Silence has fallen. The Psy are free to feel emotion. Free to love. But Silence was never a prison for Ivan Mercant. The biggest threat to his future lies dormant in his brain—a psychic monster that wants only to feed. And now, the brutal leash he’s kept on that monster is slipping. He prepared for this day, for the end of Ivan Mercant . . . but that was before he met Lei.
As primal as she is human, this wild changeling brings color into his life,
laughter to his soul. Then the dream shatters in a rain of blood, in silent
bodies in the snow. Lei is gone. Vanished without a trace . . .
until he meets strangely familiar eyes across a busy San Francisco street.
Soleil Bijoux Garcia is a healer who has lost everything. She exists in a world of desolate aloneness . . . till the day she finds herself face-to-face with a lethal stranger. The animal who is her other half knows this man, but her memories are tattered fragments. Sorrow and a need for vengeance are all that drive her. Her mission? To kill the alpha of the DarkRiver leopard pack.
But fate has other plans. Soon, a deadly soldier who believes himself a monster and a broken healer might be all that stand between life and death for the entire Psy race. . . .
[Note: Storm Echo is the sixth book in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling Trinity series. Like the other books in the series, it can be read as a standalone.]
Storm Echo continues the battle against the mysterious Psy known as the Architect, who is recruiting powerful telepaths called Scarabs to destroy the PsyNet and seize power. A connection to the Net is essential for survival, so the damage and destruction the Architect and her Scarabs cause kills large numbers of Psy.
Opposing the Architect is a coalition of Psy, including the powerful Mercant family. In Storm Echo, Ivan Mercant steps to the fore. He joined the family after he was orphaned in childhood. He’s a powerful telepath and has devoted himself to the security of his kindred. He never allows them to get too close to him emotionally, though, because he’s hiding a secret about the direction his telepathy is taking.
His mother, who died when he was eight, took a street drug when she was pregnant with him. After he was born, she gave it to him from time to time. This drug made his telepathy powerful, but the traces it left in him are greedy. He sees them as a spider in his mind, one that grows ever more powerful and craves the power he could draw from other people, even to a lethal degree. Before it becomes that strong, he plans to imprison himself in a mental cage of his own devising, shutting himself off from everyone in a kind of coma. Until that time comes, though, he’ll protect the family and help the Psy against the Architect.
Ivan’s plan hits a snag while he’s training with a small but deadly pack of wolf changelings. He injures his leg, and a changeling woman who calls herself Lei, walks out of the woods and tends to him. Their mutual attraction is immediate, and he finds himself wanting more than just a couple of woodland picnics together.
A bit I love occurs on one of those picnics. Despite Ivan’s preference for nutrient bars, he agrees to try a mushroom tart Lei made, and this follows: The flavors were explosions of sensation on his tongue, an overload of input. He must’ve betrayed some response because she laughed—the kind of laugh that said this was a shared amusement. He knew that even though he had never laughed.
This bit shows how warm and giving Lei is and how drawn Ivan is to that warmth. She teaches him to play in the forest and to splash in the pool below a waterfall.
He wants to get to know her, to see her as often as he can in the time he believes he has left. He also wants their relationship to be honest, so he tells her about himself, including the dark things he has done to defend his family, a little at a time lest he frighten her away or disgust her.
Instead of being repelled, Lei agrees to meet him again. But she doesn’t show. Ivan fights the urge to look for her. Believing she rejected him after all, he tells himself the right thing to do is leave her be.
She hasn’t rejected him, though. Before she can meet him, disaster overtakes her pack. It leaves her alone, believing her pack destroyed. Her quest to avenge their deaths takes her to San Francisco, where the DarkRiver leopard pack, whose alpha she believes killed her pack, has a base. Ivan also is in the city on family business. They’re on the same street, though she doesn’t recognize him, when the PsyNet ruptures. Every Psy in the area, including Ivan, collapses. Ivan manages to reconnect to the Net. Using the ability that has such dark potential, he seizes minds around him and flings them back into the Net.
Unaffected by the rupture, Lei immediately dives into helping the victims around her. She works so hard that she drains herself and passes out. She awakens in a DarkRiver hospital room, where she unexpectedly picks up a familiar scent, one of her supposedly dead pack. Determined to track that scent, she escapes from the hospital. Ivan, who recognized her, has been waiting outside the hospital in case she needed him. He offers her a ride. When they find the source of that scent, what they learn turns all Lei’s assumptions upside down.
Lei must adjust to a new life and a new pack, but a mating bond is already forming between her and Ivan. He resists it because of the grim future he sees for himself, but they draw ever closer. While the motif of one partner resisting a fated mating runs through the changeling stories, the conflicts that cause the other partner to resist that mating are many and varied. The fated mates trope could easily become repetitive, but Singh keeps it fresh and interesting.
Meanwhile, the Architect continues to wreak havoc. Ivan joins cardinal telepath Kaleb Krychek (Heart of Obsidian) in trying to protect the PsyNet. The spider Ivan dreads gives him unexpected abilities he must use, risking everything, in a desperate attempt to save the Net.
The characters are easy to root for. Both Ivan and Lei carry emotional wounds, and his desire to keep her from sharing the dark fate that awaits him is a believable obstacle to their romance. The romance is, by turns, heart-wrenching, sweet, and playful, and it’s a process of growth for both Lei and Ivan.
Supporting characters include the interesting and varied Mercant family and the warm, communal changelings. Many of the secondary characters first appeared in earlier books, but they’re introduced in a smooth way that gives readers who’re not familiar with those books what they need to know right away.
The story moves well, and the resolution comes with a surprising, satisfying twist.
Have you read Nalini Singh?
Are you reading the Psy-Changeling series?
If you could be a changeling, what animal would you want to be your non-human half?
One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 30 will receive a hardback copy of Storm Echo.
*Must be 18
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