Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Title: Kiss of Snow
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Read copy: eBook
Published: May 31, 2011
Publisher: Jove
ISBN: 1101528729
ISBN-13: 9781101528723

Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.

Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would've been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.

Then Sienna changes the rules-and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other's secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight...

A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna's darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home-and the alpha who is its heartbeat.

My rating:

Sienna Lauren tumbled head over heels in love with Hawke, the SnowDancers alpha, at first sight. (Who wouldn't? Who didn't?) But she had two huge obstacles in front of her, one more (seemingly) insurmountable than the next.
One: He made her lose her cool, shattered her control. And she needed that steely control to suppress her deadly, martial psychic ability.
Two: She competed against a ghost. The ghost of a young girl who died long ago, but would’ve become Hawke’s mate if she lived. A bond he knew would never share with anyone, least of all Sienna. And he refused to hurt someone by not giving them that bond, Sienna most of all.

Now she’s grown, going on twenty, she isn’t a child anymore and she refuses to let him see her that way. She wants him to see her as a woman, and she’s determined to win at all costs. After all, she has nothing left to lose. Her time is running out.

In my reading history there were a few books like Kiss of Snow. The most expected book in a series. The one you’ve been waiting for for what seems like forever, the one you know will knock you off your feet, ruin you for every other book in the series.
And all of those highly-expected books were big letdowns for me.
So you can understand my apprehension before picking this one up. Would it meet at least a few of my expectations? Would I recognize the character I loved (Hawke)? Would he stay true to himself or would he suffer a personality transplant? Would I be disappointed as I finally put the book down?

I received the answers to all those questions yesterday in the course of six-and-a-half hours of reading. (Was I going too slow? Yes, since I kept re-reading parts of it.)
Did it meet my expectations? Yes. Did I recognize the character I loved? Yes. Did he stay true to himself? Yes. Was I disappointed as I finally put the book down? As Hawke would say, f*** no!

The prologue chilled me to the bone, but it was just an appetizer. With the first few words of the first chapter I was in, immersed into Ms. Singh’s fantastic world, giddy with excitement as the story unfolded before my eyes.

As it happened with the above-mentioned disappointing highly-expected books before, the heroine never met my expectations and I feared Sienna would be the same. What I saw of her in the previous books didn’t give me much enticement to be hopeful. Mostly she acted like a brat, pushing all the buttons that could be pushed and when she ran out of buttons she created new ones. So yeah, I was apprehensive.
But Ms. Singh made her excellence at writing known in presenting me with the other side of Sienna. The mature, strong, resilient young woman, fiercely protective of those she cared about, with scars on her soul so deep that would’ve killed a lesser person, but that shaped her into a heroine worthy of the name. And worthy of the man who would stand beside her.
What we saw of the bratty Sienna was merely a mask for the woman inside. A woman scared of her power, of hurting those around her, of the man who made her lose the control over the deadly force inside her. The bratty Sienna was something the woman inside used to make the man she cared about notice her, give her the attention she so craved for. Maybe she went overboard a few times, but it worked. Boy, did it work. He noticed her, all right. He paid attention. What other choice did he have?

None. Hawke was a goner the moment he laid eyes on the young Psy. Too young in his opinion. But that didn’t prevent him from seeing her, noticing her, wanting to touch her, claim her in the most primal way of his kind. But, noble creature that he was, he kept his distance, snarling, growling, keeping his wolf on a short leash, all because she was too young.
Then she grew up, matured before his eyes, and still he kept his distance, despite his wolf protesting loudly inside him, wanting to claim her, roll around in her scent, mix it with its own.
Poor guy. He didn’t stand a chance, yet he stubbornly resisted until she stopped playing nice, until Sienna decided to get her man, no holds bared, guns blazing. And still Hawke was stubborn, unable unwilling to give her everything, while demanding everything in return. They fought, they made up, they touched, they played, they claimed (almost) the most intimate skin privileges time and time again, yet his dead would-be-mate stood between them, an impenetrable barrier.
(Reader’s note: For a guy who was so in tune with his inner beastie, the wolf closer to the surface than with any other wolf-changeling out there, he stubbornly refused to listen to that friendly inner beastie.)

