Devraj Santos is a member of the Forgotten, descendants of the Psy who refused to be conditioned into Silence more than a century ago. He runs the Shine Foundation, an organization that he uses to locate his people, many of whom are now exhibiting strange new powers, and help them. One night, he finds a battered, unconscious woman outside his apartment and takes her to Shine's medical ward, but when she awakens, she has no memory of who she is. Through his connections, Dev is able to discover that her name is Katya Haas, a former lab assistant to Ashaya Aleine, and someone everyone thought was dead when the lab she'd worked at exploded. When her memories finally begin to return in pieces, it quickly becomes apparent that she was psychically reprogrammed and could prove to be a dangerous secret weapon sent either to kill Dev or to do damage to Shine. Dev has sworn to protect his people and has never hesitated to eliminate threats if needed, but as he grows closer to Katya, he finds it all but impossible to even think of killing her, no matter what her mission may be.
Before the lab exploded, Katya Haas was taken prisoner by Psy Councilor Ming LeBon, a powerful telepath, and held for months, during which her mind was tortured and twisted into psychic knots no one can undo. She has no memory of what her mission is, only a vague notion that she's probably a Trojan Horse that's been sent to infiltrate Shine and possibly murder Dev. She's grateful to Dev for helping her and deeply attracted to him, but at the same time, he's basically holding her prisoner, too. Even though she understands why he feels the need to, she still chafes at the restraint. As her memories come back bit by bit, it's all she can do to hold onto her sanity. Then there's a burning need deep inside her to go North in search of some nebulous place, but she has no idea why. After Katya escapes Dev's custody, he tracks her down and finally agrees to help her in her quest. During their journey, they succumb to passion, and what they find at the end reveals shocking new information that they're certain the Psy Council won't want going public. But in the meantime, unable to handle the damage to her psychic plane, Katya's brain begins to shut down, causing permanent physical damage that will take a miracle to survive.
Blaze of Memory is the seventh full-length novel in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. In this one, we have Devraj Santos, director of the Shine Foundation, who we met in Mine to Possess as a friend and colleague of Talin. A battered, unconscious woman is left on his doorstep and when she awakens, she has no memory of who she is. Using his considerable resources, Dev discovers her identity, and she's Katya Haas, Ashaya's (Hostage to Pleasure) former lab assistant who everyone presumed dead after a lab explosion. As Katya's memories slowly return, she recalls that she was held hostage by Councilor Ming LeBon, who basically reprogrammed her mind. She's certain that Ming sent her on some kind of mission, possibly to kill Dev or someone else, but she doesn't know exactly what that mission is or what might trigger her to perform the task. So, while he deals with Shine business and family issues, Dev keeps Katya close, leading to a passionate love affair. Eventually they uncover a big secret that they're sure the Psy Council wouldn't want to go public, but in the meantime, Katya's psychic reprogramming is slowly causing her brain and body to degenerate and there doesn't seem to be anything they can do to prevent her from dying.
Dev is one of the Forgotten, a descendant of the group of Psy who refused to live under Silence - the eradication of all emotions - and therefore left the PsyNet when Silence was instituted over a century earlier. Over the years, many of these Psy intermarried with humans and Changelings, but their children and grandchildren still show some level of Psy ability and some of the newer generations are starting to manifest some intriguing - and occasionally frightening - new abilities. As the director of the Shine Foundation, Dev is tasked with protecting his people and documenting their Psy powers, and in this capacity, he's gained enemies within the Psy Council. That's why when Katya shows up and appears to be some sort of Trojan Horse, he can't allow her out into the wider world. Instead he keeps her close, while constantly on guard for the possibility that she might have been sent to kill him. But when she can't seem to resist the pull to go North and escapes, Dev tracks her down and agrees to help her with her quest. During their journey to uncovering a huge secret, they give in to the passion that's been simmering between them since the day they met, but unfortunately they're unable to find a solution that will save Katya's life.
I admired Dev's commitment to the Forgotten and his refusal to allow anyone under his protection to have to undergo Silence, even though some in his community, including his own cousin, are pushing for it. I also like that he cares for Katya in more ways than one. However, there's still a certain coldness to him that felt more like a Psy who was either still under Silence or who'd just come out of it that seemed a little odd for someone who hasn't ever been Silent. He was traumatized by his father going insane and killing his mother, and he has a military background, so I guess that's what accounted for it. But he's so distant for a large part of the story that I had a hard time connecting with him and falling for him like I wanted to. Also his own Psy power is the ability to manipulate metal and machines, but other than the occasional mental unlocking of a door or psychically "talking" to a car, we don't see much of it in action. He frequently draws from the metal around him, but other than him saying it helped to calm him, I had a hard time understanding what exactly he was doing or getting from it. I think this also somehow played into his coldness, but I never quite figured out in what way.
Katya is a Psy who has two mid-level talents, that of a telepath and an M-Psy, their medical designation. She formerly worked as Ashaya's lab assistant, but when Ming destroyed the secret lab, she was presumed dead. In reality, Ming held her prisoner, psychically torturing and mentally reprogramming her, but to do what, she doesn't really know. When she awakens in the Shine medical facility, she has no memory of who she is, but as her memories slowly begin to return, she knows two things: that she's likely a danger to Dev and that she has a compelling need to go North. Katya chafes at what she views as Dev holding her prisoner, especially after all that she's been through already, but at the same time, she's attracted to him and has a burning desire to be as close to him as possible. When the need to follow her internal compass becomes too great, she escapes, although Dev follows and ends up helping her. But nothing they discover, nor their burgeoning love for one another, is enough to stave off the brain damage that is growing within her every day due to her basically being imprisoned within her own mind. Katya is a generally likable character, but I didn't feel like I got to know her all that well. Maybe it was because she's still trying to figure out who she is herself, because of the amnesia and the rewiring of her brain, but I just had a hard time connecting with her. Also, she's the opposite of Dev in that she's a full-blooded Psy who used to be Silent, but all her shields were destroyed by Ming, so she no longer is. However, in previous books when a Psy came out of Silence, they still usually took a while to warm up, while she almost instantly begins lusting after Dev and has a near insatiable urge to be touched, which is more like a Changeling. Supposedly this has to do with Ming holding her in what appeared to be sensory deprivation, but it was still hard for me to reconcile her behaviors with how past Psy characters acted in similar situations.
Since Blaze of Memory is part of a long-running series, there are some common characters, although since the Shine Foundation is located in New York and most of the Psy and Changelings characters we've met so far are headquartered in San Francisco, there aren't quite as many as usual. Lucas and Sascha (Slave to Sensation) help Dev with a young Forgotten boy who's comes under Shine's protection and who has no idea how to shield his powers from those who aren't like him. Judd (Caressed by Ice) has another meeting with the Ghost and also helps Dev's young cousin whose powers are out of control. Ashaya and Dorian (Hostage to Pleasure) meet with Katya a couple of times, and Ashaya tries her best to help Katya when her health begins to deteriorate. Ashaya's son, Keenan, and Clay and Talin's adopted daughter, Noor, who Katya knows from the lab, show up in a couple of scenes and some exciting and surprising new things happen with them. A handful of other characters from previous books pop up as well, but each of them get barely more than a mention. All of the Psy Councilors are present, including Kaleb (Heart of Obsidian), who continues to intrigue me. Psy Arrow Vasic (Shield of Winter) shows up, too, as we discover that not all the Arrows are quite as loyal to Ming as once thought. We also learn about another Changeling pack that I have a feeling will play a role in future books of the series.
To be honest, I had a hard time rating Blaze of Memory. The first two-thirds or so of the book moved pretty slowly for me, which is kind of uncharacteristic for this series. There are frequent forays into what I'll call the "Dear Matthew" letters written by a Psy mother to her son while the debate about whether the Psy should institute Silence is ongoing and after, as well as EarthTwo command logs, and it takes until nearly the end of the book to understand the significance of both. Until then, neither made a lot of sense, so I couldn't help feeling like they contributed to the sluggish pace. I also didn't really feel like Dev and Katya had much to do. They simply seemed to keep moving around from place to place, while Dev keeps an eye on Katya and tries to help her, fully knowing that she may be a metaphorical ticking time bomb, waiting to explode and wreak destruction. It wasn't until they hit the road and followed Katya's instincts that were driving her North that the pace started to pick up. Additionally, perhaps because I was having trouble connecting with Dev and Katya as individual characters, I also had trouble sensing their emotional connection to one another. They share an insta-lust for each other, but I just didn't feel much on the emotional or romantic front until the last hundred pages or so. Because of these issues, I thought this was going to be the first book of the series that ended up only getting three stars from me. After the finale, I toyed with give it four, but ultimately decided it just didn't quite get there and settled on 3.5. The last third of the book adds some new and interesting information to the series story arc that I'm sure will come into play as it continues. Also in the final pages, as it becomes apparent that Katya is dying and there doesn't appear to be anything they can do about it, Ms. Singh managed to wring enough emotion out of these scenes to make me shed a few tears, which doesn't happen often in my reading. While Blaze of Memory ended up being my least-favorite book of the series so far, the finale helped to make up for its earlier deficiencies, and it adds enough new information to make it a worthwhile - probably even must-read - book for fans of the series.
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