Pros: WOW! And did I mention, WOW!
Rating: 5 out of 5
I don’t usually quote a book’s back-cover text, but in this case the publisher did a bang-up job of summing up the book’s premise, and I really couldn’t say it better:
Separated from her son and forced to create a neural implant that will mean the effective enslavement of her psychically gifted race, Ashaya Aleine is the perfect Psy—cool, calm, emotionless—at least on the surface. Inside, she’s fighting a desperate battle to save her son and free them both from the vicious cold of the PsyNet. Yet when escape comes, it leads not to safety but to the lethal danger of a sniper’s embrace.
DarkRiver sniper Dorian Christensen lost his sister to a Psy killer. Though he lacks the changeling ability to shift into animal form, his leopard lives within. And that leopard’s rage at the brutal loss is a clawing darkness that hungers for vengeance. Falling for a Psy has never been on Dorian’s agenda, but charged with protecting Ashaya and her son, he discovers that passion has a way of changing the rules…
I find it so much easier, in some ways, to write reviews of books when I have at least one thing negative to say about them. It’s so much harder to review something when all my brain wants to say is, “Wow!”
I’ve heard so many amazing things about Nalini Singh’s books that I worried they might not live up to all that hype. I shouldn’t have worried. Hostage to Pleasure is an absolutely fantastic book. It has a ton of action, plot, twists and turns—far more than most romance novels. There are plenty of fascinating characters, and while I would have enjoyed them even more if I were familiar with the preceding books in the series, this one stands alone surprisingly well. If anything, the designation of this book as a romance rather than an adventure or a paranormal or near-future SF is mostly an arbitrary marketing thing, since it functions just as well on all of those levels.
The world-building is stunning—of particular fascination to me are the Psy in this book. They undertook something they call Silence (a forced suppression of emotion) in order to curtail the danger from emerging aggressive and unstable psychic abilities. Unfortunately this has backfired—those best able to be emotionless are the dangerous sociopaths. Over time these people have gone on to rise in the ranks and take over. As a result, Psy society is becoming dangerously unstable in new and different ways.
Ms. Singh has found a beautifully plot-based manner in which to keep her two would-be lovers apart. Dorian’s presence threatens Ashaya’s carefully-cultivated Silence, which for her is more than just a protection against her government’s scrutiny. It’s also a protection against an even greater threat that stalks her and her son in particular. Meanwhile, Ashaya threatens Dorian’s sanity—his hatred and loathing for the sociopath-dominated Psy society is so great that the very idea of desiring one of them is nearly enough to send him off the all-too-close deep end. Giving in to their feelings for each other is very literally dangerous for both them and those they care about.
Action, danger, intrigue, a fascinating world to play around in—this book has it all. [Adult material warning: there's a mild amount of explicit sex as well.]