I loved the constant push-and-pull between Hawke and Sienna. Some fellow reviewers think it went on for too long, creating sexual frustration instead of emotional tension, but I disagree. The emotional tension and sexual frustration between these two were entwined, inseparable, part of what made them who they are, part of what made them a great leading couple.
I also disagree with the statements that they took too long to claim the most intimate of skin privileges. I found it refreshing they didn’t start burning the sheets so quickly, and I felt that “abstinence” was an integral part of their relationship. They needed to get to know each other, learn to coexist, this alpha and one of his novice soldiers, they needed to find that balance between them, they needed to build a relationship before they consummated it, and all those delays, the thwarted attempts, only strengthened the bond between them, letting them fall in love with each other because of the fact they knew each other (they discovered they weren’t so different deep down, each of them carrying thick scars from their childhood), not because they were great in bed (which also happened to be the case).
Not to mention that their courtship was a real treat to read. Sweet and tender, passionately smoldering, romantic (dancing in the moonlight, awww), playful...Everything a courtship should be in my book.

The rest of the story somehow paled in comparison to the Sienna-Hawke dance, but it was still a great addition to the series as a whole. It gave us quite a few answers to the questions that’ve been plaguing us for so long, while it added a few more burning questions to those that remained unanswered. The Ghost is even more mysterious, though I still hope it will turn out to be Kaleb.
And we had a few precious and delicious glimpses into the lives of heroes and heroines past. The DarkRiver alpha pair’s happy occasion, the scorching encounter between Judd and Brenna. The friendship and camaraderie between the packs, in the wolf den, the determination of the SnowDancers lieutenants to make their alpha see reason, Kit’s helping hand...
But a dark cloud hung over the story. The war of the Psy against the Changeling race is fully under way, but the Changelings now have a new and powerful weapon at their disposal, though that weapon has lost its anonymity. There was a load of info about the X-Psy, a new character made a rather spooky appearance, there was a lot of talk about self-sacrifice, and there was a battle.

And what a battle it was. Ms. Singh really outdid herself with that final stand. Intense, gripping, goose-bumps-and-nail-biting-inducing, chilling, blood-curdling, heart-stopping...There are quite a lot of adjectives I could use to describe the final action scene, but it was the second half that really blew me away, had my eyes glued to every word on the page. The descriptions were so intense, the imagery so vivid, I could see that cold fire blazing in those mountains, the flames engulfing everything, gobbling up all that was in their way. And I, musically freakish that I am, could hear the initial part of the third movement in Mozart’s Requiem “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath). And day of wrath it was. Hell hath no fury and all that jazz.
I really wish it was all real and I could witness it all in person. I’ll just have to witness it all in my head.

And it was at the end of that hellish wrath that I started leaking (again). Because I knew what would happen next. The decision has been made, there was no turning back...Or was there. Nope. *huge grin* Ms. Singh pulled out her trump card and I was leaking even more (happy tears). I’m not telling, you’ll just have to read it for yourself, but it was beautiful, magical, drop to your knees in sweet pain, blah blah blibbity blah.

But then the OMFG!-Yes!-Yes! moment ended and the true pain started. What to do next? How to protect everybody from the hellish wrath burning like an inferno on the psychic plane, threatening to destroy them all? Seclusion wouldn’t help, linked as they were. Was there any hope at all?
Yes, there was. Plenty. Because there was more than one trump card to be pulled out in the course of this book. The last one was a winner, and a complete plot-twist surprise, even though I knew there would be something to save the day. Was it predictable? No. Was it an easy fix to a big problem? Maybe, but it worked. And it worked beautifully. Providing both a respite from the intensity of the conflagration and a source for humor (Drew, you bad boy, you).

That ends my rant review. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t looking for perfection. It met my expectations, delivered on its promises...And then some. It could’ve been shorter, or it could’ve concentrated more on Hawke and Sienna instead of the secondary romance (albeit sweet and tender), especially toward the end, but I loved every minute of it, and I cannot wait to re-read it. Again and again.

Kiss of Snow restored my faith (that has been vacillating a little due to the last few books) in the series and in the highly-expected books in general.

I loved it. I adored it. I smiled with it. I laughed with it. I cried with it. I went “awww” with it. If that ain’t a keeper I don’t know what is.


P.S. I re-read it (even slower this time, due to all the leakage *hangs her head in shame*) listening to Karl Jenkins' Benedictus. Damn. It went beautifully with the story (beginning to end), but if you're prone to leakage, maybe you shouldn't use the chant(?) as background music while reading. I've learned my lesson.


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