Shard of Hope
by Nalini Singh
Note: This is not a standalone book and there are likely to be spoilers for previous books in the series.
This book starts on an unexpected note with Aden and Zaira captured and cut off from everything they know. It opens their eyes (and the readers) to the machinations of a new threat. It also has the effect of putting them into a pressure cooker that lets us know them. Aden and Zaira’s bond though has been set since childhood, so they don’t need that opening to know one another, but Zaira did need this space out of normal time to break down some of her barriers. I think in many ways, Zaira is more of a kindred spirit to Kaleb than anyone. I expected to love Aden, everything I’d seen up till now pointed to a character I could adore, but Zaira just stole my heart with her wildness, fire, and feral avaricious heart.
There is also a new adversary, one that is subtle, devious, and complex. An adversary that seems to be have quietly and organically been growing out of sight until the time was ripe to strike. This adversary is no McGuffin, it makes sense in this world Singh has created. Whereas the humans, Psy, and changelings have all been seen building nascent bonds to deal with the fallout from the disintegration of Silence, less noble factions have just as naturally been created. One of the main themes in this series has been about balance and duality, so this development makes complete sense. A fanatical and one track enemy like Pure Psy was never going to be enough, the world was never going to stop there.
This is a very Arrow-centric book, so much time was spent on the changes Aden is making within the Arrow compound. But, this isn’t remotely happening in a vacuum, because that would have been precisely against the point. They are trying to live, not merely survive, but to thrive. So there is a ton of psychology and interaction happening. It is intricate, and messy, and emotional.
You pair all the Arrow stuff with all the maneuverings by the enemy, and there is a ton of stuff going on. And it makes a fascinating backdrop and foil for Aden and Zaira’s relationship. A relationship that broke my heart and gave me goosebumps and tears in turn. It was lovely and just perfect. I adore how Singh doesn’t neuter these men and women, or change them to fit into the romance hero or heroine molds. The characters always stay true to their established parameters, and the growth and change always feels like a logical extension of the situations they experience. And those experiences fit just as well into the world they live in. It is well-nigh seamless.
Shards of Hope has everything in it, satisfying romance, action, a mystery, psychology, and politics. It is fascinating, and there are few readers I wouldn’t recommend the series to. And this was a lovely culmination of the first arc and a stunning step into the next one. 5 stars, and I can’t wait for the next book. I’m really kind of hoping for two former Councilors to take the fall.