Heart of Obsidian may well be Nalini Singh's best Psy/Changeling book yet. It was quite unexpected, but I actually fell in love with a sociopath.
"[. . .]the ugly irony of Silence: in creating a society that rewards lack of emotion, the Psy have created fertile ground for the rise of psychopathic personalities to the leadership of their race.Traditionally, Singh writes a brief prologue or introduction to each one of her stories. The above quote is from that prologue, titled "Darkest Part of Night," and as always it gets to the heart of the story that follows.
An individual who feels nothing is, after all, the perfect graduate of Silence.
Ruthless. Cold-blooded. Without mercy. . . without conscience."
The Net mind is split and getting darker by the day, the PsyNet is corrupted and dying, the Psy Council has been disbanded, and the Psy as a people are about to engage in a civil war between those who want absolute Silence, the Pure Psy, and those who believe it is time for change. Caught in the middle, are the rest of the people who just want to be, including changelings and humans. Someone has to take charge, but is that someone trustworthy?
Well, no. Not really. The male protagonist in Heart of Obsidian is a sociopath getting ready to go full-blown psycho. His obsession with saving a woman has driven him throughout the years, and he is ready to end it all (and I'm not talking about his life, I'm talking about the world) if he cannot save her. This man has perpetrated horrible acts in his past. He is Silent, cold, and as it turns out, he's one of those "ruthless, cold-blooded Psys without mercy and conscience" that Singh refers to in the quote above. So of course I was flabbergasted at the beginning of the story that this was our "hero." Soon, however, Singh changed my mind as I found myself going along with the heroine and falling in love with this man. How did Singh do it? By peeling back the layers of his past which allowed me to feel empathy for a man who initially feels none for anyone except for his woman -- an impressive feat. Indeed.
"You have it." All his secrets, anything she wanted. Even his scarred, maimed heart. "I love you."As always, that feat has a lot to do with the heroine of the piece. She is also Psy but not Silent, and the contrast of her emotions to his coldness and repression help carry this romance. She is the one whose warmth, love, and relentless belief redeem this man. By balancing the protagonists, (cold/warmth, protectiveness/trust, obsession/love, possessiveness/possessiveness), Singh makes this romance work in a deeply emotional and passionate way that I did not expect, particularly from two Psy protagonists! Additionally, the all-important balance of power between this couple is pretty well matched. Why? His Psy powers are immense, but hers are unique and tailor-made to counteract his. This is a key aspect to the relationship between this man and this woman. Again, balance.
Eyes of deep, deep blue locking with his, a single tear rolling down her face. "I know," (She) said, her heart breaking that he's said the words for her. Hurt and brutalized beyond belief, shown not even an ounce of love until they met, it wouldn't have surprised her if he'd believed himself incapable of the emotion.
Singh wraps up the Psy civil war with exciting action and minute care to detail. This section of the book is satisfying and then some. The Ghost's identity is finally revealed, and although it did not come as a real surprise, it more than makes sense. Popular secondary characters, both changelings and Psy, make appearances and contribute to the overall story arc, however, the focus is firmly kept on the romance as Singh builds her story around the main couple.
So yes, the male protagonist in Heart of Obsidian is a sociopath with psychopath tendencies. He falls in love and those tendencies are tamed, and yes, by the end I fell in love with him too. The happy ever after for our couple ended up being heartwarming, passionate, earth-shattering, and world-changing. This is an excellent SFF/R installment in Singh's Psy/Changeling series, people! If you don't know yet, read the book to find out the names of the main characters and the identity of the Ghost!
Category: Science Fiction Fantasy/Romance (or PNR)
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/June 4, 2013
Visit Nalini Singh here.
My reviews of Psy/Changeling series:
Mine to Possess, Book 4
Branded by Fire, Book 6
Bonds of Justice, Book 8
Kiss of Snow, Book 10
Tangle of Need, Book 11