I have a startling confession for you. I haven’t read a Nalini Singh novel before.
I know, I know. Everyone (including my husband) raves about Singh. I just got really burned out on Paranormal Romance after reading a ton of Laurell K. Hamilton (yes, I know it’s not really romance) and Amanda Ashley because that’s all that was available to me in my local bookstore in the nineties. I didn’t have the moxie yet to ask to the bookseller, “Do you have books about vampires, but where they fuck?”
I decided to start with Silver Silence because Singh describes it on her webpage as the start of “season two” of her Psy-Changeling series. It’s technically the first book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity series although it works fine as a continuation of the original series.
Supposedly this was a good place to start if you hadn’t read any of the other books, but I sometimes found it hard to jump into without prior context. I was certainly able to figure it out, but there were plenty of times where I was a little confused or asked my husband for clarification on the world.
Singh’s world is populated by three groups: humans, changelings (shifters), and Psy. The Psy are a race with varying psychic abilities from telepathy to telekenisis to teleportation. Some can heal psychically too.
Silver Silence takes place in Moscow among a community of bear-shifters and a powerful Psy family, the Mercants. Silver Mercant is an extremely powerful telepath and the director of a group called Em-Net, an emergency response network. When the book opens, Psy, humans, and changelings have recently signed the Trinity Accord, bringing peace after years of war. Silver is trying to change the way people think about the Psy with her humanitarian efforts.
And here’s the part where I was confused. I was able to glean that the Psy were previously not nice people (well, not all of them) and were mistrusted by changelings and humans. Up until this point many of the Psy were Silent – that is, they chose a path of being completely emotionless, existing in a world without passion or pleasure. Except that didn’t work out for a lot of them and there’s something called the Psy-Net that holds them all together and now there’s a Honeycomb holding the Psy-Net together and I was like IDK what’s going on here. I was waking Rich up while I was reading at night to ask him questions like “Is the Psy-Net a physical thing or…?”
He helpfully replied “Hmgfinglngmmmph.”
Anyway, I understood enough of it for the book to make sense overall, but there was definite exposition that needed to happen to really sync the story up for someone like me who is totally new to the world.
So back to Silver. She’s decided to remain Silent despite the fact that’s no longer required of her. That means she doesn’t feel pleasure, doesn’t feel desire, doesn’t feel love. She doesn’t even eat real food. She eats nutrient bars and drinks because it gives her what she needs nutritionally. The pleasure of eating eludes her.
That doesn’t stop the Alpha of the StoneWater clan of bear-shifters from trying to court her. Valentin Nikolaev is convinced that Silver is the only mate for him, which easily could have meant we were spiraling down into gross, demanding Alpha territory. Instead Valentin is incredibly respectful of the boundaries Silver sets, which I was so happy about.
When someone tries to poison Silver, her family decides she’s safest hiding among the StoneWater bears while they try to flush out the would-be killer. So we get some forced proximity romance.
Silver’s life has been gray and sterile and cold, and the StoneWater Clan is…not that. The bears are a boisterous extended family that thrive on play, and touch, and food. Meals are communal. Celebrations are loud. Kids run a little wild. Individual rooms are tiny because people spend their time in communal areas. As an introvert, I was a little afraid.
Through all of this, Valentin gets closer to Silver while always respecting the line she’s put in place. She tells him that she will always be Silent, and that she will never be able to return his affection for her. Valentin doesn’t believe that, but he doesn’t violate her trust or demand anything from her either. His courtship of her is honest and sweet.
I loved, loved that we get an alpha hero who is not a giant, demanding douche-bag. So often alphas are portrayed as being able to muscle their way into any situation, take what they want, and not have to suffer repercussions for it. Valentin shows that being an alpha doesn’t being demanding or directive. He’s warm and loving with his clan, especially the children. He enforces rules, but never in a domineering way. He’s clearly in charge, but its because he’s the best suited to handle the position, to delegate, to strategize, to treat his people with kindness. He didn’t get the job by swinging the biggest dick.
Most of the book is Valentin’s courtship of Silver, although the suspense element of the poisoning is there, too. It’s very immersive dive into Valentin’s world and the culture of bear shifters, and once I felt like I had my footing in that world I enjoyed it immensely.
Sarah asked if there are any children in jeopardy in this book (which has apparently happened in other Psy-Changeling books) and the answer is no. At one point a bear cub gets himself stuck trying to crawl though a hole in some rocks, and they have to literally butter him to get him out, but that’s it.
There is a scene where Silver and Valentin help with a rescue mission after a suicide bombing in Moscow, and I know that’s not something everyone wants to read about, especially given how relevant it is. The scene isn’t particularly graphic or very long, though, but I understand that it would upset some readers.
What was confusing for me as a new reader was the world-building surrounding the Psy (the shifter part was fairly easy to intuit). When Silver starts to break Silence I still wasn’t entirely certain of the rules surrounding the practice or the overall ramifications.
It’s not a horrible place to start the series; I certainly didn’t feel hopelessly lost, but I also had a fair amount of questions. I think Silver Silence will be a big hit with readers of the series, and a little less effective with newcomers. I did love the healthy portrayal of an alpha hero, though, and found the world of the bear shifters to be fun and fascinating.
This book is available from:
Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
June 13, 2017
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