Shield of Winter
After a while it gets hard to judge books in a series. When the author delivers exactly what we want the books can be repetitious. When the author delivers something new fans can become rabid, snarling beasts that didn’t get the “fix” they were looking for. This is the thirteenth full length novel in the Psy-Changeling series and Ms. Singh has wowed me with her consistent quality.
The PsyNet is dying. An infection has spread through the psychic network which keeps the Psy race functioning. Without the biofeedback of the Net, their particular branch of the human species will die. The contagion carries with it a wave of violence so lethal it threatens entire sections of the world with extinction. And the clock is ticking, since the infection has accelerated its spread.
Fortunately, their new leader believes he has a solution. It is a slim hope but a hope nonetheless. For the Net to survive, the Psy must awaken and embrace the power of their Empaths. But how do you pull a people from the shadows when you have spent decades forcing them to hide there?
The Arrows, the very people who enforced the laws that shoved the Empaths into hiding, are among the hardest hit by the recent problems the Psy are experiencing. Now that Silence has fallen, their fractured psyches are more fragile than ever, not just from the infection raging through the Net but from the vast empty coldness caused by their conditioning in Silence. Many of their minds have splintered, causing a deep psychosis that can only end in death. Vasic, one of the most esteemed members of the squad, is well aware that both his unit and his people are running out of time. When a plan that holds a slim possibility of hope is presented, it is to Vasic that people for help. And while Vasic knows that the plan presents great personal danger, he is determined to see it through. Convinced he will never be able to be saved himself, he still hopes for better for some of the other members of his squad.
When the Arrow appears before her Ivy Jane is convinced she is living her last moments. The Psy Council had sent people to her once before. It took her years to rebuild her life after the “treatment” they subjected her to. But this Arrow named Vasic comes with a different sort of message. An invitation, rather than a command, and one that would utilize her forbidden Empath abilities rather than damage her through trying to eradicate them. For Ivy this is a truly dangerous situation. Agreeing to help in the fight against the infection raging through the PsyNet will not only put her into the path of psychological danger but will expose her to the vigilantes who want to restore Silence. These vigilantes, convinced the only way forward is to go back, will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is to see the end of feeling members of the Psy race like Ivy.
When Ivy agrees to take the job in spite of the risks she is moved to a camp within SnowDancer-DarkRiver territory. Here she and others like her will train with the one Empath in all the world who has some familiarity with their abilities. But will their training be enough to stop the apocalypse waiting at their doorstep?
Like almost all the books in the Psy-Changeling series this is a story about two powerful yet vulnerable people learning that love is truly the greatest power of all. Vasic, a tall, emotionless assassin has the rare ability of Tk-V, the ability to teleport wherever he wishes to go as well as a telekinesis gift so strong he can lift blood out of carpet. A handy little thing when you’ve just killed someone and don’t want to leave the stain behind. Because his gift was so rare and so strong, Vasic’s conditioning was ruthless and thorough. He is of the firm belief that “The day I feel is the day I die.”
Ivy’s story could have been a truly tragic one. Raised within a race who encouraged people not to love their own children, the flaws in her conditioning could easily have led to her parents abandoning her to whatever fate the Council deemed best. Instead, they rearranged their lives to take their daughter to a safe place and provide her with whatever she needed to thrive in spite of her forbidden Empath designation. They even let her keep a pet – a small, spunky dog named Rabbit.
The differences between Ivy, with her warmth and broken Silence, and Vasic, whose Silence is so complete he is essentially a mobile block of ice, should have kept the two from falling in love. Instead, they find in each other precisely what they need. Vasic feels deeply but suppresses it all. Ivy helps him learn to accept his emotions in tiny increments, until he is able to handle feeling them. And Vasic presents the strong, virile protector Ivy has always longed for. I liked that their romance started from almost the moment they met and that it had a very, sweet warm vibe. It helped that Ivy wasn’t chasing after a guy who wasn’t interested – Vasic was deeply interested. He responded as much as his training in Silence would allow. It was great to see him overcome that training and turn into the lover Ivy needed.
For my part, I’m a reader who loves the story of a cold, distant hero brought back to life by a warm, loving woman. So the story really spoke to me in that sense. The sensuality in the tale worked for me too. The Psy race tend to be virginal since they don’t believe in sensual pleasure and watching them work out this aspect of the relationship was both fun and funny. Especially for Vasic, who had to learn not to teleport them when he was distracted during the middle of sex. Or to unleash his frightening powers of telekinesis on his fragile partner. I found watching him get help to resolve his issues pretty darn entertaining. It gave us some insight into some former characters love lives too.
And as always, Ms. Singh does an amazing job of world building. Everything new builds off of the things we had learned in previous books. All the amazing, intricate little pieces of politics, culture and history that make up this universe are juggled to perfection, serving as an ideal background to our love story. I don’t know how she does it but she always delivers a terrific tale alongside the most amazingly detailed world building.
A passionate yet sweet love story and exciting forward motion in the Psy-Changeling world make this a must read for fans of the Psy-Changeling series. If you aren’t a fan I strongly encourage you to start with book one, Slave to Sensation. Not only does the series just make more sense in order, it gives you the chance to read twelve really good books!