Kiss of Snow — book review

KISS OF SNOW by Nalini Singh. Gollancz £12.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

More and more writers are ignoring the boxes publicists want to put them in and blurring the edges in their work. As a result there is a small industry in trying to invent new categories to plaster on the bookshop shelves. It must therefore be very frustrating when a writer like Nalini Singh defies them. The alternative is to put the book in several places.

Kiss of Snow and the previous nine books in the Psi-Changeling series are science fiction in that they are set about fifty years in an alternative future. As psi powers developed in the population, it was realised that those with them were likely to go insane or otherwise self-destruct. A condition known as Silence was imposed. No Psi was allowed to have or show any kind of emotion. Intellect was all.

It is also fantasy as another respected segment of the population are the Changelings. The two important groups are the leopards and the wolves who hold territory in the environs of Los Angeles. Their outlook is extremely sensual, the complete opposite to the Psi. From the start of this series there has been tension between the Psi and the Changelings especially as a handful of Psi have broken Silence and joined the Changelings, rediscovering ways of interacting with others that they had never experienced before.

All these books are romances with a high sexual content, each focusing on different members of the groups. In Kiss of Snow, Hawke, the wolf alpha, is strongly attracted to Sienna, a cardinal X-Psi. This means that she has a very high level of psi powers but that her talent is to channel energy in the form of fire. The problem is that no X-Psi has survived beyond young adulthood as they have immolated themselves, and anyone in the vicinity. Thus, if Hawke takes Sienna as his mate, he is likely to lose her soon afterwards. The other romantically entwined couple are Lara, the changeling wolf healer and Walker, a Psi empath who is also Sienna’s uncle. Although most of the novel focuses on the way these two couples sort out their relationships, there is also a bigger picture to consider.

Among the Psi Council there are some that seek power more than others. Henry Scott and Ming LeBon are among them and the Los Angeles communities, especially the Changelings, have so far thwarted their efforts. Consequently, they intend wiping them out – a task made more difficult by the Psi the Changelings have taken in to their packs. Despite the dangers, the males, especially Hawke, are intent on pursuing their chosen females bringing the sexual tension and erotic elements to the fore in the novel. More attention needs to be paid to the Psi-Changeling politics if further books in this series are not to become predictable and merely vehicles to describe explicit sex.