Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: "Kiss of Snow" by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling, #10)Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off, let me say that I'm completely biased when it comes to Hawke, so don't expect this to be a sensible and impartial "review". ;)


Hawke alone deserves 5 stars, and I'll just be honest and say that I'd love this book even if the plot was utter crap - which it isn't, of course.

I became obsessed feel in love with Hawke the moment I met him in Slave to Sensation, the first book in the series:

Hawke was muscular and he was lethal. A predator to the core. His eyes were the same icy blue whether he was in wolf or human form, his hair a thick silver-gold that had nothing to do with age. It echoed his pelt. Of all the changelings Lucas knew, it was Hawke who resembled his beast the most in humanity.


Lucas, the hero in that book, was yummylicious on his own way, no question about it, but it was Hawke who grabbed my heart then. I'd been anxiously waiting to read his book ever since, but I knew it would take some time before he was ready...

Sascha took a breath and let her eyes flutter shut. (...) The wolf's emotions struck cold terror into her heart. She'd never felt such pure, unadulterated rage. Dark and violent, it was a scar across his soul. Hawke could function, could rule, but this man would never love, not so long as he was blinded by the red veil of blood and death.

Cold, dangerous, ruthless, tortured... Is it any wonder I fell hard and fast for him? *sighs*

Sienna was introduced in that book too and I immediately sensed she would become a major player in the series, even though she only had a few lines. I didn't see any sexual spark between Hawke and her - thank the gods, because she was only seventeen back then - but it was clear that he let her get away with more than he normally would.


The tension between them became more evident in Visions of Heat, the following book in the series, and I began to wonder what Ms. Singh had in store for them. Hawke's description of Sienna was almost like a declaration of love:

"Sienna's so damn much trouble, I'm starting to think the brat's a she-wolf in bloody disguise."

Aww, comparing her to a she-wolf... High compliment coming from a wolf, don't you think? ;)

The tension escalated in Caressed By Ice and I had no more doubts about their pairing.

Sienna could make Hawke lose his cool faster than any other man or woman in the den. (...) Hawke's face darkened. "Keep that damn brat away from me — she's more trouble than a pack of rabid cats."

Yup, it was true love, LOL.

Naturally, Ms. Singh had to throw another major obstacle in their way...

"Can I ask you something?"
Hawke rubbed a hand over Brenna's back. "Go on."
"Why haven’t you taken a mate?"
Hawke didn't respond for a long time. "She was two years old when we met. I was seven. I knew she was my best friend straight away. As I got older, I also knew she would grow up to become my mate."
Brenna didn't want him to continue, a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"She fit me in a way no one else ever will. And she died when she was five and I was ten."
A single tear rolled down her face. She wished anything that she could turn back time and save that life, because mating was a one-shot deal. Hawke had found the woman who was meant for him. That didn't happen twice.

No, no, no! What kind of future Hawke and Sienna could have if she was never to be his mate, the one and only woman in the world meant for him? Oh, the pain!

Ms. Singh, who must be a sadist (I say that with love, LOL), did nothing to soothe my poor nerves in Mine to Possess, as neither Hawke nor Sienna made a single appearance in that book. Big bummer!

Fortunately, Hawke and I didn't have to stay apart for long, as he was back on the scene in Hostage to Pleasure. Sienna was still MIA, but one particular dialogue between Lucas and Sacha made me perk up and smile like a ninny:

"That damn wolf. He sent you a present last week."
Sascha smiled at the thought of Hawke's flirting. The SnowDancer alpha did it only to jerk Lucas' chain. "I never saw any present. What was it?"
"How the hell should I know? I stomped on it and threw it into the deepest crevice I could find." Lucas smirked. "Then I called him to ask how Sienna was doing."
She burst out laughing. "Wicked, wicked man." Everyone knew Sienna Lauren was the short fuse on Hawke's temper. The Psy teenager appeared to have made it her mission in life to get on his last nerve. "What did he say?"
"That she's planning a party for her eighteenth birthday." The laughter in Lucas's tone told her exactly what Hawke had sounded like as he shared that tidbit.

Woohoo! Sienna was turning eighteen and Hawke wouldn't be able to hold her at arm's length anymore. But what about the darn mating bond they could never share? Oh, the agony!

As expected, a eighteen-year-old Sienna proved to be dangerous - but not only to Hawke. A Cardinal Psy with undisclosed powerful abilities, her conditioning and shields were crumbling, putting everything and everyone around her in danger.

