Monday, June 13, 2016

Allegiance of Honor, by Nalini Singh - Review

Title: Allegiance of Honor
Series: Psy-Changeling
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 14, 2016 
Reviewing: eARC for Kindle 
Reason for reading: Author love, series love

The Short Answer
This is the book for the die-hard fans who love epilogues (especially "baby-logues"), who love to catch up with old friends, and who have a list of loose ends from the previous 14 books and NEED CLOSURE. If you love the montage episode at the end of the TV series, you'll love this book. I absolutely loved this book. But just so you know, if you're looking for a traditionally-structured PNR with a single focal couple, this isn't quite built on those lines.

The Blurb
The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

On Optimism
One of the reasons I love romance is for its optimism. One of my friends uses a quote from Conan O'Brien as her tagline, and I love it:

"I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen."

And possibly the best part of this book is its optimism for the the future of the Psy-Changeling world. It's been a dark ride at times, with man's inhumanity to man spotlighted in a way that doesn't require paranormal trappings to recognize from our own world. In the past fourteen books, Singh has built an amazing complex, textured world-- and then she tore it all down. Shards of Hope and Allegiance of Honor are the beginnings of its rebirth. The notion of a new world order built on honor is a powerful one. I wish that just a few more politicians of this day and age ever seemed to demonstrate a passing acquaintance with the concept.

A Little More
I will say that this book meanders a little bit, sort of like when you've moved away from a close-knit family and then go home to visit. You spend a little time here, a little time there, talk about bits and pieces. It's less about the overall narrative and more about getting caught up. The revisiting is interspersed with an action arc related to events in Shards of Hope, as well as an epistolary thread about a beloved secondary character, who -- spoiler alert -- indeed, gets his Happily Ever After.  It's for sure not the place for a new fan or to start the series. For the die hard fans (like me), there's a distinct risk that it will push you into a re-read of the whole series... which sounds like kind of an awesome way to spend the summer, to be honest!

I've been lucky enough to see Nalini in person a few times, and sometime in the last couple years, when it became apparent that the series was leading up to a finale, she answered a question about a spinoff or future series. At the time, she wasn't making any commitments, but she mentioned that she thought it would probably be about the next generation -- all those pups, cubs, and various psy/changeling/human variations. Based on Singh's intro, and all the focus on the babies in this book, I'd say that is where she's going. And if cute cuddly babies make you melty, you are going to be a puddle by the end of this one. There are teenagers, little kids, teeny babies, and killer scene detailing what a shifter baby's first shift looks like. (And I thought parenting a regular toddler was a challenge...) 

See?! You can believe me!

Thanks to the awesome publicity team at Berkley, you get an excerpt! YAY! And it is a REALLY adorable one:
Lucas had had to chase Naya around the aerie at bedtime last night—her walk might still be a little shaky, but she was a rocket when it came to crawling. Dressed only in a diaper, she’d laughed uproariously and said a loud, firm “No” each time Lucas caught her and put her in her crib.

After which she’d clamber out—she’d figured out how to escape a month earlier—and the game would begin again. Of course, since Lucas was a cat, he’d been having just as much fun as their daughter. Sascha, meanwhile, had sat in the living room with a cup of hot chocolate and just indulged in the sight of her mate playing with their cub.

She’d had to pretend to be stern when Naya ran over and pleaded her case with loud sounds and wild gesticulations of her hands. “No, Naya,” she’d said, biting her tongue in an effort not to laugh. “It’s time for bed. Go with Papa.”

At which point, Naya had growled at her, eyes sparkling with mischief.

And Sascha had cracked, laughing so hard she’d had to put down her hot chocolate before she spilled it. Lucas had shaken his head as Naya plopped down on her diaper-covered butt and joined in, clapping her hands at having made her mommy laugh. “No discipline.” Lucas had mock-growled at her before picking up their misbehaving baby. “And you”—a growly nuzzle that made Naya laugh harder and pat his stubbled cheek—“time for bed.”

He’d finally got her to sleep—by walking around with her pressed up against his bare chest.

Today, their cub was playing in the living area just outside the kitchen nook. Sascha had locked the aerie door to ensure Naya wouldn’t undo the latch and go out onto the balcony, and Lucas had childproofed the entire main area of the aerie, so Naya was free to roam as she liked. A lot of the time she practiced her walking skills. And no matter how often she fell down, she started back up again after a little break. Stubborn, determined baby. Peeking out from the kitchen, Sascha found her concentrating on stacking the colored alphabet blocks Faith and Vaughn had given her as a gift. Beside her sat a more than slightly ragged wolf plush toy, aka “The Toy That Shall Not Be Named.” Hawke had given that to Naya when she was a newborn, and it remained her favorite snuggle toy, much to her father’s despair.

Though Lucas did enjoy it when Naya went leopard on the toy, growling and “fighting” with the wolf. Then he’d smile and say, “That’s my girl.”

Find Nalini online:
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Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2016.

Bottom Line
I couldn't love this book more. 100% adoration from me.  But if you haven't been reading this series, first of all, YOU HAVEN'T BEEN LISTENING TO ME AT ALL, HAVE YOU??! and, uh, ahem. Secondly,  just go start at the beginning and get back to me.

Oh, and fair warning, this happened:

Around the Blogosphere --what others are saying

RT - 4-1/2 stars Top Pick!
Big love from The Book Eaters (what a great blog name!)
More love from The Book Swarm
Nice detailed review from Harlequin Junkies
There are a few folks who found it a bit slow in places or wanted a stronger focal couple. But most of the reviews I've seen are overwhelmingly positive.

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