Kiss of Snow, by Nalini Singh

>> Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TITLE: Kiss of Snow
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

PAGES: 464

SETTING: Alternate reality of the US in the near future
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: 10th in the Psy-Changelings series

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...
I confess I didn't come to this one all that well-disposed to love it. Hawke and Sienna have featured in several of the previous books, and it was pretty obvious to me that they were the couple whose story we were all supposed to be dying to read. The Sam and Alyssa of the series, if you will. I just didn't feel it. I'm not sure why, but as a couple, they didn't particularly appeal to me, and the narrative certainty that they were the most exciting couple ever quite annoyed me.

The setup is that Hawke is the leader of the SnowDancer wolf pack, a man whose mate died when they were both children. Wolves mate for life, so Hawke is condemned to spend the rest of his life alone. Sienna is Psy, part of the Lauren family, whose defection was triggered by a need to protect her. Sienna's particular Psy abilities make her incredibly dangerous, and if they'd stayed in the PsyNet, she would have been used as a most dangerous weapon. Ever since the Lauren's were accepted into SnowDancer, Sienna has been able to get under Hawke's skin, but Hawke could always keep his distance because she was so young.

Now Sienna is older, but there are still massive obstacles between them. Not to mention that they're in the midst of increasingly all-out conflict between Psy and changelings!

I'm afraid the romance was, as I feared, a complete bust for me. I found the dynamic between Sienna and Hawke (and that of the secondary romance between Sienna's brother Walker and healer Lara, for that matter) extremely tedious. Very dog-in-the-manger. I want you, but I can’t have you, but at the same time I can’t tolerate anyone else having you. On, and on, and ON. Oh, get over yourself, Hawke, and make a decision. It was especially frustrating because it felt a bit manipulative, like an authorial decision to prolong things, not like something organic.

Hawke is the pack alpha, so there is a lot of domineering behaviour. Sienna does stand up for herself, and demands that in their private interactions, Hawke leaves the alpha status out of it (that he doesn't ‘pull rank’, as she calls it, in those situations), but Hawke’s impulses are always to dominate. I understand that's consistent with his character, but it just put my back up, and I kept wanting Sienna to tell him where he could go. She, BTW, felt a bit immature, like the teenager she is, which was yet another strike against their relationship.

And then there's the bit conflicts that are keeping them apart. What I've found brilliant in so many of the books in this series is that Singh comes up with these truly impossible situations, couples where I just can’t see how they possibly could be together. The longing to be together becomes gut-wrenching, which is oh-so-satisfying, and then Singh comes up with a way to solve the conflict that makes sense, and which I never saw coming. That’s what’s made me love the series.

I just didn’t feel that here. Maybe it’s because I've read all the previous books and have seen how things have been solved before, but I never felt the angst that this was impossible, and oh, how on earth could they be together. I got the clues of how it could all be sorted out really early, and there were no surprises. In fact, the stuff I'm talking about below are my theories that I wrote down pretty early on, to see if I was guessing right. So although they should be spoilers (and you therefore might not want to read them), they're not, really.

As I mentioned earlier, we've got Hawke, who found his mate at a very young age (we’re talking when he was 5), but whose mate died only a couple of years later. Everyone knows wolves mate only once in a lifetime, so how terrible, if Sienna wants to be with him, she needs to accept they’ll never actually be mates. But very close to the beginning, Hawke himself thinks (I'm paraphrasing), “well, they’d never actually *mated*, but she had been his mate”. Ding, ding, ding! All tension fizzled. There, that's how it would be done.

As for Sienna, the problem is that she’s got this super-duper extremely rare ability, and no other X-Psy has survived past the age of 25 (and the one who did was much, much weaker than Sienna). So oh, woe, potential tragedy, how can they be together when she’s almost certain to die young? Problem is, we've already had so many Psy whose extra-special abilities are assumed to mean certain death/insanity/destruction, that it’s kind of par for the course. Of course they’ll find a way. And again, quite early in the book (so it’s not a spoiler) we get a little mention of a theory that it might be important whether X-Psy are not separated from their family’ support. Yep, again, all tension fizzled there, too.

