Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh

In the past 2 years, a lot of new series have emerged and I think that readers have seen everything. Ex-soldiers, ex-agents, cops, firefighters, vampires, werewolves and so on. Two series with alternating main characters that have caught and managed to retain my attention are the Psy-Changelings series by Nalini Singh and the Guardians series by Meljean Brook.

Ms Nalini Singh's next release is Hostage to Pleasure coming out in a few weeks on September 2nd. I was one of the lucky winners in her contest for an ARC and you can't believe how happy I was! It was even better than to get a new job!! LOL :)

So here are my thoughts of Hostage to Pleasure...

Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
published by Berkley in September 2008

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 escape 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.

Dark River 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...

Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Psy-changelings series, book #5

The Story: Ashaya Aleine is a M-Psy scientist that has been introduced in the previous books of the series. In Mine to Possess, she helped the cat changelings by rescuing two human kids in exchange of a favor. In the beginning of Hostage to Pleasure, Ashaya calls in the favor: she wants the cats to save her son who's been used by the Psy council as a hostage to force Ashaya to work for them. After her son disappears from the Psy net, Ashaya fakes her death to escape the Psy council... however, the councilors are not about to let Ashaya go so easily, not when she knows so much about them and their plans.

Dorian Christensen, Dark River's Sentinel and sniper, can't forget Ashaya Aleine, ever since he had her in his scope. He figures it's just a bad case of lust, because he can't be falling for a psy. Not after what happened to his little sister and especially not for a perfect psy who is not willing to break Silence.

My Opinion: All right, so here is the deal... after reading Hostage to Pleasure twice, I'm a bit torn. This is definitively a great addition to the series and I'm sure that fans of Dorian will be satisfied; however, Hostage to Pleasure has its flaws.

To me, what worked was the storyline, the writing and the world building. Hostage to Pleasure was great in the sense that it made the whole series storyline advances. A lot of series have their general storyline, when they have one, stalled at some points, but it is not the case with this series. The credit definitively goes to Ms Singh. She was able to create a complex world, but at the same time, she was smart enough not to rush the building of the world. She gave the readers enough information to start the series and with each new book, she adds a new element to the world that fits. These new elements do not feel like an after-thought and their purpose is not to make the series more complex. Instead, she works the new elements in well and they complement her storyline of the Psy rebellion and the changes in the world that are coming.

I also enjoyed the storyline between Dorian and Ashaya. I think that Ms Singh had it well thought out and had it in control. There were many issues between Dorian and Ashaya such as Dorian's hatred for the Psy, Ashaya's behavior towards her son and so on and Ms Singh was able to address them all and the resolutions were all satisfactory. I do think that Ms Singh could have had more scenes between Dorian and Ashaya and could have taken their relationship a tad slower... but given Dorian's behavior, it was understandable.

Speaking of Dorian's behavior, that is one aspect of the book that I didn't really enjoy. Perhaps because it's been a couple of books since Slave to Sensation and Dorian's presence has not been as prominent as in the first book... or because in the past few books, Dorian seemed to be better, more joyful. However, he was very harsh and angry in Hostage to Pleasure and although it was well explained, I didn't like it much. What was good though is that it wasn't out of character for him, he was very much like in the beginning of Slave to Sensation, perhaps even more angry. It's also good that we got to know Dorian so much across the series, because the book focused a lot more on his anger and present state of mind. Since we know him so much, it didn't feel like there was a lack of characterization.

Ashaya was definitively an interesting heroine. I really enjoy Ms Singh's heroines, because they are so different from one another. Their personality and issues make them very distinct and that's great in a series to keep a certain freshness. Ashaya is a very strong-minded heroine, very courageous, but at the same time, she has weakness that make her very vulnerable. She also has a certain maturity and is less naive or idealist than the previous heroines which suit her character a lot. I really liked her character and although Ashaya and Dorian had a lot of chemistry, I'm not totally sure they fit. I thought something was a tiny bit off... that is why I wish for more scenes of them together. Like I said, I suspected it was because of Dorian's anger, I felt like there was no moment he was really calm during the relationship and his anger and lust made everything happened so fast. If the relationship could have happened a tad slower, it would have been better.

