Thursday, March 22, 2007

Visions Of Heat by Nalini Singh (spoilers)

Difficult to review this one. Pulling my thoughts together, I was reminded of my experience with Frank’s Jacob. If you had asked me my opinion of that book while I was reading it, my response would have been less than flattering. But days after finishing it, my feelings were quite positive. I thought it a worthy read, worth struggling through her clunky prose to reach the overall value of the story and its characters.

The opposite is true of Visions Of Heat. Sorta. Had you asked my opinion while I was reading it, I would have gushed shamelessly. Days later, I see more flaws than accomplishment. But I still like it. So yeah, difficult to review.

Go deeper into the world of the Psy and the changelings, where a gifted woman sees passion in her future-a passion that is absolutely forbidden by her kind...

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous-aching need...exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D'Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar's instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith's sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced-and keep her from Vaughn...

It is the romance in this book that I loved so much and yet found disappointing in hindsight. Singh did not choose a long build up in the romance between Faith and Vaughn. Instead, she employed the instant mate recognition that I usually resist. Vaughn comes face to face with Faith. Distrusts her instinctively. For a few hours. Then appears to claim her (in his mind) just as instinctively. And that’s it.

From Faith’s POV, we see a woman stirred by the sensory reactions Vaughn elicits. It really is the most we can expect from someone of her race, trained to feel no emotion. But I wanted something more in the way of vulnerability. There is some fear that loving him could shatter her on the psychic plane, but Singh diminishes that threat by revealing what Vaughn’s animal sense is telling him. That she can withstand his touch without losing her mind or her life. His pack leader accepts it as truth and so does the reader.

Once we accept that their bond (the mating bond) is inevitable, Singh presents the possibility that Faith will choose to stay in the Psy world, forsaking Vaughn. In words, that threat to their HEA sounds pretty devastating. But it doesn’t stand, IMO. Faith’s life as a Psy sucks. She is isolated. She is used. She is destined to fall into madness. She lives under the constant threat of being terminated so her brain can be dissected. Add to that the visions she is now experiencing. Again, early on, she decides, with Sascha’s advice, to accept the visions, to use the gift to prevent harm. We all know the Psy won’t allow it. She’s been hiding the truth in order to survive and specifically seeks Sascha’s advice because she knows it will only be a matter of time before her life in the Psy world is ended. So how are we supposed to believe she would actually choose to stay in the Psy world? In STS, Singh gave us the very real possibility that Sascha would not survive if she chose to live with Lucas. That one or both of them would die. In VOH, the threat to Vaughn and Faith’s HEA is flimsy. I just didn’t buy it. I did read on however, and eagerly at that, to watch them come together.

Flipping to the side of me that adored this couple without criticism, I have to say that I absolutely loved Vaughn’s primitive claim on Faith. And this is where I think Singh made it work. She gave us a hero more animal than man. It is that animal that provides the truest threat. It was the source of the book’s sexual tension, the source of the greatest character depth and the most honest vulnerability presented in the story. Matching his barely restrained animal to Faith’s fragile mind makes for the most interesting and emotional passages in this book. Had Singh focused the telling of Vaughn and Faith’s bond on this aspect—without digressing—I would have been hard pressed to find complaint.

Unfortunately, Singh did digress, erecting external threats to the HEA that confounded more than solidified. There was the need to avenge the murder of Faith’s sister. This event was important because it ties to Faith’s ominous visions—the very thing that brought her into Vaughn’s world. But tracking and eliminating the killer felt tangent to other events and ended rather abruptly, IMO.

There was also consideration of Faith as a candidate for a seat on the council—a twist that could have served to make her want to stay in the Psy world, rejecting Vaughn. But again, I didn’t see Faith as a woman with any real attachment to the leaders of her race. Nor could I reconcile her growing belief that she could use her gift for good with the knowledge that the council would never permit it. Singh needs us to believe there is a difficult choice for Faith here, but I just didn’t see it as a choice at all. I would rather have remained immersed in the conflict between Vaughn’s dominant animal and Faith’s fragility.

Additional plotlines included the threat from a competing candidate, the magical presence of the NetMind and the ambiguous position--a question of loyalty really—of Faith’s father and clan. All interesting and all relevant to the world building going on in this series. But none pertinent to Vaughn and Faith’s bond.

The end result, for me, was a powerful and unique romance all but buried under the rubble of politics. But again, I come back to the fact that, while I was in this story, I enjoyed myself immensely. Both the romance and the politics. I just enjoyed them separately. Looking back, I would have preferred a more cohesive, single read.

Overall, I remain fascinated by the world, races and characters that Singh has created. I look forward to the direction she appears to be taking them—with a Psy rebellion on the horizon. I think there is a wealth of possibilities left—across the three races that occupy this world—for subsequent installments of the series. I find Singh’s writing strong, engaging. And am near to bursting with want for the next book.

I simply found Visions Of Heat of less value than Slave To Sensation. I liked it nonetheless—despite its fragmentation of my enjoyment—and will continue to follow Singh’s rise.


  1. Very interesting review. You sound a lot like me, actually.

    I bought this book last night to take on vacation with me. I'm anxious to read it, but I have a feeling I won't enjoy it as much as I'd originally thought I would.

    Great review.

  2. Hey Jennifer :D

    great review :D I agree with you... I thought all the rest was more interesting than the love relationship... just something about Faith and Vaughn that didn't click with me :) also agree that Visions of Heat wasn't as good as StS :D I really can't wait to see what's going to happen next though!

  3. I'm so sorry Holly! I hope you enjoyed this book on your vacation anyhow. I'd be curious to know what you thought of it.

    Nath - I actually did the opposite. Preferred the romance over the rest. I like the world building stuff, but I thought Faith and Vaughn faced a unique challenge in his "animal so close to the surface" angle. I liked it best, just wanted to see more of it and more of an overall balance. Race ya to the next one! *g*

  4. It's funny isn't it, one of the things I liked most about the book was that it showed there were consequences to what happened at the end of Slave to Sensation.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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