Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
ISBN 978 0 575 09566 3
Slave to Sensation is part of a series classified as the Psy - Changeling Series and therefore I will be reviewing each one within it, as Nalini Singh is very clever by making a series by each book being a different story but by incorporating the characters from previous ones into each one.
On Nalini Singh's Website (http://www.nalinisingh.com/psybehind.php) she states:
I've always been fascinated by psychic powers, by the idea that we might have unawakened abilities inside of us. Experiments have shown that humans use only a tiny percentage of their brains. But what if we were suddenly able to access that unused remainder--isn't it possible that abilities now considered paranormal might then become run of the mill?
It is evident from reading this book that Singh is passionate about the subject she is writing about which immediately draws you into the story. However because of the content of the story it is evident it isn't suited for a young audience and therefore I feel it is intended for young adults/ adults because of the sexual scenes and the overall content of the story.
The Psy are a cold, emotionless and extremely logical race. However they have not always been this way. They became this way under a program called Silence which was to begin with eradicate madness and violence from the population and in the end evolved to banish emotion completely from the Psy race. Now in the year 2079 they are perfect in their silence, except for one, Sascha Duncan.
Sascha Duncan is viewed throughout two thirds of the book as broken as instead of being silent and feeling nothing she feels everything. She is engulfed daily by the emotion Psy shunned over a century ago. She hides it well, but the other Psy in her race notice that she is different and something is not quite right with her. However as she is the daughter of a very powerful telepath and councillor of the Psy race - Nikita Duncan - she is safe for now.
Everything starts to fracture though when she is put in charge of a construction deal with Lucas Hunter the alpha of DarkRiver - a leopard changeling pack who share control of San Francisco city. Sascha finds herself feeling more and more around the alpha the more contact she has with him. Which threatens her identity as a Psy. Lucas in turn sees Sascha as his way into the Psy empire and investigating what secrets are held within. A changeling female has been murdered and their race know that the Psy did it. Can Sascha help him seek revenge upon the race that hurt his own? Or will his growing attraction to her change his view of the cold race?
The world with which Singh draws us into is well thought out and so three dimensional it is fascinating. Although we are told that three races exist - Psy, Changeling and Human - we get the feeling that Psy and Changeling are the dominant ones with their paranormal abilities, leaving the humans the weaker species as what is normal in a fantasy book. With this being the case it is very good in terms of an escapist story and its romantic elements add to this rather than hindering the story. Although I do at times feel as if the romantic part of the story takes over too much.
A part I particularly like about the story is how she portrays each of the races in so much detail that they feel so real and alive for just fictional characters. The way the Psy race is portrayed is pretty chilling and menacing which puts them as the 'villains' of the story. Singh tells us that we only use a certain amount of our brains capacity at the moment (see quote above) so when the Psy implement this Silence protocol it is suggested that emotion is what helps release this awesome potential. It is also quite astonishing to think of people with powers such as: Telekinesis, Telepathy, Foresight and Medical amongst others. The only thing that struck me as odd was how they weren't able to isolate a set part of emotion and eradicate it, but that they made the decision to destroy emotion as a whole and feels as if it is just made up to go along with her story. However this definitely adds the their cold and menacing personalities. The stereotypical part of this is that from the start it is easy to guess that there would be one Psy who the conditioning would either break down or not connect to. However the story developed around Sascha certainly makes her interesting.
In contrast it is amazing how different Singh has made the Changelings, even though they are capable of emotions such as rage and violence. She makes the point of showing that love and caring cancel out the negative effect of the previous emotions. Singh seems to want to make it very clear that the Psy are the evil race whereas even though throughout it proves that the changelings are more ruthless, but only when it comes to pack safety. When you pile up what both races have done it comes out as pretty equal but Singh seems to condemn the Psy whereas she is sympathetic towards the Changelings as their acts of violence are linked to their animal natures and normal culture. Which gives it an unequal balance within the book.
(Humans come into the story later on in the series)
A lot of themes run prominently throughout the story and even though the main theme should be the changelings search for the murderer it is dominated by the love story between Sascha and Lucas which changes it into a twisted love story. It would have been a more ideal for the investigation to be less rushed and for it to incorporate more into Sascha's struggle. However the secondary theme is definitely the power struggle between Changelings and the Psy which is portrayed well throughout.
The thing that puts me off the story slightly is how quickly Lucas' perception of the Psy changes upon him meeting and getting to know Sascha. At the beginning we get that he is a ruthless and logical alpha who is against the Psy and will stop at anything to help and protect his pack, but later get that he has been swayed by one Psy. Even though Singh does explain this, you don't evidently click with why. Which makes that part of the story weak and is when more fictional techniques would make it stronger and more understandable.
Also it comes back into fiction and fantasy at how Sascha is expected to leave her race and uproot her life to join the pack. She doesn't get much of a choice in the matter and gives the feeling that she is trapped and must pick one choice or the other. Although it is ok as her character is portrayed as one that is weak and fragile and needs emotion to survive. Which makes me feel uncomfortable as women of this age are no longer like that and we are getting stronger and more independent by the year. So it feels like Singh has made a slip in time frame.
Overall I enjoyed the book so much I have read every book in the series up to date and can only say they got better as they went on as the back story strengthens. The way Singh describes the characters you can't help but fall in love with their differing personalities (reviews coming soon). The only qualms I have with all of them is how neatly they conclude and how things always work out no matter the dire consequences they are often put in there is always a loop hole. However that is the beauty of escaping into Fiction and the world of The Fantastic.