"I'm the horror in the closet, Sascha, the nightmare even Psy hide from."
"Your uncle has extremely powerful abilities — he's learned to control them. So will you."
"I’m not like Uncle Judd. I'm worse. You know it and so do I. One slip and boom, I take out the entire den."
Sascha held the girl closer, disbelieving. Cardinal Psy with furious combat abilities were beyond deadly. Sienna could possibly take out the SnowDancer den if she lost her grip on her powers. "You've been trying to manage it?"
"I shut up everything inside. Everything. I thought if I could hold it, just hold it, it would be fine. But it's not."
"Why?" she asked. "Why are you losing control this badly?"
The answer, when it came, broke Sascha's heart.
"Hawke." It was an almost soundless whisper.

So, another obstacle was thrown on Hawke and Sienna's way... As a Psy with a strong and virulent ability, she couldn't exist without Silence. But she couldn't hold on her conditioning and be around Hawke at the same time either. Darn! Wasn't the impossibility of a mating bond between Hawke and Sienna bad enough? *pouts*

To my dismay, Branded by Fire ended with Hawke and Sienna apart. It looked like their story was over, especially after she started hanging around with a gorgeous, loyal, charming DarkRiver cat. Hmmm...

Once again, the sadist in Ms. Singh kept me on the verge of a breakdown when neither Hawke nor Sienna made an appearance in the following book, Blaze of Memory. They weren't even mentioned! That was cruel! I needed to know if they were really over, if Sienna had found a new lover, and if Hawke was free to be mine. Mine!

Bonds of Justice seemed to cement their separation. They were still MIA, but at least they were mentioned:

"Kit would be the better choice for Sienna," Lucas said in a quiet tone that did nothing to hide the depth of his concern for everyone involved. "Hawke isn't going to be easy on any woman he takes as his own. And the fact is, he lost the girl who would've been his mate as a child. I don't know if his wolf will allow him to accept another female on that level."

As much as I wanted Hawke to be mine, I can't say I was happy with that. Despite all the obstacles, I still wanted Hawke and Sienna together, but I began to wonder if Ms. Singh was laying the ground to introduce a plot twist - like, Hawke's mate's unexpected "resurrection"... :-/

Silly, silly me! Play of Passion put things back in place again. Hawke and Sienna were definitely meant to be together, yay! The stubborn man was still trying to fight the unwavering pull, but his wolf was tired of waiting and ready to claim what he saw as his:

(...) he surrendered to the wild hunger within and headed out for a run in wolf form.
He'd barely cleared the doorway when he caught a scent that instantly ruffled his fur the wrong way. She smelled like autumn fire and some rich, exotic spice. Far too potent a scent for someone so young, someone from whom he should keep his distance. Instead, he drew the spice-laced air into his lungs and ran at a ground-devouring lope that brought him to a small rise from where he could watch his prey.
He should step back, should move in the opposite direction.
He should.
He turned and angled down through the trees until he appeared on the path beside her instead. Jerking back in surprise, Sienna stared at him with wide eyes. When he did nothing but wait for her, she continued on the trail, shooting him small looks filled with suspicion until it became clear he was intent only on keeping her company.
Then her stride relaxed, and they walked.
In silence.

Sweet!!! Call me crazy, but I can't resist a stalking hero, LOL. And as soon as I finished reading Play of Passion, I started counting the days until the release of my beloved Hawke's book. Oh, the anticipation! Four and a half years, that's how long I had to wait for it. What if it didn't fulfill my sky-high expectations? I'd die! (I'm such a drama queen, LOL.)

Then, to my surprise and utter joy, I was able to get an early copy of this coveted gem, Kiss of Snow. Finally! I'd finally get the answers to the questions that had been plaguing me... Would Hawke be able to claim Sienna as his mate or would they have to settle for a "regular" relationship? ... What would happen when she was no longer able to keep her destructive Psy abilities under control? ... How would the Psy Council's dissolution affect the world? ... Would there be anything left after the Pure Psy unleashed their massive attack on the changeling packs? ... Did the book answer all those questions? Well, you know I can't won't tell you. ;) But I'll let you know this: the series is definitely not over and I can't wait to see what will happen next.

As with almost all the books in this series, there isn't much I can say here about the continuing story arc that started in Slave to Sensation without giving away spoilers, so I'll keep this short. Unlike some of the previous books, Kiss of Snow showed that the Psy weren't as "weak" as the Changelings (and I) had thought. By "weak", I mean that as much as the Psy had been presented as ruthless and deadly before, I'd never fully felt a real threat to the Changelings. That changed in this book, as it was shown that the Psy could take down the Changelings. Plotwise, Kiss of Snow marks the end of the original story arc of the series. I'm sure all the major players we've met over the years will still be around in the next books, but the series' main focus is likely to change after the latest developments in the Psy-Changeling war.

Considering Hawke and Sienna's history, Kiss of Snow is filled with sexual tension. They had been dancing around each other for a long time, and it was time to set things right. Hawke, the man and the wolf, had reached the breaking point. He still tried to convince himself to let Sienna go, thinking she deserved better than a man who couldn't give her the mating bond, but the thought of seeing her with another man was enough to drive him insane. He couldn't let her go, not after he claimed skin privileges...

