Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Signh

Yes, this opening is different. This is going to be a really long review. Really long. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me for all the below. I put the disclaimer that it is all from the rambled messed up mind of this very poorly read, unable to write, little young minds extensive overthinking that the below came to existence. Good luck.

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Ok, we all know this was one of the most highly anticipated book release of goodness knows when for gosh knows how long. Maybe this was why the higher the expectation, the harder it was the read without preconceived notions of how the story should be. Let me just say, I was very conflicted reading this book. Very very conflicted.

I do believe it has been confirmed anything with Ms. Nalini’s name on equated to an automatic “sealed deal” for me to spill money over. Her prose, the strength of the characters and the depth of each novel will always be a “sure thing” for me. The complexity of said book pretty much reaffirmed how Ms. Nalini was a writing goddess, but I must say this: for me to have enjoyed the book thoroughly, I had to read it in a way as a semi-stand alone rather than a continuation of the series. I know, sounds insane, but it worked. This was another wonderful piece of literature by the most awesome Ms. Nalini. Her writings, the characters and storytelling…unbelievably full of depth, culture and contemporary issues all well woven into an intense and compelling story. To this day, I really do carry my beloved book around. Hasn’t fallen apart yet. XP

Please be warned, spoilers abound. I will recap and analyze, rave and complain, and mostly love in all forms of spoiler for this book.

Please DO NOT READ if you have not yet read the book.

Leave, right now. This will be one of my longest posts and will be very extensive.

Are you leaving?

No?

You’re sure you want to read this…

It’s all spoilers.

And my rants.

You’re still here? Lol

Then let me continue…

First off, this was a series a decade in the making. Everything had been slowly building up. The world, the characters, the drama. This book definitely delivered that awesome punch and resulted in much lugging around. Ms. Nalini’s awesome and the fact this book was out in hardcover totally attest to the general brilliant writing and completely believable world create. We all cared about each and every character involved. Intricate plots and interconnection of everything – this story was so much better than some of the best literature out there. The human condition was masterfully expressed and written without the usual judgment, nor were readers spoken down to like an idiot. Instead, the book was engaging, full of encouragement and taught in the best way possible.

Yes, this was a romance novel. Yes, there were sci-fi elements. And yes, more than anything, this was a work of fiction. But as any lover of stories will tell you, stories are the true histories and records of humanity. Ok, so only I said that…leave me alone. *cowers in corner* *peeks out and judged safe to continue*

The world only moves forwards when innovative minds were willing to go the distance. Well, the world moves forward regardless, but minds. Err…I’m starting to move into another territory…let me come back and continue my gushing.

This really was a great book. The war with the PurePsy reached the boiling point. Everyone involved appeared and lent to the best of their abilities to defend their homes. The build-up tension was grant, intersliced with the ongoing tension and romance between Hawke and Sienna. Their romance sure did not let me down. The playfulness and intensity, their tenderness and affection were wonderfully tangible (after Hawke caved in of course). Now, for the breakdown analysis and me dwelling too much on the hiccups.

Why I love Sienna – sometimes when I read about her, I just felt so connected. Granted, she Aces her physics class and the best I got after practically killing myself was a *coughhackcoughchokesclearsthroatwhisperslowB*. She was calm and collected, compassionate but very realistic in her outlook (almost to the point of fatalistic). Her age did throw me off at some point, but I sort of fudged that after a while.
I love books. I love romance novels. The characters, the world. Everything. BUT. I almost never “connect” with a female character. I can count on one hand the number of female characters I was able to connect with. Sienna was one of the few I somewhat connected with and that was saying a lot. I connected, but I fully admit to being not as selfless.

Why I love Hawke – he’s hawt. Nuff said. What? I gotta write more than that? Aww, fine. Shall I write an ode to his royal hindness? Ehehehe. Hawke = perfect hero. Maybe a little too perfect, but still, he was the embodiment of the ideal hero, the perfect mate: Alpha, strong, protective, playful, compassionate, tender…the perfect combination. He was annoyingly awesome. Lol.

Some random cool stuff:
- first lesbian couple, awesome! I did always wonder the lack of diversity in romance novels.
- using the legal aspects to try and keep the pack/bonds strong, every minor in the story, but extremely effective if you think about it. I never would have thought of that, but indeed very smart, Ms. Nalini, very smart.
- everyone pitching in to help Hawke towards the end and give him a little haven. Too cute.
- the “play-time” between Hawke and Sienna. Some of it almost made me cry because it was so cute and sweet… especially the where Hawke tease Sienna about pummeling him with her tiny fists… *happy sigh*
- the bebe was born! Cccuuuuttteeeee. Kit mate? Ok, ok, that’s just me being delusional…leave me be. Lol.

