Branded by Fire
I don’t think there is a single paranormal series as well-planned, well-written, and downright fantabulous as Ms. Singh’s Psy-Changeling series.
Mercy is a female sentinel of the DarkRiver leopard pack and, as the book begins, she is sick of all her mated friends making googly-eyes at each other. She feels left out, hasn’t had sex in months, and a certain SnowDancer lieutenant named Riley Kincaid gets her dander up every time they meet.
When they begin an affair that begins to echo the mating call, neither knows what to do with it. Both are dominant animals, used to being in charge. And the fact that one is a leopard and the other a wolf? Dicey, very dicey. But as their respective packs’ liaison representatives, they are forced into more contact when they collaborate to find a missing changeling, while at the same time Mercy and Riley wonder if they can make a relationship work.
I love this world. Set in 2071, America is a land divided between three species : Changelings (shape-shifters), the Psy (humans with psychic talents), and garden variety humans. The Psy, with their conditioned suppression of emotions, effectively rule the world, but their society is crumbling as humans, Changelings, and even Psy rebel against the governing group, the Psy Council. I missed the last book and the new developments have me super-excited, although the material was rather densely packed at times and presumed prior knowledge. I managed to shuffle along, but if you seek an introduction to Ms. Singh’s fascinating world, this is not the place to start.
I liked Mercy and Riley. They share an intense attraction but don’t know how to reconcile pack loyalty with their growing intimacy – not an issue to be underestimated since SnowDancer and DarkRiver were enemies until recently. As in, enter their territory and you’re dead, enemies and, even after a year, trust is an established but fragile commodity. Culturally, Mercy and Riley have significant hurdles to surmount and their dominant personalities require both to learn the art of compromise. All in all, Mercy and Riley are an engaging, sympathetic pair who make their share of mistakes but don’t act like idiots. Yahoo.
But upon post-reading reflection, two issues cropped up with worrying persistence. First, although Mercy and Riley’s relationship was an intricate dance worthy of remembrance, the first fifty pages left me with issues that were never truly abided over the course of the book. The reader is told, through Mercy’s reflections, that Riley is a silent, reserved, expressionless wolf. But since Riley says things like “say my name kitty, or no cock for you,” I sure didn’t get the silence or the reservation. The last installment I read was the third book and it’s been a while, so I approached Branded by Fire with almost fresh eyes. We primarily have Mercy’s perspective of Riley for a good portion of the beginning, and only her word that he behaves any differently with her. Riley’s reserve and resultant change are integral to his character, but without seeing it myself I felt Riley’s – and thus the couple’s – development to be short-changed.
I also found myself recollecting plot developments more clearly than Mercy and Riley’s story. Ms. Singh’s series is at the point where it is better evaluated as a whole rather than individually, if this book is any indication. The storylines and points of view are piling up, which, while not detracting from Mercy and Riley’s story, does distract. And with the multiple set-ups for future intrigues, this book was not quite as focused and self-sufficient as I would have wished.
But I give Ms. Singh major points for creating an intricate and altogether unique society that remains, despite its faults, utterly gripping. I am on tenterhooks for Hawke’s story and I have my suspicions about Kaleb, so I’ll be there for the finale and as much of the ride as possible.