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Review: Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

visions of heat nalini singh Review: Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

Foresight. Precognition. The third eye. If these were musical compositions,'theyd be grouped together as ubiquitous, omnipresent variations on a theme. The notion of the sibyl seems, after all, to resonate across the entirety of the literary canon,'with stories abounding of people, usually women, capable of seeing into'what is for the rest of us an impermeable fog. While foresight and future-seeing are staples of superstitious tales of the'fantastic, theyve also taken a strong hold in science fiction, with all'manner of works dealing with issues raised by the ability to seeand'therefore changethe future. Amongst the rosier approaches, such as the'psychohistory found in Asimovs Foundation series, there are also'grittier efforts, such as those of Philip K Dick (his Minority Report is one example). Its this latter approach that Singh takes:'her F-Psy, as theyre known, are trained to channel their talents'towards the mercantile and political, reporting on yet-to-happen commercial takeovers and business developments so that their clients can respond accordingly.

Given their potential to drastically affect economies on both the local and global scale, F-Psy are immensely valuable assets to the Psy, who are known, in addition to their astounding mental capabilities, for their impressive business acumen and their unwavering single-mindedness. Those who fall under the F-Psy designation are rare, though, and their precognitive strength varied. The F-Psy who rank as cardinals on the scale that is used to measure the ability boast substantially higher predictive hit-rates than their lower-ranked peers, and of these, one individual in particular is virtually unparalleled in terms of the accuracy and frequency of her visions. Faith Nightstar, a member of the powerful Nightstar clan, is famed for her exemplary precognitive control, having by her early twenties earnt many times over what might be expected of her competitors. However, her condition, as with all F-Psy, is delicate. The F-Psy are known among Psy society for living a firework-esque existence, burning brilliantly until collapsing in on themselves in madness after only a few decades of productivity. As such, Faith, an immensely valuable asset, is kept in both physical and social isolation in order to stave off the crushing mental fatigue that her minders tell her will inevitably result from too much exposure to others. But Faith, despite her isolation, despite adhering to the strict rules and procedures around which her life is scheduled, is beginning to see things that are far removed from, if youll pardon the pun, futures trading. Instead, she is increasingly overwhelmed by flashes of violence, of cruelty, of sadism. While she does all she can to stave off these unbidden images, to explain them away as'aberrations, things come to a head when her sister is reported as having been murdered. On the brink of mental collapse, a terrified Faith escapes into changeling territory in search of the only person she believes may be able to help her: Sascha Duncan, a rebel Psy who has defected from Psy society.

But while Faith is, after much discussion from the wary changelings who intercept her mid-flight, offered asylum within the DarkRiver community, her troubles are far from over. Already struggling under the increasingly crippling weight of her fragmented mind, she finds herself dealing with a number of challenges, each of which has the'the potential to overwhelm her in her current state. Changeling society is vastly alien to her, its pack hierarchies and rules scarcely comprehensible, and its emphasis on touch and physical affection as socialising norms pure anathema; Faith finds herself struggling to cope with the nature of the input she is receiving on both the mental and physical planes. Worse still are the decidedly not-so-platonic advances of the dangerous jaguar changeling Vaughn, whose wild, untamed personality borders on the feral, but whom she is increasingly drawn to as her Psy barriers are broken down. And last, but certainly not least is'the ever-present threat of the powerful and terrifyingly vicious Psy Council, which she suspects may be behind the attacks she is seeing in her minds eyeattacks that show no sign of abating.

In many ways, Visions of Heat retraces the plot of Slave to Sensation, the first in the Psy-Changeling series'(see our review). The pairing of the alpha-style male changeling with the broken Psy is in full evidence, and even the complicating factors of the threat of the Psy Council, the unrepentant and relentless murderer, and of integration into an unfamiliar culture are present. That said, Visions of Heat is the stronger of the two, and reading it I felt that Singh had really begun to hit her stride as an author. She allocates more time to defining and teasing out Psy society, as well as settling a number of qualms I had about seemingly contradictory elements of their culture when reading the first book, and Visions of Heat is quite a strong book for it. I appreciate the thought given to world-building and to creating a culture that feels not only coherent, but that it has evolved and developed over time in response to a series of internal and external threats, rather than having been created, as these races so often feel like they have been. The Psy, I feel, are given a rather fairer treatment in this novel, with Singh depicting the race as more nuanced and complex than in the previous novel, where they were scarcely more than evil Vulcansbut without the charm of the pointy ears. Singh takes the time to introduce a number of secondary characters who have rather piqued my interest in subsequent books: Anthony Kyriakus, Faiths father and a fellow who appears to wield considerable political and economic influence in a way that has the potential to undermine the Council; and a new and rather terrifying addition to the Council hordes, Kaleb Krychek.

Moreover, in this novel were given not only a stronger supporting cast, but also stronger main characters. Faith is presented as a more rounded character than was Sascha, the protagonist of the previous novel: rather than leaping to join the changelings, who in the first book were portrayed as arbiters of love and hugs, as Sascha did, she expresses a good deal of ambivalence over whether to join changeling society, and in so doing, renounce her culture and upbringing. Moreover, she spends more time reflecting on the nature of her relationship with Vaughn, rather than simply succumbing to his frankly quite terrifying alpha male ways. While I certainly wouldnt go so far as to say that theirs is a healthy relationship, built as it is on a foundation of submission and loss of self-identity, Faith feels as though she has more agency in the decision than Sascha did, and Im a little more comfortable with the outcome.

I do, of course, have some quibbles, such as the slightly weaker plotting this time around: the mystery is very much downplayed in this second outing, and the reader is forced to deal with some awkward tacked-on moments such as the coincidental event that eventual serves to ingratiate Faith into the pack. I also found myself a little annoyed that the same prose-level issues that were apparent in Slave to Sensation were abundant hereright down to the repetition of the very same phrases that so vexed me in the first book.

In all, though, Singhs second Psy-Changeling novel is a fast and compelling read, and I veritably powered my way through it. Its a guilty pleasure, of course, but one 'in which I might even be willing to be seen indulging in public!

200px 3.5 stars.svg  Review: Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

With thanks to Gollancz Australia for the review copy.

Purchase'Visions of Heat

See our review of Slave to Sensation, Psy-Changeling #1

See our review of Caressed by Ice, Psy-Changeling #3

See our review of'Angels Blood, Guild Hunter #1

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