Shield of Winter. Book Review

shieldSHIELD OF WINTER by Nalini Singh
Gollancz, p/b, 448pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

A lot of authors admit to writing with music in the background. Sometimes they vary it depending on the kind of scene they are writing. Some take inspiration from the music and it influences the kind if story they write. Sometimes reviewers read too much into a story simply because of the coincidences between the work they are reading and the music they are listening to. Reading the latest in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling novel brought to mind Simon and Garfunkel’s hit ‘The Sound of Silence’. There are many resonances here between the lyrics and the premise that is the foundation of the series.

In Singh’s universe there are three races. Changelings who are very sensual people and are able to shape-shift; Psy, who have mental powers such as telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy and until very recent times lived under a discipline known as Silence; and humans. This third race doesn’t play much of a role in these novels. Each novel in the series has at its heart a developing relationship between two key characters, which can become very erotic at times. There is also a developing arc within the narrative and each novel takes it further along.

Silence is a draconian measure intended to prevent members of the Psy race burning out in spectacular fashion and becoming psychotic. It is achieved by the discipline of suppressing all emotions. By this, the thirteenth novel in the series, the Silence is seriously breaking down. Some blame the influence of the Changelings. Some Psy have broken the Silence so much that they have become bonded mates with Changelings, accepting emotion into their lives. The Psy, though, cannot exist in isolation and are mentally linked through a PsyNet. The problem is that this has become infected with some kind of virus which destroys the mind, producing insanity and death. Now, they are beginning to suspect that the psy-power that has been brutally suppressed is vital to the health of the PsyNet. Since empathy is all about emotion, it wasn’t allowed.

Ivy Dane is a powerful empath but her abilities were locked down when she was very young. That cap is beginning to splinter, leaving her vulnerable. Vasic is an Arrow, a member of an elite team for whom Silence has been paramount. He is a warrior, a powerful telekinetic and a teleporter. Both of these people were damaged as children and emotional trust is something they have to relearn.

When the leaders of the Psy-Changeling alliance are persuaded that it might be the empaths that are keeping people alive when there is an outbreak of the virus in the PsyNet, a group of them, including Ivy, are gathered as a test group. Vasic and his Arrows are given the task of guarding them. This security is one-to-one. Several of the Arrows form bonds with their charges. The heart of this novel is the developing relationship between Ivy and Vasic but surrounding it is the rehabilitation of the empaths, and the strengthening of the acceptance of emotional ties within the Psy race.

Strictly speaking, this is a book for those already familiar with this series as it is a continuation of the two races struggle to accept each other’s strengths and limitations. It is a good addition to the series.