(2022) Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, 378pp, ISBN 978-1-399-60450-5
Storm Echo by Nalini Singh is the sixth book in the 'Psi-Changeling Trinity' series, but can be read as a standalone novel. These books are in a science fiction setting, essentially real world by with psychics and changelings with various powers, but with romantic themes. The novel is very character driven, there is action, but a lot of it is exploring the emotional state of the characters and acting upon those feelings. For those who have read the other books and short stories there is some new information about the wider world that they live in revealed through the plot, which I won’t discuss in detail as I don’t want to spoil any surprises!
Ivan Mercant is a member of a powerful psychic family. Soleil Bijoux Garcia is a healer and a changeling. They come from very different worlds and yet have a connection they cannot deny.
This novel explores themes of social positioning and economic class. Ivan comes from a very wealthy family and takes the access that this gives him for granted. We see a start contrast, both with Soleil and his own cousin, Arwen. Soleil has no family and few resources, she feels, and is, very vulnerable and this affects all her dealings with others. Arwen uses his position and money to aid others, supporting addicts though a charitable home. This is an approach that has not even occurred to Ivan previously. His softening feelings, for someone so different from him, helps him to see the humanity in others with differences. Singh seems to be postulating that a changing heart is open to other types of love.
Families feature heavily as theme, challenging the ideas that families must be blood rather than found or chosen family. Soleil is sheltered by unrelated changelings and has to decide what level of relationship she is willing to accept. Could they be family despite not sharing blood or lineage? Ivan finds irregularities in his own family tree that shakes his understanding of those relationships. Singh uses these examples to suggest that love and connection is more important than blood.
As we see Soleil through Ivan eyes and he learns the subtleties of changeling culture, we, the audience, are also introduced to this area of world building. This makes the book very easy to read for those who are not familiar with the series. It demonstrates Singh’s world building skills without “plot dumping” or long exposition.
The latter section of the book expands from a relatively narrow focus, on the characters and their relationship, to a wider threat on the Psi-community as a whole, needless to say the strength of Ivan and Soleil’s relationship will impact on their ability to save the day.
The pace of the tale is not quick, as mentioned there is exploration of character and emotions, but does not drag and flows well. I found it easy to read.
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