Onto the complaining and some unbelievable stuff.
- I don’t think this was intentional, but I found quite a lot of repetition, but that is the folly of every long term series.
X
Alice Eldridge
PurePsy War

Stuff I’m conflicted about:
- Storylines: basic three with many glimpses of the many couples we’ve come to love. It’s great, but walked the fine line of almost over-crowded storylines and jam packed full of actions.
Hawk and Sienna…mating
Walker and Lara
PurePsy War

Something simple and completely cool: Nikita.

I always suspected Nikita was NOT the evil villain often painted of her, especially for cutting Sascha out. Throughout the series, Nikita often reminded me of a very strict parent with extremely high expectations. Harsh on her own child, wanting said child to excel because she saw the possibilities, and doing what Nikita felt was the best way to protect Sascha. Nikita was more of a misunderstood anti-hero because she was not the motherly all understanding mother we wanted for the heroine we all loved. Instead, she was the type of mother that did what she felt was best for her child, even if it pushed Sascha to the breaking point. Not necessarily a good thing, but Nikita knew what it took to survive. She was a Counselor for goodness sakes, but it was Nikita that raised Sascha and in turn taught Sascha the skills to survive. I’m glad that she stayed true and that Sascha was slowly able to understand her mother rather than the other way around. I have another whole post about mothers in books, but that’s for another day.

Alright, let’s tackle a big one…the issue I’m sure that everyone has already beaten to death…mates - Sienna v Hawke v Rissa.

First off – Mates. I’m guessing this mate stuff was two-fold.
One – Once in a lifetime, one would meet their perfect mate (I hesitate to use the word we’re all thinking because I felt there was more biological explanation than the soul stuff – i.e. pheromones = compatible) where you just know said person was the one.
Two – Then you create the “mating bond” when both mates accepted one another, like a marriage/wedding, but on a deeper level.

(a) There were those that were able have a “mating bond” with another individual even though they were not complete “mates,” but were compatible enough. It works, but not as good (ex. Nate’s parents).
(b) There was also an instance when two were “mates,” but because of not accepting each other never completely the “mating bond” (ex. Indigo’s aunt? the reasons why many of the characters often say “I don’t know if my wolf/cat will accept you”?).
(c) We also had the instance where “mates” found each other too late and were unable to be together at all, much less the “mate-bond” (ex. Riaz?).
(Updated: I read on Orianna’s blog of a speech/Q&A by Ms. Nalini that pretty much blew my theory of (b) and (c) out of the running, but for the sake of my current theories…let me continue).

So…to make the SvHvR work, it would’ve meant, Hawke and Rissa were supposed to be “mates,” but due to age and unexpected death, never completed the “mate-bond.” Sienna and Hawke, then, were compatible in all aspects that they had the “mate-bond” even without being complete “mates,” but were so compatible they might as well be “mates.” Am I still making sense?

Chocolate kudos to Ms. Nalini for being able to logically work through something this complex even though there were much easier ways to cop-out. I had no problems with the development and the logistics of this idea in general. In fact, I found it rather cool and very different from the usual “oh, I know you are the one, we were meant to be, blah blah blah.” I commend Ms. Nalini for being just so darn awesome at her writing skills and extremely high intelligence to make this entire mind blowing idea reasonable and to flow so very well.

Here was my problem… Rissa as a foil. It’s not Ms. Nalini really, but more like a catalyst many many (if not all) writers used. This was something I’ve noticed since I was a very young girl feeling wronged by society/people based on my gender and my life/interests/achievements being designated as secondary or less. To cut a very very long theory/analysis of mine short and to fit only in this novel’s parameters, I felt little Rissa was used. We take a young vulnerable and otherwise good-girl and off her character as the catalyst or emotional strength for a specific character…usually male hero. This was much more prevalent back in the days comic books and super hero cartoons, etc., but we see stuff like this in romance novels all the time. Widow, widower, ex-lover – whether good or bad.

