I’m completely hooked on Nalini Singh’s expansive Psy-Changeling universe. In this near-future world, the psy run the world with cool efficiency. They have powers ranging from telekinesis to foresight. The Psy have shunned all emotion with the Silence protocol. Any psy who shows emotion is reconditioned, which means a full lobotomy level brain wipe. They go to such extremes because their powers have driven people to homicidal rampages. At the start of the series, a Psy council member wants to partner with the San Francisco area changelings (AKA shifters) on business deals. Things get complicated when her psy daughter falls for the Alpha of the local Dark River panther pack. With each book, more psy abandon Silence for love and emotion. Too many psy are breaking the Silence protocol for the council to ignore. The council prefers a fascist regime to keep everyone in line. Not to mention, their efforts to get rid of defectors to the Dark River and Snow Dancer packs are neutralized in each book. The Psy need to re-assert their control over their race. They would love to quietly get rid of these nuisance shifters but keep underestimating them. I love how more layers of this futuristic world are revealed when Singh brings side characters to the forefront.
Branded by Fire pairs panther Mercy, a sentinel in Dark River, with wolf Riley, a Lieutenant in Snow Dancer. The two packs have become closer allies, especially with the Psy sending kill squads after their people. Mercy and Riley act as liaisons to keep the two groups informed. Their relationship starts as innocent flirting, but soon things heat up between them. As they’re two different shifter animals, it’s sort of like an interracial romance even though they are both humans with shifter powers. They are understandably worried that the relationship will piss off their pack families. Mercy’s Brazilian grandmother definitely isn’t happy. She sends some panther hotties in town to date her, much to Riley’s chagrin. They don’t prove to be serious competition as Mercy and Riley are smitten with each other. The fiery passion plays right into the book title. This was one of my favorite pairings as the two are equals with Mercy as a dominant female.
Blaze of Memory brings us into the inner workings of the Shine Foundation led by Dev Santos. He briefly appeared in Mine to Possess to help protect some missing children. In book seven, we learn how expansive the foundation is and its roots. When Silence first came about, not all the psy were on board. Some refused and abandoned the psychic net to stay with their human or changeling mates. Generations later their descendants run the Shine group. They don’t have as strong powers as some of the psy, but they are stronger than the psy would believe. They can be ruthless and highly secretive to protect their people. Dev finds psy Katya on his doorstep with no memory – hence the title. He is suspicious, which we soon find out is warranted. Even though he knows this woman is a possible spy, he can’t seem to bring himself to get rid of her. She makes him feel things he’s never felt before. Her mind has been purposely wiped and programmed by a council member. Dev vacilitates between yelling at her and doting on her. Together they do uncover some significant revelations on the Psy and their experiments. Turns out more psy are succumbing to darker desires than believed. The council is covering it up, but it’s becoming unmanageable. Katya and Dev stay together through a near miracle involving the aforementioned children. I’m not exactly a fan of the relationship dynamic in this book. Dev has all the power and Katya has no agency. He is basically keeping her prisoner and retraumatizing her with his interrogation. Katya comes off as broken and scared of him most of the time. This is no While You Were Sleeping cutesy amnesia. Her memories do come back, but she wasn’t fully fleshed out enough for me. This is my least favorite book so far in the series.
Bonds of Justice was a change of pace taking us into the criminal justice realm of society. Detective Max Shannon has just arrested a notorious serial killer. He meets the unusual Justice-Psy Sophia Russo during the interrogation. He is impressed by her power to grab memories to close cases. This killer proves tricky though. She isn’t able to get enough court-approved evidence. While they wait to revisit the prisoner, Max and Sophia are unwittingly hired by the San Francisco councilwoman to privately investigate a new set of murders. Max wants to get to know Sophia, so he’s all for them working together. Sophia had a traumatic childhood that causes her to have a near meltdown when anyone touches her. They of course find a way to work through it. Nalini interestingly explores how Silence is the crumbling and inner fighting between council members through a procedural framework. It reminded me of the Sigourney Weaver movie Copycat for some reason. Sophia is not helpless like Katya and is so private with what she reveals to others. Her mind is swimming with memories from criminals she has helped put away. Max sees right through to her core that with his heightened detective skills. He also has a natural mental shield to psychic powers, which allows him to get closer than ever to her.
Play of Passion is the ninth book with two Snow Dancer wolves falling for each other. The pairing was another exploration of a dominant female within the hierarchy of the pack. Indigo is a lieutenant while Drew is the pack’s tracker. He reports directly to their Alpha Hawke and keeps tabs on the pack for him. If needed, Drew hunts down wolves who go rogue and execute them. Drew is outgoing and easy to like while Indigo is prickly. She spends way too much of the book hung up Drew being younger than her. It’s only four years, but she keeps assuming he wouldn’t treat her as an equal. She is quick to anger. She’s too quick to keep it friends to protect the pack. Luckily, Drew is tenacious and refuses to give up wooing her. Even when she hurts his feelings, he gives her another chance. Indigo grew on me by the end, but it took me a while to get into this entry.
Since starting the first phase of Psy-Changeling books in 2020, I’ve read nine books and still have plenty more to go. Even when I’m not as fond of the pairings, learning about the wider world keeps me plugged in. Things are gearing up towards a real war between the two races. I know the fall of Silence is inevitable since locking up your emotions won’t work forever. I’m keen to see what ignites the conflict and takes it to the next level.
I highly recommend this series, which must be read in order. If you’re into more sci-fi-leaning paranormal romances and shows like Bitten or Fringe, give it a shot. The first novel is Slave to Sensation.
Read more of my Psy-Changeling reviews on my blog.