Before we dive into this month’s Psy-Changeling recap, a quick note: this month’s book features a character who as a child was abused by her foster father. The abuse is in the past and mostly off-page with a little bit of recalling things that happened in the past. There’s also a secondary character who is abused on the page. We want to make sure if you’re following along with us and haven’t read these books yet, that you be made aware of anything that may trigger you.
Melanie: That awkward moment when you reread a book you just read two years ago and realize the 5 stars you initially gave it needs to be dropped down to a 3. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For this month’s Psy-Changeling deep dive, we went down the rabbit hole with Mine to Possess, the fourth book in this series. The book features Clay, a leopard changeling who happens to be a DarkRiver sentinel and Talin McKade, a blast from his past with whom he shares a very complicated past. Even the title of the book is very aggressive, the words Mine to Possess having the kind of connotation that, upon my reread, frankly made me a little uncomfortable.
Melinda: I went into this one knowing I didn’t love it to begin with but having blocked it out to protect myself mostly lol! The book starts out in Talin’s POV and I find it an interesting choice because she’s human and we’ve only glimpsed them on the periphery in this world. It starts with a bang when we find out that Talin and Clay knew each other as kids…and he thought she was dead. So it’s a huge shock to him (obviously) when he sees her again. But it quickly spirals out of control with how he treats her, and frankly, it never stops.
Melanie: I know you and I spoke a couple of weeks ago about ranking the Psy-Changeling heroes in order of our favorites and at this point, Clay has to be near the bottom, if not at the very bottom spot. The first part of the book, when Clay and Talin reunite, his behavior towards her is aggressive and demeaning. The past they share is one of heartbreak and pain. Talin was sexually/physically/emotionally abused by her foster father as a child and Clay, her friend and protector since childhood, literally ripped him to shreds when he finally found out. Someone new to this series might be wondering, “well, what’s so bad about that – he saved her!” Well, yes. But upon reuniting, Clay sees Talin’s ongoing psychological trauma as a weakness.
“I killed Orrin while you were in the room. We can’t ignore it like it never happened.”
“We don’t have to talk about it.”
“You used to have more spine,”
Seriously, this is just one of many occasions where Clay tells Talin she needs to basically just deal with the trauma and stop sticking her head in the sand.
Melinda: That is one of the main issues I have with Clay and the relationship between these two. It’s antagonistic almost the entire time and even when it improves, it doesn’t improve much. Talin went into hiding and let Clay believe she was dead to allow herself some space for healing, but also in a mistaken way to save Clay from her. I know that we’re intended to sympathize with Clay, because he’s been suffering under the assumption that she’s been dead but he makes it so difficult! Not only does he see her trauma as a weakness, he uses it against her when she’s frightened of him.
“If you don’t want to piss me off,” he snapped, “stop talking about how much I scare you.”
“It won’t change the truth.” Talin knew she’d surprised him.
His muscles bunched. Then he let out a low growl that rolled down her spine like a thousand tiny pinpricks. “Stop flinching or I’ll bite you and really give you something to worry about.”
This is a theme throughout this book – Talin flinching, and Clay advancing and flaunting her fear in her face. Okay, it’s been over a decade since they’ve seen each other and the last time they had Clay had murdered someone in front of her eyes…why wouldn’t she be afraid of him!?
Melanie: I certainly don’t want to minimize the part where Talin led Clay to believe she was dead but I can definitely understand the misguided reasons why she did so. However, Clay’s overly aggressive attitude towards her inability to get past her trauma and her fear just makes me want to scream. But, it actually gets worse because lest we forget, the good ol’ slut shaming Clay throws her way. Talin, due in large part to being sexually assaulted as a child, spends a number of years trying to numb her pain through sex.
“Yes.” Her skin paled. “Lots of men. So many I can’t remember their faces, much less their names. Too many for even my memory to handle.”
Was she trying to hurt him on purpose? That she had the ability to do so enraged the leopard. Keeping that anger at bay only by dint of years of experience, he pushed off the car. “Why? You weren’t like that.”
I spent the whole book looking for even one conversation between the two of them that spoke of the trauma Talin had suffered and how that may have impacted her as an adult. But I really got very little in the way of that. Instead, I got Clay being dismissive of Talin’s pain and judgmental of the way she’d lived her life.