Honestly, in this case, I totally understood why this had to happen. It were no other way under any foreseeable circumstances by my puny brain. We can blame Hawke. He was just too strong of a character (in all the right ways…hard and hot…mmm…ahem) to be stopped. Rissa was used not only to scar and strength Hawke to immeasurable heights; she was also the only possible foil that stopped Hawke from doing something insane, like end the story in the first chapter and pounced on Sienna the moment she turned 18. We all saw how Hawke was the moment he finally decided on Sienna in book. No changes. No compromises. Nothing. Heck, he was willing to give up the Pack to be with her. At the same time, as awesome as he was, Hawke would’ve held back until Sienna was ready. It still would’ve been a hard struggle since even though Sienna was able to hold her own against Hawke, I highly doubt she could win…at least not until Hawke became gorgeously old. Hawke was too strong and powerful. He would have overwhelmed Sienna before she was truly ready and it would not have ended well for all of them. Heck, it was Hawke that snapped the mate-bond with Sienna. He jumped with her – you romantic fool you. *dreamy sigh* As things were, there was no freaking way the story could have progressed at all without such a strong foil – the loss of a mate.

That’s where things also became annoying. I have trouble believing Hawke truly found his mate at such a young age. To be alpha so young – well I can understand it was necessary, but from a psychological point of view…Hawke would have grown up a somewhat…er…more scarred person? I don’t know if that made much sense. My point was: he’s not supposed to be superhuman, but he was. Darn imaginary guy had no flaw. He’s too perfect. You’ve ruined me for other men, Hawke! *shakes fists at book* Not only being alpha, we saw how most mates do not survive each other all that long (i.e. Falcons, Hawke’s parents, Lucas’ parents), but Hawke was beyond a normal alpha. Given the loophole they were too young to have the mating bond, Hawke was able to survive the unsurvivable. On top of that, this mating thing gave a new twist. Was this the traditional type based on soul? The more basic one, on scent? A combination of the two? How does one recognize? Etc… more questions than answers.

And Rissa. Poor dear Rissa, she died at age five for the sole purpose of shaping Hawke. Here’s a thought, though: Do we really not change this much? That from the moment we were children, our characters, patterns, and personalities were determined and the mating bond bordered on meant-to-be/perfect-match/only-one all predestined. If we remove the mate stuff aside, I just did not feel that at age five, it was already determined Rissa was going to be such an idealized version of a woman Hawke imagined. I felt bad for her and in a way, it was kind of creepy. Hawke continued to visit her grave to calm down… He’s a thirty-some year old clinging to the memories and imagine of a five year old. Eh… It just felt wrong sometimes. Maybe when they were teens… but for such a scarred man, Hawke was too whole and perfect. I’m not saying we can’t have young love or a strong personality that stayed with us for our entire lives, but anyone other than Ms. Nalini to write this story, said book would have been thrown into the wall long ago due to plot holes.

As it was, Ms. Nalini did cover the issues well enough. It was through Rissa’s life and death that shaped Hawke to be even stronger and for him to be able to lead the pack so early on. Then again, if his personality/strength/love was all determined the moment he realized Rissa was his mate as such a young age (as we would really have to believe how powerful he was to be able to do such an incredible thing), then Rissa was only used to show that fact.

So, the conclusion was…if it was not Ms. Nalini writing this book, I would not have believed it, much less gained any enjoyment. I read the book more as a stand-alone. Removed most of the Rissa as “mate” and replaced with “deep childhood first love.” Horrible of me, I know. I can’t help it. Part of me also felt that because it was Ms. Nalini, I had even higher (non-reachable) expectation. I felt Ms. Nalini could’ve written the book just as awesome without some of these extra stuff.

Also, I had to fudge Sienna’s age. I’m sorry, but ever since Ms. Meljean’s awesome book that pointed out the nagging feeling I’ve had about the probability of an immortal and a youngen (usually female) in a realistic equal relationship was…not that plausible...it has been hard on all books thereafter. I get that Sienna had to grow up sooner since the age of five, but coupled with Hawke circumstances of having to grow up when a) Rissa’s death and b) alpha at fifteen, the disparity should have be even more so. Yes, intelligence and experience equates maturity more than age, but the experiences within a certain amount of years at a specific time or under certain environmental conditions were factors that were hard to discount so easily. Maybe it was because of personal experience/bias, but even if you’re on the same mental footing, the experience of time and generation never really goes away

So, I fudged their ages to make the relationship more plausible for my brain. I’m so very sorry, Ms. Nalini, I’m not reading the book as intended. Please don’t hate me. I did love this book for all the intensities, intricacies and relationships, but that was also the problem for me. There were just too many people, too many storylines and just too much all at once my small brain couldn’t handle it anymore. Even with your brilliant writing, I felt certain parts to be abrupt or I simply had to pause in confusion. Sometimes, it felt out of place, but your writing was wonderful.

