(My apologies for the scheduling snafu–I had not realized that Ms Croteau’s book was coming out on a Monday, so I had to flip the posts.)
Same warning as last time, for anyone considering starting the series with this book: seriously, don’t do it. You can read pretty much any of the first three, perhaps even the first four books out of order and not miss too much (though a few bits from the previous novels are spoiled if you do that).
But this particular novel depends too much on what has happened in the Psy/Changeling world up to this point. I sincerely believe that anyone coming in cold to the world and jumping in here would have some trouble following several of the story threads, and perhaps grow to dislike the entire premise as a result.
Also, there are some passing spoilers for all the previous books in this long, long review.
Without further ado:
Tangle of Need, by Nalini Singh
This is the eleventh full length novel in the series, and one that I struggle with a bit, for reasons explained below.
The main story line in it revolves around two dominant wolf changelings from the SnowDancer pack.
For readers who don’t re-read and may have forgotten, Adria is Indigo’s aunt and was introduced in Play of Passion. While not as dominant or as high in the hierarchy of the pack as her niece, Adria is dominant enough to have become a senior soldier–basically, one short step down from the lieutenants–almost a year before, at just twenty five.
Riaz, who is also introduced during Play of Passion, is one of the Pack’s ten lieutenants. A lone wolf type, he has just recently returned to the den on a permanent basis, after having spent years acting as business person and pack liaison in different countries of Europe.
The (ugh) blurb, from the author’s site:
Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past—one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.
For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.
Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.
In my limited experience, there are two main types of series that rely heavily on a complex, well-constructed world-building.
In the less common type each novel stands mostly independent from the rest. Some key events may dictate reading (if not necessarily publishing) order, but the story in each book or short story is utterly self-contained. A great example of this would be Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas. The world building is exquisite, and complex, and fully a part of each and every story. You cannot tell any of the stories successfully without their settings.
In the most common type there is a complex world-building and an overarching plot arc, and sometimes a number of minor arcs, that run through a number of books. For readers who enjoy anticipation and delayed gratification, these series are utter catnip.
Within the latter type, some installments will stand alone fairly well–meaning that, while there will be progress on ongoing series story arcs, a lot of the action will be self-contained. For romance-centered series, this means that there will be more of the central couple’s romance than anything else. But there will be those installments where almost equal word-count is devoted to the central romance as it is to other ongoing plot threads, which is not to every romance reader’s taste.
Tangle of Need definitely belongs within the last type, and some readers may find the sheer number of story threads going on, let alone the number of characters and points of view, overwhelming.
A fair number of the main and secondary series plot threads are advanced in this book.
The Arrows and their position vis à vis Silence, the Council, and the accelerating changes in the PsyNet. The Ghost, with his precarious hold on sanity and his obsession with finding the one individual that stands between him and the utter destruction of the PsyNet. The Council itself, already divided and rapidly collapsing from the inside out. The Human Alliance, first mentioned during Branded by Fire–humans may be the least overtly powerful of the three ‘races’ but they are by no means the meek sheep both the Psy and the Changelings have often believed them to be. Ming’s fixation on Sienna, and hers and Hawke’s evolving relationship as a mated alpha pair.
All these, and several more, get enough space on the page (all four hundred and twenty two of them) to bring the series–or at least part of this first major story arc–closer to a conclusion.
Like a master puppeteer, Ms Singh manipulates all those threads, and the many characters at play, to explore different facets of the world she has built. Expanding on previous knowledge, pushing the envelope here and there, forcing the characters to adapt to a political landscape that’s changing both quickly and drastically. And through it all, never breaking or fundamentally altering any of the rules originally set down.
One of these original rules involves changeling mating. As I mentioned before, it is a psychic bond that is preordained in the sense that, if you are a changeling, there is one other living being out there who is ‘the other half of your soul.’ The catch is, you may not find your mate in this lifetime–he may have been born in a different continent, or died before you meet, or moved away before the mating bond is revealed.
Another catch is that you may be too late, and your mate may be already bound to another.
It is mentioned as early as Slave to Sensation that the female has to consciously accept the bond to finish the mating dance and set the bond in place–just finding your mate, or even having both parties recognizing each other, isn’t enough.
It is this, the choice aspect of mating, that is explored in the pairing of Adria and Riaz–for the main reason for his return to the den is that he has found his mate, and she’s already married to a man she loves, deeply. And while what contact there is between Riaz and her if fairly superficial, nothing like the bond formed by say, Hawke and Rissa, the part of him that is wolf knows she is his mate in this lifetime.
For her part, Adria is pretty much in regroup and recover mode after ending a difficult (a grudging “it’s…complicated!” comes to mind) long term relationship. As mentioned above, she’s fairly dominant, and her partner wasn’t. Unfortunately, he also wasn’t strong enough not to be the more dominant partner. Over time, the relationship devolved into something incredibly toxic for both, and this has scarred Adria deeply.
And here is where I struggle.
Of all the characters in the series that Ms Singh has written in any depth so far, Adria is the one who has annoyed me the most. There were at least three times in the story where I wanted to reach into the book and shake her senseless–or rather, shake some spine into her. Not exactly a doormat–I don’t think Ms Singh can write a total doormat–but there were some quasi-doormat moments there, and that pissed me off.
I can’t expand on this too much without spoiling the novel completely, but lets say that while I appreciate good groveling as much as the next reader, it doesn’t make up for running hot, then cold, then hot, then cold, then…
I do enjoy Adria’s and Riaz relationship overall, and really like how the conflict is solved (I appreciate the nuances more with each re-read, by the way). However, I enjoy the other plot threads at least as much–probably because I am very much invested in the world as a whole, and in many of the secondary characters. I don’t know that readers looking for a sweeping love story will find that this one fits the bill.
Weighing all these different factors, Tangle of Need get 8.00 out of 10 from me.
Links to previous reviews