Silver Silence is the first book in a new series by Nalini Singh set in her Psy-Changeling universe. It is special in several ways. First is the start of a new story-line, and although it builds on what has gone before it works a accessible entry-point for those who might not be interested in reading the previous dozen books. Second, this is the first Psy-changeling books to feature bear changelings.
Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series was one of my gateways into Romance. I devoured the original series, although not every book worked for me, I regularly re-read several of the books. However as the series has progressed the over-arching plot had gotten larger and larger, to the point where she had to write an ensemble book, Allegiance of Honor without a central romance to wrap up things. I am going to be honest and say that for me that book was trudge to read, the vignette style, interrupted by the Xavier's diary, was a snooze, despite the fact that I loved the vast majority of the characters. I read about half of it when if first came out and only finished it last month, as I waited for Silver Silence.
My recent re-readings of the Psy-changeling books have been bit uncomfortable as I have changed a lot as reader since I first read this series and I've become more sensitive to problematic choices, for example the near absence of LGBTQ people. While this series has always had racial and religious diversity, LGBTQ people didn't seem to exist in the Psy-Changeling world, and I am no longer comfortable in fictional worlds that erase queer people. So while I was excited to read a new Psy-Changeling book I was also wary.
Silver Silence is the story of Silver Mercant and Valentin Nikolaev. Valentin is the Alpha of the StoneWater Bears, one of the largest bear clans in Russia. Silver Mercant is Psy, a highly gifted telepath and head of a world-wide coordinated disaster response organization Although many Psy are starting to explore their emotions, Silver remains firmly Silent, yet that does not discourage Valentin. After months of largely one-side courtship Valentin gets his big break when he interrupts an assassination attempt on Silver's life. Determined to protect her, he offers her refuge with his clan while she recovers and they work together to uncover who is targeting her and why.
The book was very enjoyable and I ended up re-reading it almost immediately. Despite my wariness, Singh made a lot of good choices in this book. First of all, there was clear LGBTQ inclusion. Two major gay characters were introduced, one is Silver's empath brother, Arwen and the other high-ranking lieutenant in Valentin's clan, Pavel. These characters got a good deal of page time, and a flirtation, that hints at a future romance. It is a small step, but for a world where LGBTQ have been absent it was exciting to see. (I do admit to being very distracted by Arwen's name however).
The second good choice was the ways where Silver Silence mirrored Singh's first Psy-Changeling book, Slave to Sensation and then took things a different direction. In both books a Psy takes refuge with changelings while facing threats on her life. Spending time in close quarters helps breakdown the Psy's ingrained resistance against romantic/sensual experiences. In Slave to Sensation, Lucas frequently pushes Sasha past her comfort zone, deliberately pushing boundaries and overriding her choices.
In Silver Silence, Valentin does not proceed without Silver's explicit consent. He is blunt, determined and stubborn but he respects Silver's choices even when it hurts him. He encourages her and makes sure she has everything she needs. His protectiveness does not make her world smaller. Silver is presented as more powerful than Valentin in all ways but the physically, and that he is not threatened by her prominent global position but instead actively supportive of it. Valentin's love for Silver is self-sacrificial, and constant when many would have given up. Singh does a great job presenting this as fidelity not simply stubbornness.
"Who are you to me?"
"Yours," he said, "I'm yours."
I am very excited by the new directions and choices Singh is making and I am no longer wary but excited about this new series. If you have never tried a Psy-changeling book this is where I would encourage you to start.