Still, when Sienna and Hawke finally mated…it was awesome. I loved how everyone reacted and I’m sure I was not supposed to laugh, but I did. Hawke’s absoluteness, but also unsure what happened. Sienna’s shock and fear. Jeb and Hawke’s interaction right after things calmed down, “It was you!” Hehehe. It was funny to me, in the best way possible. Heck, I’m smiling right not just writing about it. Whatever the reason, the fact Sienna and Hawke mated was a beautiful thing to witness. Now, I just need to wait for Kit to get his mate. ;D Sorry, part of me still wished Sienna and Kit would’ve mated, but I know… Hawke came first. Ehehehe.

Let’s talk Walker and Lara.
I do believe it has become a universal truth that Walker and Lara were just too cute together. Their storyline was a huge highlight and balance to the rest of the plot. Their relationship was deep, intense and very loving in the most unexpectedly glorious way. There was such unbelievable tenderness I could’ve cried. I really loved their combination. Really really loved them. They somehow just fit so well together in was incredible. Perfect. Reading their story so made me want to go back to the series and see more of them, which I did. Lol. They were great. How could I have missed them entirely? What kind of annoyed me though was also because their story was spliced in with KoS. The jumping back and forth between all the storylines was quite irritating. Sometimes, I just wanted to see more of Sienna/Hawke, or just Lara/Walker. But the simultaneous storyline was frustrating and I had to switch gears almost between chapters and paragraphs. Instead of going insane, I split them up and read them separately as separate stories. Example: at the end, L/W were having hot smexy scenes, but S/H scenes were fade to black. What the heck? Gimme both! Lol. I know, so spoiled am I to Ms. Nalini’s awesome writing.

And to skirt the political issues of abortion, I was not surprised that it was used as a male catalyst, but was definitely an improvement from the usual “blame-game.” The path it took was also pretty interesting that no blatant preaching was in the place, but it did take the path of all romance novels. So, definitely interesting to read. Not ready to tackle politics in romance novel yet, so let me move on.

Ok, onto some actual straight up confusions and problems I had reading the book. *gasps* I know, as if the above wasn’t complaining already. I’m sure you’re all breathlessly awaiting the below. Lol. Ok, so here we go.

PurePsy

The PurePsy War, for lack of a better reference, was intense and a very good development. It was a very realistic storyline that continued a grew from the previous books. Even as complicated as the Psy/Changeling books were, I felt that had I just picked up this book, I would have still been able to follow this storyline. The PurePsy was a somewhat subtle criticism on our world and the problems of fanatic racism. Oh, the joys of alternate world for analysis of contemporary politics/events. The plot worked well for me up to a point and I enjoyed the progression. It also gave more diverse points of view on the situation and not label them all as evil.

What did NOT work for me was the complete lack of heavy casualty on the people we love. Not that I want anything to happen to my adored characters, but for such a large scale battle where all F-Psy saw fire and metal and blood…it was rather…clean? Yes, there were severe and life-threatening injuries. The story did show the severity and seriousness of war as well as the resilience of people. Ms. Nalini has always been great at bringing our favorite characters to the brink of total destruction/death and then saving them. I chock that up with love. Lol. The sonic blast disabled the Changelings? What a stroke of Ms. Nalini’s genius. I was shocked, worried, and excited that the PurePsy were able to develop weapons that used the Changelings’ strength against them. Shocked that I didn’t think of something like that first (I know, aren’t I horrible). Worried at how it will be used in the future. And excited at how it will be used in the future. What was upsetting, what the low body count. Again, I don’t want to kill off my favorite characters and any loss would’ve made me heart-wretched sad. Still, the fact so many people did NOT die, left open to more questions. If I were to believe there were next to no casualties on our favorite side, why would the PurePsy want to hold them as prisoner over outright killing them as previously intended. So, with that unexplained and severe casualties, it left me with a slight feeling of disbelief. Not necessarily bad, but disbelief nonetheless or that I’m missing something. Which leads us to the X designation…

X-Psy
Ok, X-fire. The powers of the X designation was finally revealed and explained. Overall, it was very interesting. It read as something unique and awesome, but the word pyrokinetics kept popping itself into my mind. I loved how this ability was so ingrained into how Sienna was as an individual. Her actions and beliefs were influenced and controlled by the knowledge (and lack of knowledge) about her abilities. This was definitely unique in its own right and I did love how the hint of how Walker’s ability was tied to help alter the X-designation throughout the series.

