Heart of Obsidian
Berkley / June 4, 2013 / $25.95 print / $12.99 digital
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.
A recently widowed woman was at a function with a couple, and their conversation turned to a mutual acquaintance. The woman began to say some particularly nasty things about the acquaintance, before she realized that there was a shocked expression on the husband’s face. “I said something bad,” she said. “I’m sorry. My husband was my filter.”
Just like this widow’s husband served as her filter, the heroine of Heart of Obsidian serves as the hero’s conscience. Clearly, being someone’s conscience in a contemporary society might bring questions of many sorts. Relationships in contemporary society aren’t meant to serve as the boundary line between good and evil. But nobody ever said that Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series took place in contemporary society. It takes place in a futuristic alternate universe where life and standards are slightly different from our own.
The hero of this story says that he has neither conscience nor empathy, but he uses the heroine as a yardstick for every single action he takes. One of the first indications of this is very early on in the book. He tells her:
“I’d line the streets with bodies before I’d ever hurt you.”
It’s a very strong statement, and rightfully it scares the heroine to some degree.
“The violence of his promise tore apart the misty cloud around her mind…”
Further into the story, this sentiment comes up again. The hero faithfully bought the heroine a birthday charm for her bracelet, despite the fact that she was in captivity, possibly dead. She remembers the history of the bracelet and asks for the charms he’d bought her. He gives them to her, one by one.
A single, perfect star.
Frowning, she looked up at him. “I don’t understand.”
He hooked the charm into place. “Only this star matters. “ His thumb brushing over her inner wrist. “Should it be erased, no other has the right to live.”
Once again, the sentiment scares her.
A wave of black rushed through her in a nightmare of understanding.
We see it confirmed in his head shortly thereafter:
“If he lost her now, after she’d returned to him at last, eyes of midnight blue holding a fragile trust he’d never again expected to see, there would no longer be any question about his sanity or lack of it. The world had no knowledge of the delicate hands that held it’s fate.”
In bits and spurts, our heroine begins to realize exactly what’s going on. Words like “You belong to me” come hand in hand with a realization that a deadly possessiveness drives the hero’s reactions where sheis concerned, the idea that keeping her safe (in his mind) equals meting out vengeance on her behalf. In truth, making those responsible for her torture pay with their lives.
She begins to act shortly after he returns from a visit with the woman most responsible for her kidnapping. When she feels he has gone too far, she tells him. Not for this woman but because this action “would cause [the hero] a piece of his soul, and he couldn’t afford to give away any more.”
He acknowledges this, welcomes it, noting that “whatever [her captor] had ordered done to her during the years she’d spent in captivity, it hadn’t destroyed her conscience.”
And that “his ability to feel empathy, feel empathy, had been eradicated before it could ever take root, with a single, limited exception.”
She confirms her understanding later on:
“Serial killer, mass murderer, there’s not a name for the evil that lives inside of me.”
Jaw set and eyes fierce, she’d shaken her head. “I won’t let the darkness have you.”
And she doesn’t. There is not one point in this book where she takes lightly, the fact that he has put on her shoulders, the fact that he relies on her to be his conscience. To pull him back if she thinks he’s gone too far.
Towards the end of the book, they have a conversation that encapsulates their relationship.
“You were imprisoned and hurt until you had to entomb your mind to survive….I want to mutilate and destroy every person on this planet who supported [her kidnappers] break them until they beg and crawl. Then I want to tell them that it will never end.”
[She] dug her fingers in to his arms. “You do not do this,” she said, and it was an order. “You do not let that monster destroy the life we are going to have together. You are mine, not his. You have always been mine.”
The claiming was so absolute, it dared him to fight. [He] had no intention of doing so. Shuddering, he crushed her to him. “Yes,” he said, battling the rage because if he gave into it, he would lose [her]. “I’m yours. I will always be yours.”
Her lips on her jaw, on his cheek, her love fierce. “remember that. Each action, every action you take has my name on it.”
And the hero knows this with every fiber of his being. The reader knows it’s one of the things he loves about her by the end of the book.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh before its June 4 release:
Stacey Agdern, @nystacey