"You want to dance?" Husky words that stroked along her skin like the softest fur.
She nodded.
"Then we dance." Reaching out, he switched on the vehicle's sound system and input a selection before stepping out.
Her door opened as a slow, smoky ballad began to play. "Come."
Not sure this wasn't all a dream, she placed her hand in his and, fighting the wild rush of sensation engentlered by his touch and his scent, allowed him to tug her around to the front of the vehicle. "Arms around my neck."
The command released her voice. "I thought you weren't being alpha here."
"I'm not." Oh.
As she raised her arms, she realized her boots gave her enough height to cup his nape with one hand, while she placed the other on the muscled warmth of his shoulder. When he shifted position so that his jaw rubbed against her temple, her heart began to thud fast as a jackhammer.
Teeth nipped at her ear.
She jumped.
"Pay attention." A rumbling growl.
"Sienna." A deep murmur against her skin, his lips brushing her temple. "This can't be. You know that."
"No," she said. "Not tonight." She wanted to dance with him, be a woman in the arms of a man who made every part of her awaken in a hunger she'd never expected to feel and who, for this magical moment, was hers.
His jaw, heavy with stubble, rubbed against her temple again as he shifted his hold to press her closer. Then, as the music played, as the night grew softer and quieter, they danced.


Oh Hawke, you romantic beast! Call me "baby", chase me, bite me, mark me... You've ruined me for other men!

As for Sienna, her maturity came as no surprise to me. She was "only" nineteen, but she was no teenager. Sure, she had a couple of hissy fits that could be labeled teen-ish, but she was mostly old beyond her years, due to the life she'd had before her defection from the PsyNet. So the age issue - Hawke was thirty-four - was never a problem to me. She was strong, level-headed, unafraid to go after what she wanted - and willing to cut loose if that was proven to be out of her reach. She was done hanging around Hawke and waiting for him, so he either claimed her or stopped acting possessive about her. Good for her! If only she had more time before her deadly Psy ability took over...

Sienna unleashed:


Now, I have to say that I could have done with a little less sexual tension. Hawke and Sienna were on the verge of going for the ultimate skin privilege only to be interrupted so many freaking times, I was pulling my hair in frustation when they finally managed to go through with it. Halfway through the book, I began to worry about his health. Thankfully, dying from blue balls is only a myth, or he'd have perished on the spot. ;)

Besides the two main storylines (Hawke and Sienna's relationship and the Psy-Changeling war), there was also a surprising (to me) and sweet secondary romance between Walker, Sienna's uncle, and Lara, the SnowDancer healer, that made reading this book even more enjoyable. I liked both of them and was very happy to see them together.

And for those die-hard fans like me, who have been following this series since the beginning, you'll be glad to know that all the heroes and heroines from the previous books had their share in Kiss of Snow. A few of them were only mentioned, but most shared some scenes with Hawke and/or Sienna. Lucas and Sascha's participation was special and I was thrilled for them. And for those who love Judd, well, get ready for a smoking hot scene with the Man of Ice. Yowza!

Last but not least, let me tell you how much I loved the final scene in the book:

"What's your full name?"
Hawke's wolf flashed in his eyes, the ice blue glittering with the same amusement that had his cheeks creasing. "What brought that on?"
"I refuse to be in the dark. Tell."
Leaning down, he nipped at her jaw, a quick, affectionate bite that had her jerking. "No distracting me, I want to know."
Another small bite before he whispered it in her ear.
She blinked.
He growled, but it was playful. "Don't you like it?"
"It's beautiful, you know it is." Perfect for him.
"What about me?" she asked. "Do I take your last name?"
"Do you want to?" A tilt of his head, the wolf watchful but not demanding.
She considered the question with care, thinking of who she'd been, who she was now.
"Yes," she said at last, "but I'd like to keep mine, too. It's a part of me."
Lips against her own, a wolf's kiss. "That works fine for me... Sienna Lauren Snow."

I think I'll have to change my last name too. Dina Snow. Yeah, I like the sound of that. ;)

Considering how much I had anticipated this book and how high my expectations were, I'm glad to say I was more than satisfied with it. Ha, what an understatement! I loved it! Loved. It! It wasn't perfect and I thought Ms. Singh could have handled a couple of things differently, but that didn't dampen the enjoyment of this read.

Final verdict: It's a keeper!

Note: As I was writing this, I was aware that it was nothing like a review should be. It was just my gushing, incoherent and deranged collection of thoughts on Hawke, my favorite shifter ever. What can I say? I had to pay hommage to him and I hope I did him justice.

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