What did not work for me was this now unlimited energy/power resource for the Snowdances. Actually, at the climax of the fight where Sienna walked out and started incinerating everything…well, that was a very awesome move, but when the fire went out of control and started to consume all in its path…don’t hate me, please don’t hate me…but it felt overly dramatic. Only those the fire recognized were safe? What about the woodchucks? The squirrels and birds? What about the bees and insects? The irreplaceable flowers? Yes, the Sequoias have natural fire retardants, but not everything else. Normally, I probably would not have cared, but lately, I’ve really gotten into botany. So while it was awesome cool, it was also too movie style for me. Ms. Nalini wrote it awesome, but I am personally a little tired of the overdramatics that fit almost cinematic expectations. Although, I would love for this series to be made into film/tv series...then I totally would not mind this X-fire thing. :D Hollywood? Ya listening? *ahem* To continue...

The second part of the X-fire which was mentioned earlier…it has now become an unlimited source of healing and strengthening energy for the SnowDancers. I’m sure Ms. Nalini did this for a reason and we will be able to reap the rewards later on in the series, but as of now…I felt bereft. It made me all confused and full of unnameable feelings. I know there’s more depth to all of this. The double-edged sword of power that was simultaneously destructive can equally give life (sort of) and it all fell down to how it was used. The rejection of emotions causes destruction whereas the disruptions caused by emotions were probably the only links that held everything together. The balance of life and death lingered upon the depth of love.

And leading us to…Alice (gosh, I do love my name hahaha) Eldridge.

Alice Eldgridge
Lastly, Alice Eldridge. I did enjoy reading her notes throughout the book. It was great to see how the whole storyline tied back to this single human woman a hundred years ago that learned more than most people now. A little critique about how much knowledge we’ve lost in the race for technology, Ms. Nalini? Lol, kidding. I’m sure that’s just my political mind stealing itself into place. She was such a mystery that it was a great insight to have. What I was rather upset about was…she’s alive. Shaved, naked, unconscious, brainwiped, a century into the future alive... Not cool. Enough said.

Also, I it was through her that we began to see parts of the Ghost that many readers had hoped for – something akin to kindness but not truly that kept him dangerous. I enjoyed seeing more of the Ghost, but with so many discussions on this guy, I’ve kind of given up on trying to figure him out. Part of me wants the Ghost to be a certain person and part of me does not.

Now, the expansion of this world…it has been awesome, but in this book, was a double-edge sword. Luckily, Ms. Nalini was very good at that line of keeping all the various storylines and characters well tied together. Any moment when I felt a twinge overwhelmed, or too distracted, Ms. Nalini was able to pull all the diverse points of views back together.

I totally could have done without Jed and Brenna smex scenes though. As wonderful as it was to see glimpses of everyone’s lives, it did rely on the reader’s love of the previous characters to enjoy the photo-stops. Sascha and Luca’s baby, Naya, was born. It was definitely a highly anticipated progression of the series. It was so sweet how everyone reacted. The intensity of the love of the pack and the solidification of the wolves and leopards all clearly illustrated. Then again, the way this bond between child’s minds was written bordered on certain politics and science that I shall avoid discussing at the moment. I just loved how Sienna was there. How Lucas reacted. Later, Hawke holding Naya. It was the sweetest thing.

So, overall, this was a great book. I know you wouldn’t think so because of all the above. Then again, you’ll notice I spent all my time thinking and analyzing the book on the few key points the aggravated me. Sounds insane, but I actually really loved this book. I read it all in one day. Then I read it a second time...same day. I subsequently read this everyday for two weeks. Yes, I'm insane. Thank you for letting me use this blog (and the above rant) as a form of cleansing of the hiccups I had with the book. I wonder how many people actually read it through. Lol.

Ok, I need some rest now. *collapses*

2 comments:

  1. LOL! This is the longest review & commentary I've ever seen! ... I want to read it, though, because I love Nalini and I love this book. I will come back later... gotta cook dinner now.

    Wasn't this so good?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lol, I know. I went nuts. That's how great this book was, right? It was so good.

    Yummm, dinner. :D

    ReplyDelete