The only element I enjoyed was the progress in the overarching storyline. This is the book where matters really come to a head, and the covert hostilities develop into war. That's excellently handled. It's complex and interesting and I have absolutely no idea how things are going to develop. It kept me reading, when if it had been just the romance, this would have been a DNF. And then it all concluded with a really satisfying, action-packed ending which surprised me. This element is what will keep me reading the next books. I just hope the romance in them is better!



Brie 21 May 2013 at 16:38  

YES TO ALL OF THIS! I was so, so nice when I reviewed this book, because to be honest, I was never a fan of Hawke and Sienna. I didn't feel the chemistry, and I felt like she was way too young and immature, so the love was more like a teen crush/obsession, than a real relationship. It felt so forced. I'm also kind of tired of the whole "mine" stuff so common in shifters stories. And the resolution of the mating issue was a bit of a cop out.

Did you read the next one, Tangle of Need? It also deals with the "my mate was someone else and I lost her" problem, but in a way that actually follows the rules previously established. The problem is that it's filled with a bunch of fan-service scenes featuring Hawke and Sienna *cries* LOL

Great review ;-)

Rosario 23 May 2013 at 06:49  

I think 'forced' is exactly right. There were also all the little games Hawke started to play, teasing Sienna, when she'd made it very clear she wanted him. Why on earth would he do that?

The 'mine' thing is one I'm really tired of as well. It's as if being a shifter is a get-out-of-jail card... I can't help being a possessive douche, it's my animal!

I haven't read the next one yet. I meant to before Heart of Obsidian came out, because I AM interested in the overall story about the Ghost and all that, but I haven't been able to work up the enthusiasm :(

Brie 23 May 2013 at 13:58  

The next one is a bit of a filler book. I think you could skip directly to HoO if you wanted. The most interesting thing about Tangle of Need were the scenes that further developed the worldbuilding and the overall story ARC. Ao basically all the parts about the Psy and none of the parts about the changelings.

Rosario 24 May 2013 at 06:42  

Ohhh, could I? I think I might just do that. Is there anything I'd need to know that takes place in it?

Brie 24 May 2013 at 15:53  

Well, the bad guys (Pure Psy or whatever they're called) have been killing these special psy that serve as anchors for the Netmind, and by doing so they cause disruptions that kill a bunch of people who happened to be close by -- like setting off a psychic bomb. But if they kill all the anchors everyone will die because the Netmind will collapse.

That's pretty much what's going on with the worldbuilding. Other than that, and this is a somewhat big spoiler (but if you read the two chapters of HoO, then you already know), at the end of ToN Kaleb finds the person he's been looking for throughout the whole series.

So yes, I think you could skip it. Unless you want to read a bunch of useless scenes where Sienna and Hawke bake cookies. Yep, cookies...

CD 25 May 2013 at 19:16  

I haven't managed to finish this for the same reasons - I couldn't stand Hawke in previous books and was alternatively bored and irritated by his interactions with Sienna. However, I am really interested in the overarching story so might have to force myself through it before HEART OF OBSIDIAN. I predict a whole load of skimming...

I do love Singh - MINE TO POSSESS is probably one of my favourite romances - but this whole domineering alpha crap is getting rather tedious. And Hawke takes it to the nth degree.

Rosario 26 May 2013 at 07:28  

Brie: I absolutely do NOT want to read about Hawke and Sienna baking cookies, so thanks ever so much for this. Heart of Obsidian, here I come! :)

CD: I need to go back and reread a few of the early ones to remind myself of just how good her books used to be -I mean, I gave the first 5 books in the series A grades! Mine to Possess was fantastic, but I think my favourite is still Slave to Sensation.

CD 26 May 2013 at 11:48  

I do like SLAVE TO SENSATION as well. That along with MINE TO POSSESS and CARESSED BY ICE are my Singh rereads.

BTW, thanks for forcing me to read Brook's GUARDIAN series. They are amazing! I can't believe people aren't crowing (even more) about this series...

Rosario 1 June 2013 at 09:50  

CD: Oh, of course, I was about to start my reread of the whole Guardians series when we met that day in London! I'm so glad you read them and enjoyed them. I've had the chance to read the last one already, and it's a fitting end to a fantastic series :)

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