Slave to Sensation

Author: Nalini Singh

Publisher: Gollancz

First Published: 05 September 2006

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“He wasn’t alpha because he played nice when his people were threatened. And his woman? He’d lay waste to the world for her.”

I will start by saying that I am currently rereading the whole Psy-Changeling series adn am planning on writing review for each of them. Slave to Sensation is the first book and so the first review in this series.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”—the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was.

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy co-existence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several Changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion—and that the animal in him is fascinated by her.

Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities—or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

I thoroughly enjoyed this reread. Sascha and Lucas feature heavily throughout the series. Their romance is a catalyst for the overarching series’ macro plot. I adored going back to the start and seeing how they got together. 

Slave to Sensation is a fantastic start to the series. It introduces us to the world and provides insight into the tension and feud between the Psy and the Changelings. The Psy are powerful beings with a range of mental and telekinetic powers. In the past, these powers have led the Psy to madness and fits of violence. The Psy council decided to outlaw emotions through a protocol called Silence as they believed emotions were the root cause of the madness and violent tendencies. The Psy are now these perfectly cold, logical beings devoid of sentimentality. On the other side, you have the Changeling, the shifters, ruled by their emotions and animal instinct. They tend to stay away from worldwide politics and focus on their packs. From the outside, the Changelings are violent and irrational animals.

By Psy standards, Sascha is flawed. Despite her powerful mother, she has exhibited no expectation powers. On top of this, Sascha is starting to feel her Silence slip. She is struggling to contain her emotional responses. The fear Sascha experiences about her budding emotions left me feeling claustrophobic. She is terrified of what the Psy council will do to her. Any Psy believed to be breaking Silence are sent to rehabilitation and, essentially, have their mind erased. Her struggle to maintain perfect Silence deepens when she meets Lucas, the DarkRiver Alpha. He sparks her interest and does all he can to push her to act emotionally. Naturally, she tries her best to avoid him away. But in the end, Sascha risks everything when she does all she can to save a Changeling from the clutches of a Psy serial killer. That moment where Sascha learns what her Psy powers are and learns that she is not broken or flawed honestly warmed my heart. She finally finds family and sanctuary within the DarkRiver pack, which after years of the Psy treating her like there is something fundamentally wrong with her. This is the best happily ever after I could wish for Sascha.

Lucas and Sascha do not like each other when they first meet. There is a real Romeo and Juliet element to their romance. There is a spark of attraction between them that they fight against as they hold onto ignorant stereotypes. Lucas is particularly not happy that his leopard has chosen Sascha as their mate. Watching Lucas realise that Sascha is nothing like the killer they are hunting and then working to slowly woo her slowly so he does not push her too much was my favourite part. I am a sucker for the fates mates trope. I think it was executed perfectly here. I had forgotten about sexy dreams, not sure how, but I loved them. In these shared dreams, Sascha has the freedom to be herself and not be afraid of her emotions.

We get introduced to a large cast of characters, most of who do get their own books later in the series. Despite the large cast, I never felt overwhelmed or confused. Each character is there for a reason and works to help the DarkRiver leopards and the SnowDancer wolves to hunt down the serial killer who has been kidnapping and murdering changeling women.

I am in awe of how Nalini Singh can balance a complex world and a murder mystery plot with a steamy, fated mates romance. These elements combined are what make the Psy-Changeling series my all-time favourite. I cannot wait to dive into Visions of Heat.

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