98. Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh (SFR/PNR WW/AM, Bear Changeling/ mentally scarred Psy) Mixed feelings…wasn’t enjoying the book…took a 3 week break & enjoyed the ending? Wrong mood? Hmmm. CWs: murder, child abuse, serial killer, non-conventual medical procedures, ableism
Mini-Synopsis: The tortured and skittish sister of powerful Psy, Theo Marshall, has gaps in her memory and a deep conviction that she is a destructive and dangerous monster. Yakov Stepyrev of the StoneWater bears has been dreaming of a woman who looks just like Theo since his adolescence and while he is mistrustful of anyone from Marshall Group, he is willing to help Theo figure out how her family was involved with a secret installation where non-compliant Psy were tortured and "rehabilitated" during the Silence era.
A Nalini Singh book is almost always one of my most anticipated books of the year, so anticipated that I am willing to read it in print with my eyes! (I am mostly an audiobook readers now). As I struggled through reading Resonance Surge I wondered at myself why I was having a hard time. Was it my mood, the format or (gasp!) the text. I struggled so much that I didn't hesitate to leave the book behind when our departure for vacation was unexpectedly accelerated and I was only a handful of chapters from the climatic conclusion. The feeling I felt at the time was relief, I could stop trying to love it.
After weeks of ignoring it, yesterday I finally picked up the last few chapters and finished it, and found myself moved and gripped at the ending. What had changed, I again wondered. In discussing my mixed feeling with some fellow readers I realized what had changed when I returned and my discomfort reading the book clarified itself. The secondary storylines had resolved and all I had left to read were the main storyline's resolution. The book lacked cohesion much like the Psy-Net does.
While I had issues with the swiftness of Theo and Yakov's attachment, when she is so deeply traumatized by the abuse wrecked on her as a child, it is not a new relationship pattern for Singh. My discomfort with the book was how fractured it was. There were at least 4 or 5 different threads tangled in this book: the fracturing of Hien and Denu's sibling relationship at the dawn of the age of Silence, the fracturing of the PsyNet and rising threat of Scarab Syndrome, the brutal serial killings of young women in Moscow, Pavel and Arwen's deepening relationship and Theo and Yakov's quest to unearth the role of the Marshall family the abuse and experimentation of Psy on Pax's request. That is a lot of threads for one book, and while some of these threads will I am sure will have payoff in later books, they dragged and distracted.
Nalini Singh is one of the foundational authors in my romance journey. Reading Slave to Sensation, the first Psy-Changeling book back in 2010 or thereabouts opened up a world of paranormal speculative romance, where SF/Fantasy and romance combined into a deep and heady mix full of intrigue, expansive worldbuilding and swoony romances. Over the years though as my romance reading tastes changed and my self-identity broadened, I became dissatisfied with the erasure of LGBTQIA folks from Singh's future-set world. I welcomed when Singh over the last decade has not 0nly started featuring visible minorities (not just white-presenting mixed peoples) as main characters has started peppering LGBTQIA characters in supporting roles.
In her second Psy-Changeling Trinity series, Pavel and Arwen have been slowly moving from flirtation to committed relationship in the background of several books. Arwen is an empath and he often referred to as the heart of the Mercant family, a powerful and sometimes ruthless Psy family whose members have featured in nearly all the Trinity series books. Pavel is key member of the StoneWater Bear clan, one of the central changeling packs in the series. As I grew invested in Pavel and Arwen, I also grew dissatisfied with their secondary and in this case nearly superfluous role in this book. This is a far cry from how their story is billed in the official synopsis
"A point of irrevocable change. For Pavel . . . for Arwen . . . for Yakov . . . and for another pair of twins whose bond has a far darker history."
In a series where the central relationships are often tested in dramatic fashion, theirs has been a quiet and placid romance. I felt shortchanged. While Pavel and Arwen's story would have made for a sweet novella, it felt disappointing in the midst of this book. I didn't believe the conflict that supposedly kept Arwen from accepting their mating bond.
I know understand my mixed feelings, this book had to many discordant notes smushed in, short-changing the secondary storylines and not hanging together cohesively. I'll stick around to see where Singh is going next but with less anticipation.
I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher as part of the reviewer program.