A review by leelah
Ocean Light, by Nalini Singh




Look, guys, I know that that the theme of new arc is Trinity, but clearly, Nalini is having way too much fun writing about new changeling packs and making them cute and fun and adorable for us. The last two books? In my head, they are just parts of this big Unofficial Guide of Changeling life and Why You Love Them. :P

Bare Bones: In direct continuation of events from previous novel, following the assassination attempt that left him fatally wounded, Bowen Knight, de facto leader of Human Alliance ends up within BlackSea stronghold. In the hands of their brilliant scientist, he hopes she will come up with the solution for the failing chip in his head that is slowly leading to death everyone he cares about. Sacrificing his brilliant brain for the experiment proves to be harder when he meets the beautiful sea changeling cook, Kaia, who has her own fears and reasons to distrust humans and especially the one leading Human Alliance. With the time slowly ticking over their heads, Kai and Bo will have to figure out their romance, the possibility of Bo's death, not to mention the betrayal in the midst of their family.

-I'll start with my favorite part of the book: BlackSea.
I have a confession to make.
When Nalini introduced the badass alpha of the BlackSea, Miane, I found myself thinking how her description, mannerism (she is cold, distant and clearly dangerous) and overall secrecy surrounding sea changelings reminded me a bit of Psy who are, if you remember, often described the same way. Hence, I was curious to see if a book focused on the sea changeling pack will add a little flavour to distinguish them a bit. I mean, I know that "cold as a fish" is a cool reference to make, but not very much in line with the rich and vast and diverse world she introduced so far.
After this book, I really believe that Nalini loves exploring and researching animal species and incorporating their quirks and characteristics into changeling concept she envisioned. For example, one of my favorites part of the book is the fact that BlackSea is not monolithic like wolves and leopards seem to be: much like the sea, it's the home of various sea creatures and big part of the fun is trying to guess which animal different characters turn into (except for one who will tell you all about her tentacles. :D). Making them different, not just because they don't turn into same animal species, but in a way they are organized and led in comparison to wolves or leopards, was a great touch. BlackSea is rich, the pot of everything: there are members who like company and those who prefer their loneliness, those who are cute and friendly and those who are predators, those who are always happy and curmudgeon ones... they are all different among them much like tuna fish is different from shark who is different from octopus who is different from whale.

-So, what did you think when you heard this book is about Bo and Kaia? I was kind of ambivalent. If sea changelings were the only option I'd go for Miane and Malachai - chemistry was already witnessed and they are both awesome characters. As for Bo... For me, he was always just kind of there because he is the leader of HA and HA is important part of this world/Trinity, but I think my lack of enthusiasm it's more due to the fact how he was introduced in series- remember [b:Branded by Fire|5628753|Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling, #6)|Nalini Singh|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1334968711s/5628753.jpg|4606059]? Anyway, Bo is having a lot to deal with in this book: his health problems are severe (<--I advise you not to dwell much on medical progress and recovery of humans because, this is fantasy and sea changeling have cool gadgets, ok?) and the fact there is a very high probability of chance he'll die during experiment, which makes him determined to pursue romance with this girl he likes so much. Kaia is a cook, and to be honest, I actually found her to be very typical for Nalini's heroines at the beginning, almost indistinguishably so, but Nalini is a skilled writer and by the end she built and layered upon her character and showed us why all of her friends told Bo she has such a big heart. It's not just with throwing in the book some scenes of random act of kindness-it's in situations where her compassion really shines as she easily offers it when others would be reluctant to do so.
She does have her own doubts about Bo and issues to overcome, but she doesn't have the luxury of time to really dwell upon his real motives and deny their attraction, especially since as she gets to know him better, she sees that he is a good man, reliable and trust-worthy. The reason I emphasize this is because their romance is very simple and really sweet and uncomplicated. I mean, most of the book they are under the water in each other's company, so they don't have many instances of will they/won't they. Also, Kaia is dealing with something that some readers will relate to and it's not a thing that can be instantly fixed idealistically with love, so kudos to Nalini for deciding to tackle this.

-Since romance is easy, and they are mostly in closed space, the real suspense of Ocean Light actually comes from the mystery of kidnapped sea changelings that's stretching for several books: finding out who betrayed them and why and for whom are sea changelings kidnapped in the first place. With a clever red herring thrown in, I admit, I was surprised with the reveal and it definitely made the ending of the book very interesting. Also, for all of you (who am I kidding, all of us) Hawke lovers out there, I am pleased to inform you that the guy is still running bare-chested and bare footed in the snow. God bless him.

-I did have some issues with the book, though and it has everything to do with the fact this mystery is only a partially solved puzzle of Consortium... and this is a puzzle I have problems with since the begging of new arc.
In my review of Silver Silence I wrote:
"In first arc (books #1-#12) main characters had a purpose and story had a direction (fall of Silence). We were aware of who is the enemy (The Council) and we knew that our heroes who were of all three races (psy, changelings and humans) have to work together to accomplish their goal. Mini-arc (books #13-#15), tied some loose ends and gave a world some gravity since that big of a change couldn't be enforced without problems and issues- even opposing parties had a point and right to be scared of new age until they knew more and saw consequences.
But Silver Silence told me we are still hazy on those details when it comes to second arc. Here, the good guys are trying to maintain status quo, while bad guys throw obstacles at them, but without any clear target or reason why. Lack of coherence can also be attributed to the fact we don't have one, definite villain- we have these bad guys with sinister names (the Architect, The Patriot), but they are not rounded and they read the same and can only be distinguished by these different causes which again, are confusing and random or they even contradict at one point."

This issue rises again in this book, because the reason for kidnapping sea changelings and again, reason for targeting Bo at all, simply wasn't convincing enough. At one point, the bad guy even says something in line of: "Oh, shoot, Bowen Knight is actually a cool guy, I am sad I have to eliminate him." If the goal was destabilizing Human Alliance and by extension, The Trinity- we didn't see any signs of destabilization. Contrary even- it seems that every attack, every new obstacle that Consortium throws at our heroes only seem to strengthen their relationships and unite them further. Simply said, bad guys don't pose enough of a threat for Krychek, Arrows and changelings who fought for this new world and are, de facto, leading figures off it. As the antagonist of new arc, Consortium and Architect seem incoherent, goalless and utterly ineffective so far and I hope Nalini will work on this and make them more of a challenge for our heroes.
- There is also something regarding Kaia and her secret, but I'll edit with detailed elaboration on that after the release. I'll just say, I am not sure how is that working with previous books and consistency of world building.

Some further observation:

-I appreciate all women in this series are brilliant, smart and generally leave male characters in awe.
-Ok, if SS was introducing bears and this one is introducing sea changelings, will the next one introduce WindHaven? Nalini, you spoiled me, now I want to read all about falcon wing.
-Thank God, the excerpts from Wilde Woman magazine are back. (◡‿◡✿)

Thank you to publisher and Nalini for kindly providing me an ARC for review.