Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh, narrated by Angela Dawe

Why I listened to it:  A friend loaned me a copy to listen to while I was waiting for my print copy to arrive from the Book Depository.  I felt the need to get in quick to avoid spoilers.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained bloodred.
A woman whose very existence has been erased.
A love story so dark, it may shatter the world itself.
A deadly price that must be paid.
The day of reckoning is here.
Warning:  Spoilers as to heroine’s identity – if you don’t want to know look away now.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I liked this one but I think it may have worked better for me in print.  Nalini Singh has a number of writing tics – in particular, she repetition of certain words – in this book it was “obsidian” “adamantine” and “entombed”.  She also phrases things a little strangely sometimes – eg “in the bed that was her own” – and both of those things are easier to skip over in print than on audio, where I cannot skim.  In fact, Angela Dawe’s narration style tends to emphasise these tics if anything.
Given that Kaleb lives in Moscow and we’re told that is his home territory, I always expected him to have at least a vaguely Russian accent, but he is given the same accent as all the males in the series, which was another (albeit small) disappointment.But, there was a lot to like in the story.  Kaleb and Sahara spend a lot of time together (something I’m always a fan of) and there is a lot of interaction between them in the book.  There are also very useful flashbacks which reveal much more about Kaleb and give his ruthlessness a context not previously known.  I felt the book was very Kaleb-centric – Sahara had 7 years of captivity and abuse but she seemed to recover from those effects very quickly and most of the flashbacks are about Kaleb.

I think there is plenty in the series which indicates that deep inside (you may have to go quite deep) Kaleb is a man with a conscience, with empathy and with a good heart.  He is not however a “good” man.  He is prepared to do unpleasant things without shedding any tears.  But all of the people we know he rescued in this book and previous books, go, for me, to show he is not evil.  Kaleb says he doesn’t have any empathy except for Sahara, but I think he was unreliable in that narrative rather than accurate.  I also think he will, now that he has found Sahara, become more open and empathetic as time goes by.

Janine, in her review over at Dear Author, expressed some concern regarding Kaleb’s threat to destroy the PsyNet (something which is effectively genocide) and how the only reason he did not do so was because Sahara asked it of him.  I was less bothered by this – partly because I never believed it would actually happen and partly because I didn’t think he was as serious about it as even he thought he was.  My read of it was that it was a thing he was prepared to do if it became necessary – I never thought it would “become necessary”.  Kaleb is very protective of Sahara and says things like “I will kill anyone who hurts you”.  This is fairly standard behaviour for the males in the Psy/Changeling series so again, I was able to let that pass and not take it too seriously.  I think it was more meant to show that Kaleb put Sahara above everything, even the entire PsyNet and that is a powerful fantasy – “nothing is more important than you”, so I didn’t put more stock in it than that, but YMMV.

I would have liked to have seen Kaleb and Sahara together and interacting with other people more.  They basically did none of that in the book and we didn’t see Anthony or Leon Kiriakus’s reaction to the pairing.  I’m also curious about Kaleb’s “participation” in Santano’s serial killings and whether this may have repercussions for his relationships with the Changelings at some future point.

There really wasn’t anything keeping Kaleb and Sahara apart once he’d finally found her, just a slow revelation of the memories locked inside Sahara’s “vault” and, eventually, the story of what happened the day Sahara was abducted.  I actually liked where this went and I enjoyed the romance between the two, especially Kaleb’s “internet research” regarding physical intimacy.  *waggles eyebrows* 🙂

For me, the Ghost reveal was anticlimactic, as was the battle with PurePsy – the finale seemed smaller and less serious than the events in Hong Kong.

I’m very interested to see what happens to the Psy society in future books and I’m hoping to see Vasic and Aden meet their mates soon (but how I wish it was Aden and Vasic together!)  I’m thinking one of them will end up with Alice Eldridge.

There wasn’t a lot of Changeling activity in this book which I actually kind of liked.  In fact, to me, the Changeling parts of the book felt a little forced – I didn’t quite understand why Sahara went to their Territory when she didn’t seem to spend very much time in it – Kaleb teleported her to him fairly regularly.

What else? I have always had a soft spot for Kaleb so it was good to find out his backstory which made him even more heroic (and tortured!) in my eyes and I’m glad he’s found a woman who will always see goodness in him.I liked but did not love Angela Dawe’s narration. Partly it was the writing tics for which she is in no way responsible and partly it was the cadence which I found a bit hypnotic.  There were times I had to go back and re-listen because I found I was zoning out.This book isn’t my favourite in the series, but I did enjoy it and I continue to be fascinated by the world Ms. Singh has built.

Grade: B-/B



4 comments on “Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh, narrated by Angela Dawe

  1. azteclady

    I'm hoping to post my own review of this soon–but I promised myself that I would bridge the gap in my reviews (last I wrote was for Bonds of Justice) before I write this one. (I don't know that it'll work, but I'm trying to make myself write reviews again, I miss it).Anyway.In my re-read of the series, I've been literally taking notes on all sorts of things and characters, and found something particularly interesting about the Ghost in Branded by Fire (pg 261 paperback edition; chapter 42. If you'll remember, the Council opens the Center for voluntary re-conditioning (at Nikita's suggestion*) and the Ghost mulls whether or not he has any right to interfere.There is a lot of depth, from my point of view, to this plot thread, from the point of view of empathy/conscience.* This book is where I became a fan of / intrigued by Nikita, but I wonder how Nalini will explain her "alliance" with Enrique (from Slave to Sensation)

  2. Kaetrin

    @Aztec Lady Interesting regarding your reference to Branded by Fire. I do think the Ghost has a conscience, it may be slightly (very) atrophied but I don't think it's non-existent.

  3. azteclady

    In case you are interested in more: I just posted a rather long comment over at Dear Author's book club discussion, on how (and why) I see Kaleb–and Sahara, and other stuff 😀

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