sábado, 30 de maio de 2015

My delicious guilty pleasures: Shield of Winter - Nalini Singh

Once again this review will be in English - for a book in English that may or may not be translated to Portuguese some day. 

A opinião será apenas em inglês, porque quem quiser ler estes livros tem, por ora, que ser capaz de ler a review... em inglês. Não entendo porque traduzem para PT a série dos anjos desta autora, e não esta!

This is the 13th book in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series (I have reviewed others, such as this or this ). I was a bit afraid that, as the author added more and more books to the series, they would become too centered on the couple. In fact,  I didn't like all the books as much as this one, for that same reason. A couple novellas (short stories, maybe) set in the changeling world weren't as interesting... they were far too physical and centered in sex and mating and possessiveness. 

Fortunately, this book is not so. 

A bit of the story, hopefully free of spoilers: 
The PsyNet that links all Psy in the mental plane and sustains their lives by feeding them.... errr... physycal/mental energy, I guess (sorry if t sounds confusing, but it is actually very plausible in the books) is changing rapidly, the colour of emotions bursting where before the lights were cold and silent. That's because Silence has been broken, it is not mandatory anymore and the Psy are confused and scared. Some agree and are fascinated, some are afraid of the potential for psychosis and violence in Psy that led to the Protocol for Silence in the first place. There is dissent and revolt, but the real danger is a sort of infection spreading throughout the Net, born from and in Silence and fed by the worst and most psychotic energies of the Psy. It is a black thing that causes spurts of violent madness among the Psy, causing them to attack every one around them, Psy, human or changeling - in a entire street in New York, for example, and in other places throughout the world. It threatens to infect and then collapse the entire Net, killing every Psy in it. 

The salvation may reside in an ability the first Silent tried to eradicate, Empathy. It is since then viewed as legend by the Psy. We know it is not, because the very first book is about a very powerful one, Sasha Duncan. There is little time and it's necessary to find and "awaken" the Empaths (the E-designation), and to teach them how to deal with their ability, so that maybe they can find a way to fight the infection, to which they are immune. The first group of Es is protected by Arrows (one Arrow for each E), the most lethal, secretive soldiers in the Psy world, trained since childhood in Silence and murder. They are mostly broken people who do not believe their blood tainted souls deserve hope or a normal life. Some are beyond redemption, because a drug was used on them to render them completely dependent on orders. Once they overcome their usefulness, they are killed. Others have resisted and formed a small revolutionary group inside the organization itself, one that kept following orders but managed to escape the drug and to give each other some support. A very small number have defected and are hidden. 

The couple in the story are an E, Ivy (loved her perky dog Rabbit) and an Arrow, Vasic. No surprise there, right? She is emotional, strong and stubborn, so much so that she has survived reconditioning. Empathy is dangerous to the Es because they are unable to give up on others. They fight for others to the death. Vasic is very near the edge of darkness, and dying from a neural implant malfunction - an experimental arm-weapon. He has no more than a few weeks before it kills him. Ivy is, of course, capable of identifying his feelings - the hopelessness and the deep rooted conviction that he is unworthy of... well, anything but darkness and death. He is protective and there's a beautiful love story, but maybe because Vasic is so cold in the beginning - and still rather cold in the end - the relationship isn't sudden and terribly possessive (though there's still the horrible "mine" every once in a while). Still, it's not (as) repetitive as was the previous book. Sex is there too, of course, and it's hot, but it doesn't overwhelm the overall development of the events in this wonderful world Nalini has built. The difficulties seem unsurmountable, both is this complex world and in the relationship and... this is it. Anymore would be a terrible spoiler.  

There is great balance between love, politics, the fight, the "science" and the special abilities. It's great that all the characters from the previous books that are relevant in the story are present and active - the alphas, the leaders of the Psy and of the Arrows, for example.  The Psy are still fascinating and difficult, the politics are still twisted, people are still broken and may not be "fixable", and the darkness in the mind a is a permanent threat. There are happy ends (yey! I love me some happy end in these stories) but no permanent solutions. This fantasy world is wonderful, complex, strangely believable and solid, even when it is eroding, and it is still my favourite guilty pleasure.  I'll be glad to read the next book.

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