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Ceridwen

Ceridwen

You kids get off my lawn. 

Ocean Light

Ocean Light  - Nalini Singh

If I believed in such a thing, the Psy-Changeling series would be a "guilty pleasure." While I don't believe in guilt-reading -- that's ridiculous -- there are aspects of the series that make me me feel kinda embarrassed. Any romance involving one of the changelings -- and they are always predatory changelings -- is so hopelessly mired in kinky Victorian notions of biological determinism and dominance and submission. I mean, that's usually what you find in animal shifter narratives, so Singh isn't outside the norm, but I know I'm going to have to grit my teeth through that stuff to get to the extremely cool mythology she's been spinning for almost 20 novels now. (I don't have the same problem with the Psy, who are Vulcan-like psychics, because their romances tend to center around recovery from severe abuse and personal sexual awakening, which I find much more interesting than YOU MAH WOMAN GRARR.)

 

Technically, Psy-Changeling wrapped up with Allegiance of Honor, which was a sort of clip show, where we checked back in with literally everyone who had ever been mentioned in the previous 14 books. I get why it was written that way, but romance epilogues make my teeth ache, and this was more than a dozen of them all piled up. It was also a letdown because the previous three novels, Heart of Obsidian, Shield of Winter, and Shards of Hope, are hands down the best novels in the series. Singh brings all of her complicated mythology to full flower in those novels, and in ways that make the romance plot absolutely integral to the narrative. Heart of Obsidian especially. That they're a dozen novels deep in a series makes them even more impressive; Singh had the opposite of burnout. 

 

Silver Silence, the novel directly previous to Ocean Light, was the first of the novels in Psy-Changeling Trinity, which details life after the fall of Silence (a form of widespread social conditioning practiced by the Psy designed to repress all emotion.) Like Ocean Light, it follows a character seen on the periphery for most of the series: Silver Mercant, personal assistant to all-around badass Kaleb Krychek. She falls in with a bear pack outside of Moscow, which was interesting because we've never seen bear changelings in action before. Bear changelings end up being annoying, but then they're not as drearily serious as either the cats or the wolves, so on the balance more fun to read about.

 

Like Silver Silence, Ocean Light centers on a peripheral group, one that has heretofore been shrouded in mystery: the BlackSea pack, the changeling clan that encompasses the entirety of the earth's oceans. Even the land-bound changelings think of them as out there. While we've encountered some of the BlackSea characters in Psy-Changeling novels, specifically Miane, the alpha, and her security guy, the pack itself has been secretive. BlackSea takes in Bowen Knight, head of the Human Alliance, in order for BlackSea scientists to remove a degrading chip in Knight's head. We've met Bowen many times before. As the head of the Human Alliance, he's tangled with both the Psy and changelings (both of whom tend to treat humans like butt monkeys).

 

The romance largely consists of Bowen and the BlackSea chef, Kaia, making eyes at one another while agonizing about how Bowen might die from a medical procedure. It's not particularly compelling. The non-romance plot has to do with ongoing kidnappings of BlackSea members, kidnappings that seem to be perpetrated by the Human Alliance. Knight and Miane's security guy work towards figuring out who the traitors in their organizations must be, but mostly through phone calls and data searches, so that plot-line isn't particularly compelling either. There is some movement at the very end, but reading about a grueling transatlantic flight isn't exactly action either. 

 

BlackSea itself, though, was interesting to read about. There’s still a fair amount we don’t know about the pack – pack members tend to be especially secretive about what their animal is – but the underwater city was beautifully rendered. While shifter narratives almost never address bestiality – and I am not suggesting they should – there was an ongoing tentacle-sex gag going on here that surprised a laugh out of me. All considered, Ocean Light was fine, but I felt like more could have been done with both BlackSea and Bowen Knight, alas.