Heart of Obsidian
Do you like your heroes dark, dangerous and difficult to know? Does your dream of love include an intense relationship between two people, one in which there is no room for another, into which the world dare not intrude? If so, this novel may just be what you have been looking for.
Sahara Kyriakus, of the Nightstar PsyClan, has spent seven years, three weeks, and two days as the prisoner of a particularly vicious Psy. They have beaten her, shredded her mind, and submitted her to endless torture. To deny them what they most wanted access to – a psychic gift only Sahara claims – she created The Labyrinth. The Labyrinth made mesh out of her mental functions but protected the inner most core of her being. On the exterior, she is an almost mindless creature, filthy, malnourished, dehydrated. On the inside she is a dangerous young woman who waits only for someone to unlock the key to her cage.
Kaleb Krychek looked for seven years before finally finding his prey and rescuing her from her captor. When Sahara is inescapably in his possession, she is a broken creature and even with his considerable mental gifts he is unable to ascertain how much, if any, of her former self remains. He is nothing if not patient and resolute. His icy Silence projects just the level of calm efficiency needed to reassure his subject and enable her to communicate with him. When she is unable to drink the water he hands her, even as she licks her parched lips, he picks up on the physical cue that she is afraid it is drugged and takes a sip. Sahara is then able to gulp the rest of the glass. Her destruction of a mirror is met not with anger but with understanding. When she glances at various electronic items throughout the room he knows she is concerned for her privacy. He removes things that she could suspect of holding a camera. The security that Kaleb provides, the illusion of safety that he gives her, is the key to unlock the cage that Sahara had placed herself in. The Labyrinth slowly shrinks until it hides only the most treasured and valued pieces of herself. Frustratingly enough for Sahara this includes all the memories of the man who is her keeper. She knows they share a past, she just doesn’t remember what it is.
As the two share a beautiful home somewhere in Russia, Sahara becomes aware of one other frustration; she is deeply sexually attracted to Kaleb. She knows she should not be. Kaleb is a power like no other, a man so strong the earth literally moves when he kisses her. He is ruthless and has no compunction about killing to keep her safe, even when there are other options. Can she ever expect to tame a man as cold, brutal, and strong as he is? Does she even want to?
In addition to her desire for Kaleb, Sahara’s quick healing has her longing for all that she has missed. One of those things is family. She returns to her father’s home and when circumstances dictate she find a more secure location, she heads to her cousin Faith. But even while she is away from him, Sahara longs for Kaleb. They are fortunate in that space is never a factor in their relationship since Kaleb can teleport to people at will. The mix of having Kaleb both at her fingertips and far away in Russia appeals to Sahara’s need for freedom. But can she ever truly be free while she is a prisoner of her own desire for this enigmatic man?
This novel reminded me very much of an old style historical. You have a man who is incredibly powerful, cold, and manipulative. You have a young, fragile woman whom he rescues. She has powers of her own, but of course she has a strong moral core and doesn’t use the power except to defend and protect. She brings out his passionate nature and protective instincts. She civilizes him, which winds up saving the world. This plot has been used in Ms. Singh’s world before, although I will grant that this is the most intensive usage of it so far to date. That is because the relationship itself is so one-on-one. For the first half of the book Sahara and Kaleb primarily only interact with each other. Kaleb’s incredible mental gifts (telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation to name a few) enable him to handle his business and political affairs and still remain incredibly focused on Sahara. Perhaps that is the best word for this: this book has a strong, strong focus on the hero and heroine and their romance. That intensity virtually burns up the pages they are on.
This is made even more impressive by the fact that the heat between the two characters is met by the ice of Kaleb’s frigid Silence. While with previous Psy characters we have seen the coldness that Silence brings thawed by love, Kaleb’s Silence is unique. The protocol is typically used by the strongest Psy to control the deadliest of powers and that is certainly true here. But Kaleb had the extreme misfortune to be raised by a psychopath, a serial killer with strong mental abilities who spent years inside Kaleb’s head. This meant that he was exposed to violent insanity from preschool age on and he knows the scars left by that combined with his phenomenal gifts make him a threat to the whole world. He uses his Silence not only to protect the world from his gifts but from his own dark desires. Yet even that comes with a dangerous price – Kaleb has gone so cold he has no moral nature, only a ruthless devotion to meeting his own needs and wants. He may not be a very relatable character or even very likable, but he is fascinating.
Sahara, in contrast, is almost bland. Part of this is how her seven years of captivity are handled. A few days with Kaleb and the Labyrinth is disintegrated. A little bit further along and she is home with her father. Her experience doesn’t seem to scar her at all except to give her a fear of captivity. We are told she has a mysterious power that can change the world and destroy even Kaleb, but honestly, I can’t see Sahara ever wielding that power in a manner that would make her truly dangerous. Besides, the power comes with a high cost to herself, making it less than desirable to use it in any but necessary situations. In contrast, Kaleb’s powers are abundant and he can do earth shattering (literally) things with minimal cost. The book tries to present them as equal but their powers are far from that.
Sahara’s Silence is also fractured, making her as warm and sweet as a human. This warmth – and her strong moral compass – are what leash the beast that is Kaleb. We are repeatedly reminded that without her he falls into an abyss of horrible darkness that might mean the destruction of the world. I found that hard to accept given that she is a pretty average romance heroine. I couldn’t believe that he couldn’t find anyone else like her in the whole universe.
One of the great things about the Psy/Changeling series is that the author always advances her general plot and here that very much happens. The confrontation with Pure Psy comes to a head and we have several major encounters take place, as well as see some important moves by key players. The world building that takes place on the political front is always excellent and this installment did not disappoint.
While a lot worked for me in this book what kept it from being a DIK read is that we now have at least two extremely powerful, off the charts dangerous Psy in the world. There are others that are darn close to that level. That’s nice but it is also a bit boring in that too much of a good thing makes it not so rare. The story also felt typical of several of the books in the early part of the series. This makes it above average from the bulk of the paranormal romance out there but average for our author. I think the fact that Sahara is more weakly written than many of the heroines Singh has written before also dims some of the novel’s greatness.
Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely, to a fan of the series it is a must read. Even if you don’t love the romance you will want the information regarding what is happening in the Psy/Changeling universe. For those who haven’t read the series before I recommend starting at the beginning. The early world building is vital, in my opinion, to truly understanding the brilliant universe Ms. Singh has created.