Melinda: Right, I definitely appreciate that Clay suffered in the time apart. And I feel that we were even primed to be in his corner because we know Clay going into this book so we should be on his side but as you can see we definitely are not.
And oof the slut shaming! Regardless of whatever reason Talin had slept with anyone I would be mad at this because they weren’t together so Clay should get zero opinion on it. None. And she could sleep with all the men in California and I would not care, I would only wish she had more enjoyment when she did.
I did love that it’s mentioned that Tally got help. She mentions a few times the therapy she had gone through. How it had helped her deal with her childhood trauma, and how it made her realize what she had been doing with her sexual past. I appreciated that being introduced in this paranormal world.
Melanie: While neither Melinda nor I cared much for Clay, this being a Nalini Singh book means it was also plot heavy and dense with many characters, a lot of whom are brand new to the series. We were introduced to the Forgotten, who are descendants of Psy who dropped out of the Psy-Net at the beginning of Silence. I’ll admit I actually cared less about this storyline than Melinda because I honestly had forgotten who they were or that they even existed. One of the things I love most about this series is that Nalini always has these plot lines that you don’t know where they are going but maybe like 5 books later, you’ll get a pay off to something. The Forgotten haven’t really gotten that much attention throughout the series – I think there’s only a couple of books that really heavily focus on them so it’s easy to see why this particular storyline didn’t really make an impact on me.
However, I did love some of the new characters who were introduced including a Psy scientist who will play a huge role in this series as well as getting to see more of the Psy Counsel and the DarkRiver leopards. We were also treated to a brand new changeling pack, the Rats of Down Below who made their home in the remains of the unused subway tunnels. It was fascinating to see another changeling pack, this time way less powerful, interact with the DarkRiver leopards. And even though these Rats may be small and lacking in strength, they have their eyes and ears to the ground – oftentimes, literally – and proved to be a great source of information for the DarkRiver leopards.
Melinda: I loved the idea of the Forgotten. They’re not only the descendants of the Psy, they’re descendants who then mixed in with humans and changelings. So I was fascinated because I felt like they could be an indicator of things to come for the future of Snow Dancer and Dark River with their children with the Psy. I agree that it felt like this was brought up and then not really dealt with later. There’s so much in the world that I think Nalini tries different things and then continues on with which thread works the best.
And like last time, I love any inclusion of other packs! The Rats fascinate me as sources of information, and while I may not want an actual book for them I love them in the story. And we’re also introduced to the Shine Institute and Devraj Santos, who is the head of it, and was set up to help the Forgotten.
And the Rats reminded me of an April Fools joke Nalini played on her fans back in 2013, the year right after I began reading these. She announced on Facebook that she was going to be writing a trilogy about were-rabbits and at the end of the post said we should know it’s already April Fools. I still think about that from time to time because while were-rabbits cracks me up, it made me wonder about Rabbits in this world…I may be the only one still thinking about this lol.
Melanie: It’s interesting because it’s actually the “B” storyline in this book that furthers the overall plot of this series and not the main plot with Clay and Talin and the Forgotten. I’m always excited when certain recurring characters show up, like the Ghost and Kaleb Krychek and of course, DarkRiver leopards who have already been featured in their own books. I only wish there was some mention of the SnowDancer wolves in this book since they happen to be my favorite changeling pack but I know they’ll return soon enough.
Melinda: We’ve mentioned the point of the mating bond in our other deep dives as well and I just wanted to point out that Clay even leaves Talin in complete cluelessness as to what is going on. Clay is aware the bond is there and that Tally doesn’t know about it – she has no idea until 92%! As she’s human I had an issue with this and wanted him to explain this to her much earlier.
Melanie: So, as it stands, this book wasn’t our favorite and Clay definitely isn’t our top pick for Psy-Changeling hero but there were still aspects of the book that called to us, that made us root for certain characters and hope they show up again. Before we end this month’s deep dive, Melinda and I decided that since we’re almost a third of the way through the original Psy-Changeling series, we’re going to start ranking the heroes in order of our personal favorites. It’ll be fun to see where we agree and where we diverge.
Currently we’re in agreement on the below:
Melinda: For the record, we don’t agree on everything and have, in fact, disagreed completely on books before lol. I swear that will happen one of these times! With the rankings we decided that we didn’t want to put women against each other, even fictionally, so that’s why we’re doing just the men.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this series and your favorite heroes in the Psy-Changeling world. We hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s deep dive and until next time, happy reading!