Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad - an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. Her driving goal is to protect Aden - protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what. This time even Aden's passionate determination may not be enough - because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent and the insane and the irreparably broken...like Zaira.
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The story by Nalini Singh is as good as I have come to expect from her. Entertaining and fast moving. Normally, I enjoy Angela Dawes' narration. However, in this book, when Ms Dawes was doing narration, the volume on her mike was at peak level. But when she moved into dialog, she not only spoke in a very soft voice, but it sounded as if the volume on her mike was turned down to almost nothing. I had to adjust the volume at every change just to hear what the dialog was, then turn it down so I didn't blast my eardrums at the narration. This should have been fixed in the edit room. Totally unacceptable for an audio book.
Fine narration by Angela Dawe. In some books, her cadence becomes sing-songy, lulling me to sleep. Not here. In fact, the narration was slightly better than the story itself, in my view.
Compared to prequels, this is a considerably longer book, with fewer and shorter sex scenes, and not as much cussing or profanity. Fine by me!
The story takes place in late spring, four months after book #12 Heart of Obsidian and several weeks after #13 Shield of Winter.
The opening chapters were fabulous — when Aden and Zaira escape their captors (see book synopsis), finding refuge and even joy. Vivid scenes, and credible. An imminent threat which links back to several prequels. Perhaps these opening chapters were the best in the book.
Singh included several heartwarming scenes with children. Arrow children and changeling. JoJo, Tavish, etc. I really enjoy the way Singh writes about kids.
With one major caveat, I loved the fiercely protective and possessive Zaira. Her feelings for Aden were bedrock and of long standing. Loved the scene when she took down a killer in public view. Vivid!! Appreciated the fact that sex did not intrude upon the relationship development until late in the book, and then only a few times. Her fear of madness made sense, but her repeated thoughts about her madness and rage got very old. Overkill. Annoying.
Our hero Aden: Loyal to the bone. Loved seeing what this humble Arrow can really do. Great scene! Vividly written. A unique and beautiful ability.
Enjoyed seeing so many characters from prequels: Judd, Walker, Sienna, Lucas, Hawke, Ivy, Vasic, Devraj Santos from the Shine Foundation of the Forgotten, Bo Knight from the Human Alliance, etc.
We get to know some new characters, including Remi who hates to be called Remington, alpha of Rainfire Leopard Pack in the Smokie Mountains of Tennesee--Carolina, and his sentinels Angel, Theo, and Lark. We also learn much more about Miane LaBek, alpha of the Black Sea water-based changeling pack — she's one shrewd shark!
Best of all, we see the good guys foil the bad with the brightest and best weapons in the world •• open communication and trust.
••• Quibbles and Complaints:
Much as I enjoyed the book, it gradually lost points with me. Why? Overkill. Too grim. There was no need to inflict yet another serial killer upon my poor abused senses, as seen in soooo many prequels, beginning with #1 Slave to Sensation. It was a plot digression, adding basically nothing, and infringing on one of the sweetest scenes in the book. Furthermore, wouldn't the empathic Psy Net alleviate some of that pathology? Remove the serial killer scenes and the pace would flow swiftly (this book is the longest of them all, and bogs in places).
Likewise, did Zaira really have to have such an unbelievably horrible childhood?? As a toddler and very young girl, and given her fragile Psy body, how did she even survive such torture, for years? Did Singh have to repeat that grim tale of childhood abuse so many times?? And then repeat Zaira's thoughts about her boundless rage? Repetition annoys me. I'm not forgetful.
It strikes me that Singh seems to rely on childhood abuse / torture across this series, to garner sympathy for her heroes /heroines. Remember poor little Kaleb, in Heart of Obsidian, young Sophie, in Bonds of Justice, and young Tallin, in Mine to Possess? It's not credible or necessary, especially in this book. I would sympathize with Zaira simply for being raised in Silence, as an Arrow, abandoned by unfeeling parents, as was the case with Vasic in Shield of Winter.
Bottom line: The stage is set for future books, with a tentative new Trinity Accord, and with the Consortium's evil mastermind still a mystery. I have my guesses, but nothing solid. The series-wide plot is cohesive and fairly credible.
Oh...And the word "lethal" didn't seem quite so predominant as in prequels. Yay!