A review by amym84
Last Guard, by Nalini Singh

dark emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


The fall of Silence meant certain freedom for Psy. A freedom many never knew or expected they'd achieve. But just because Silence fell doesn't negate the need for the PsyNet. Unfortunately even before the fall of Silence the PsyNet was dying. Now, it's almost on it's final leg, being held up by scraps by Anchors (Designation A). The As have been a silent support for the PsyNet since the beginning but their penchant for staying in the background is no longer working. 

Enter Payal Rao a prominent member and CEO of the Rao family. Many know her to be cold as ice and formed from stone which will work well when the As demand entry into the Ruling Coalition. Truth is, Payal has had to form walls around herself otherwise she risks being more damaged by her father and psychopathic older brother than she already was in early childhood. But when Canto Mercant contacts her about being the face and and name of designation A, Payal is intrigued by the fellow A. 

Canto Mercant is part of one of the most revered Psy families in existence. They are extremely loyal to each other and crossing a Mercant is pretty much equal to being shunned in the Psy community. They have long memories and never forget those who've done them wrong. Canto works mainly in gathering the intelligence that the family is known for. But he's also a hub-A which means he is responsible for holding up a large portion of the PsyNet. He recognizes the problems are coming to a head sooner rather than later. He knows Payal will be the perfect representation for the As, but if he's being honest there's something that draws him to Payal. 

When they meet face to face they both realize they share a connection formed in blood. 

I have to say Last Guard is one of my favorites of this new(er) Psy-Changeling storylines. I like that this one focuses on the Psy as it's been awhile since we've had a Psy-centered book. The past couple of books, I haven't really felt a connection to the characters. But this time around I think with Canto being a Mercant he was a little more of a known subject, if that makes sense. Anyone who hass been reading this series for a while now will know the Mercants have been weaved in and out of storylines for quite sometime and I think there's just a familiarity with their family but also still a certain mysteriousness that makes me want to know more about this family that, even during the coldness of Silence, kept this bond and loyalty within their unit. 

I also was very interested in the Anchors. I honestly can't recall if we've ever had mention of the A designation before which kind of plays well into the idea of this group being kept in the shadows of the PsyNet. I loved how Nalini Sing keeps on weaving these layers together within this world. It's quite a feat for such a long running series to continue to find new niches of information. 

I also loved Payal and Canto's connection, despite the fact that it's formed out of some very dark and traumatizing times in their lives. But I loved the idea of them being each other's person and learning, especially in Payal's case, to trust. Even though we haven't really met Payal before this, you can feel the isolation she's created for herself out of a sense of self-preservation and it's extremely satisfying to see her open herself up to someone. I kind of wish we had more time with Payal after certain revelations so we can experience her growth a bit more. I liked how Nalini Singh has made Payal into an almost mirror image of Kalen Krychek. Kaleb and Payal have one of my favorite moments in the entire story and the moment I read it I knew it was going to stick with me. 

The PsyChangeling series (as well as Nalini Singh's other series) has always been a well of diversity. Last Guard continues this, however, I feel like it's the first time we've seen a neurodivergent character (Payal) and a character with a physical disability (Canto) where we it's pretty much spelled out in no uncertain terms. Not that it was previously skated around, but I think it's the idea that the Psy are supposed to be perfect. They are not supposed to have flaws (hence the adoption of Silence), and any flaws would be hidden otherwise the Psy, for lack of a better word, like to silence the flaws in their genes. I think with the fall of Silence we'll start to see characters who are more open to showing these other types of diversity and I think it's great that we'll get to incorporate that more into the series. 

What kind of didn't work for me was the fact that there was a lot to unpack here. With the As, the ongoing problems with the still-unknown Architect, Canto and Payal's relationship, and with Payal's history/family there were often times I felt the build up did not really meet the payoff. I liked the majority of the aspects of the story both individually and together, but wish Nalini Singh had maybe pared down some of the conflicts in order to give the rest a good time to flourish and have a satisfying resolution. 

Overall, one of my favorite within the new cycle of the PsyChangeling world. Each entry raises the stakes for the next and this time around I feel like we're possibly heading into a big confrontation with the main villain of this spinoff. 

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