous books as a necessary evil. He was an enigmatic member of the Council, and that’s for good reason. A protégée of the now dead Enrique, who was revealed in a previous book as a sadistic mass murderer, Kaleb at one point looked to be becoming a clone of his master. But that wouldn’t make him a hero, would it? I love that Singh hasn’t whitewashed him to make him a man in a white hat. Kaleb will always wear a black hat, not least because it suits him better. He wears buttoned-down suits, and his cuff links are an important symbol of times when he feels comfortable enough to relax a bit more. His civilised clothes hide the fact that he is a double Cardinal, top dog on two Psy scales, and now his abilities have matured, he’s off-the-scale powerful in those two areas.
The story starts when he finally locates the woman he’s been hunting for seven years and teleports her to the house he’s built for her. The woman doesn’t know herself at first, because she’s built a mental labyrinth to stop her captor getting in and at her hidden, dangerous Psy ability. That’s why her name isn’t revealed in the first few chapters, not because Singh was trying any gimmicky “come and find out” tactic. When the woman dissolves the self-built labyrinth, when she feels she is safer than at any time in the past seven years, which isn’t saying much, she emerges as Sahara Kyriakus, related to Faith, who has been mated to Vaughan since early in the series. Sahara has one ability low on the scale, and a huge, massive, hidden one that there is no designation for, but is valuable enough to kill for.
At first, it’s not clear why Kaleb has rescued Sahara—or has he captured her? This is a romance, folks, so guess. Their story is at the heart of the book, and how they behave and react impacts directly on the world that is fast spinning out of control. The PsyNet is dangerously unstable, attacked by a mysterious virus and a group of extremists, and Kaleb is one of a select group of people who can make a difference.
I can believe that these two people belong together. They have suffered experiences so similar that they understand the ramifications of the journey each has been on. Their suffering is believable and not overplayed, so the book doesn’t become one long account of torture. A few instances are enough to convey what has happened, together with the results it has had on Kaleb and Sahara. They play through their distrust, healing, understanding, and it is the focus of the book. Singh has come close to that microcosm/macrocosm effect that every romance author, whether they know it or not, strives for. The inner world reflected in the outer and vice versa.
Kaleb is so cold that it’s hard to understand him at times, a sociopath hero in what is becoming a trend in romance and elsewhere (Dexter, anyone?). He is twisted, and he has done terrible things. He does one or two in the course of this book, reprehensible acts, but I love that we see his hard, dangerous edge, the evil he could become were it not for Sahara’s humanitarian leash, drawing him back.
Sahara verges on the softer, but she too has her hard side, and while she is more reactive than Kaleb, she does take matters into her own hands enough for me to root for her. Her suffering is more recent, and she has more healing to do during the course of the book, which gives her a reason. She does bounce back from her seven years of captivity and torture a bit too quickly for my taste, though.
Kaleb is Prometheus, self-destructive streak and all, and Sahara is Dorothy. Comparing them to myths and classic literature is easy, because while they are individuals, they have the breath of those constructs inside them. Every tragic character with resonance has the seeds of his own destruction inside him, and every romantic character overcomes them. That’s why Kaleb works for me. He is himself, not despite his background, but because of it.
The way the book ends makes me wonder if Singh wants to write any more Psy-Changeling books. I’d love her to, but in the end, it’s down to her.
Read Sandy M’s review here.
A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.
A woman whose very existence has been erased.
A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.
A deadly price that must be paid.
The day of reckoning is here.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: