Friday, April 1, 2022

Nalini Singh - Last Guard

Termed merciless by some, and a robotic sociopath by others, Payal Rao is the perfect Psy: cardinal telekinetic, CEO of a major conglomerate, beautiful—and emotionless.
For Canto Mercant, family and loyalty are everything. A cardinal telepath deemed "imperfect" by his race due to a spinal injury, Canto cares for the opinions of very few—and ruthlessly protects those he claims as his own. Head of intel of the influential Mercant family, he prefers to remain a shadow in the Net, unknown and unseen. But Canto is also an Anchor, part of a secretive designation whose task it is to stabilize the PsyNet. Now that critical psychic network is dying, threatening to collapse and kill the entire Psy race with it.
To save those he loves, Canto needs the help of a woman bound to him by a dark past neither has been able to forget. A woman who is the most powerful Anchor of them all: Payal Rao. Neither is ready for the violent inferno about to ignite in the PsyNet . . . or the passionate madness that threatens to destroy them both.

Comment: This is last year's release in the Psy/Changeling series by Nalini Singh. I have waited for the paperback edition and now finally picked it up.

In this story, the fracture of the Psy net keeps happening, despite the fall of Silence and the joint efforts of so many, who are attempting to make things stable enough for a longer term solution to be found. It's time for another designation to come forward and claim attention, though, especially since they are the support of the whole net. It's time for the As to shine, the role of the Anchors is more necessary than ever and Canto Mercant is the perfect Psy to make it happen, not only because of his family's influence but because he is a strong willed man who never truly embraced Silence. He decides to invite Payal Rao, the CEO of her family's empire, to be their designation's spokesperson for she is good looking but emotionless enough to face any issue going her way. However, Canto has a secret agenda, for he thinks she is the young girl who helped while they both stayed at a terrible place when they were little children. Will it be that their once small but strong connection can be rekindled now they are grow ups and more mature?

Even the books in this series I don't like as much are still good books. This author is truly talented and her stories in this Psy/Changeling world are so imaginative and well structured, it's always a pleasure to read about beloved characters and those connected to them. The most recent books are a sort of spin off, labeled Trinity but to me this is a continuation of the same world and often we have glimpses and cameos of previous characters, making it seem as if life is carrying on in this world and it always feels so good to be part of it.

The main couple in this book, Canto and Payal, have met as children at a facility where they would be tested but most of what was done to them as plain torture. They became friends while they stayed there but never spoke to each other again. Now adults, both have became important members of their families and Canto has researched for years possible clues to lead him to his childhood friend. He believes she is Payal, a known anchor in her region, and under the guise of asking her help for a future Anchor organization, he wants to see if she can be the right person.

Payal has become a ruthless, emotionless person. Her family doesn't give her room to be herself and a medical issue as well as the protection of her more fragile younger sister makes her have a very calculated life, never letting her guard down. She is wary at first, by Canto's proposition, but something about him seems to remind her of something and it's no wonder they become allies once more.

I found the development of their relationship to be very cute and believable. Their childhood connection was very innocent, without enough base for this to be a friends to lovers, but it was a starting point to make them feel they would want to spend time together now too. They have a lot in common and their shared experiences in the past a good place to start. The fact they want to see the Anchor organization to succeed, the importance of them for the health of the Psy net something that makes them work together and find strategies to alert others for the need of help also a good factor.

The plot development is as well thought as always, one could say a long time is spent discussing things that, somehow at the end seem to be solved/presented in a rather obvious way, but I actually like these things, it makes the overall story feel it's necessary, that the characters aren't talking just because, but that there is a goal in all this. 

The romance was cute and it is always fun to watch characters who have a certain feature - the Psy characters are labeled as cold and without emotion so it's fun to see them fall in love - change or improve because they create connections with others and their interactions make them see a side of things they thought they wouldn't have. There were several scenes between Payal and Canto, including information about their feelings and life experiences to make me think of them as likable and characters I'm invested in seeing happy.

Still, my absolute favorite part of this book was the amount of scenes/situations where they interacted with secondary characters. So much to gain from seeing them talk/be with others and what a lovely feeling to see characters we like or want to see more of being important in the big scheme of things. Canto's family is a lot more special than what it felt like when they were introduced, I loved the bears in this story and the wonderfully heartwarming scenes between Arwen and Pavel!! Yay! It was also cute to see Sophia, a previous heroine that I confess I don't remember much of, letting the reader know about a little surprise....

This is definitely a world I wish I could be part of and this book gave a lot of warm thoughts, even though it didn't quite reach favorite status...
Grade: 8/10

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