This installment of Singh's Psy-Changeling series was different in that neither of the two leads was a psy. I have to admit, I prefer that. The psy storyline always seems the same to me. We have to go through the whole 'awakening' thing and it always seems to present the same way. So this was a refreshing change and I liked the plot and story better.
However, the writing itself was weaker than the others. Singh reused several phrases to the point were I actually laughed a couple of times. "His leopard stilled" or "he stilled" or "he went leopard still" could have been a drinking game. I got this picture of a guy who would freeze in mid-conversation and it was actually pretty comical when of course it wasn't meant to be.
Then there were the inner arguments for Talin. "I love him but he can't love me but it will kill him if something happens to me but is he only with me for loyalty? No, damnit, he cares!" and on and on and on. Really it felt more like padding.
The mystery and the story itself was very good though. And I really liked the romance (even with the repetitive phrases and inner monologues). At first it seemed a bit squicky because he sees a woman with his childhood friend's scent and appearance, but thinks his friend is dead. The last time he saw her she was eight. But his first thoughts about this mystery woman are sexual. Huh? Doesn't add up for me.
Thankfully we move on from there and it doesn't feel squicky anymore because we forget that little tidbit, but it would have been nice if his first reaction had been a bit more chaste.
Clay and Talin were friends in a low income apartment complex. She was an abused foster child and he was a changeling living with his crazy human mother who demanded he suppress his leopard half. He's older than Talin by about five years. They meet when she's three and helps him after he's gotten hurt outside and nobody bothers to notice. She's not afraid of him and he immediately becomes her best friend and protector. Until he goes too far with the latter and they're cruelly separated just when they need each other the most.
There are several things that make this a really nice setup. One, they pretty much bonded as children without the romantic side to it. Two, they were separated by tragedy and violence that served to not only mark their destinies, but to bring them back together. Three, they haven't seen each other since childhood and so are getting to know one another while continuing to have this base of knowledge (regarding their past traumas) but also a store of good memories to draw from. It's a nice mix.
There's murder and mayhem and bad things happen to kids. Nothing with the kids is too graphic, but you are in no doubt about it's existence. Justice is served and the next book is set up nicely.
So far, all the Psy-Changeling books have gotten four stars from me. I have criticism of all of them, but they're all good solid reads.
(edited for clarity)