One thing I'm not certain about though is Ashaya's sense of responsibility. I can't say too much about it without giving out spoilers, but those who have read the book will know what I'm talking about. I can understand why she wants to protect and take care of that person, why she feels so much responsibilities. However, after what Ashaya's gone through because of that person, I find it hard to believe that Ashaya still feels responsible. Therefore, I'm not sure that the resolution to that problem totally pleases me.

What else did I enjoy? The apparitions of previous characters. They didn't overshadow the H/H and their presences were all pertinent. Ms Singh didn't just bring them back to please the readers, instead, their presences contribute to the storyline. Another thing that Ms Singh does well is series baiting. Many readers have complained in the past about authors baiting them for the next books with characters actually overshadowing the H/H... however, it is not the case with Ms Singh. For example, the next book will be Mercy's book and although she's been introduced since book #1, we don't know her well. Ms Singh has kept her in the background, giving us very few information so readers weren't distracted with her in the past. However, now that her book is coming up, Mercy gets more 'screen time' and we learn more about her, but not excessively. So that was fun :) Keenan was also very cute and for those who don't like kids in their books, don't worry...

All right, so along the review, I did mention a few things that I didn't particularly like or enjoy such as Dorian's behavior... but Hostage to Pleasure has two more flaws. First: I thought there were too much point of views from others. We got slices of different councilors (Kaleb Krychek, Ming Lebon, Henry Scott) in addition of the newly introduced human faction, Human Alliance. Individually, it wasn't too bad, but combined together, I thought it a bit too much. The most annoying was it cut into the flow of the storyline. The second flaw is not major... Simply put is that when reading the series, the psy-changelings world seems to be restricted to San Francisco... but it is not the case. When Ms Singh says that the Psy are dominating the world, I have the feeling it's simply the USA or even San Francisco only. The international feeling is not there. When we're talking about Psy rebellion, again, I feel like it's only happening in San Francisco. What about the changelings status in the rest of the world? Perhaps it would help if Ms Singh starts to give us the status of the rest of the world. I know she has tried to place the councilors in different parts of the world and the Human Alliance is based in Venice... but I still don't get the international feel.

My Grade: Between B and B+. Like I said, a great addition to the Psy-changelings series with good writing and good characters, but I think that the romance story was a bit rushed. As a result, when I read Hostage to Pleasure, it was more with my head than my heart.


  1. Nath, I enjoyed your review! And I thought your problems with it were well thought out and justified. I think some of your probs were probs for me as well at some points, but the way it all was resolved worked for me in the end too. Still, this was a great review. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I actually like Dorian's anger which is why the book worked for me. I'm with you on the resolution of the sister problem. Even still, I liked what the effect was on the Snowdancer clan.

    There was something that kept niggling at me as I read but I could never place it but I think you hit on it. The international feeling but I did notice when the airing happened that you hit different areas of the world. I think making it more international won't be easy because there are characters we care about in the current area.

    Also, I kind of skimmed the council stuff because I'm not great with politics so I didn't let those parts slow me down.

    Great review Nath!


  3. I am jealous that you have this already :)
    Great review.

  4. Hi everyone! Sorry, late replies ^_^;

    kmont - Hi Kmont!!! I'm glad that you enjoyed my review! I have read yours as well, although I haven't commented. All in all, HtP was a great book and I guess that at this point, my problems are more with the whole series than the book :P

    Cindy - Snowdancer or Dark River clan? LOL :) I just thought that Dorian was doing so well in the past few books... perhaps that deep inside...

    Ms Singh really tries her best to include the international scene... and she does make multiples attempts such as the councillors leaving in different parts of the world... problem is that the books are focused on the Snowdancers and Dark Rivers who are settled in San Francisco. Might help if she would explore a different pack settled somewhere else.

    I'm not fond of the politics stuff usually, but Ms Singh keeps it simple :) You should give it a try :)

    Kris - It's coming out soon, Kris! Very soon :D