Review: Branded by Fire

Review: Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh

Though DarkRiver sentinel Mercy is feeling the pressure to mate, she savagely resists when Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant from the SnowDancer pack, tries to possess her. The problem is not simply that he pushes her buttons; the problem is that he’s a wolf, she’s a cat, and they’re both used to being on top.

But when a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped from DarkRiver territory, Mercy and Riley must work together to track the young man—before his shadowy captors decide he’s no longer useful. Along the way, the two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it’ll leave them both branded by fire…

Book Six in the Psy/Changeling Series

I've been awaiting the release of 'Branded by Fire' with intense impatience for many reasons. The first and the obvious being that I just wanted more of this author. But an even more important and more intense desire to read this novel began upon the moment that I learned that it would feature two Changelings as the hero and heroine. While I've loved the Changeling/human and Changeling/Psy love matches, I've been aching to see the mating dance between two Changelings. They're wildly intense and highly sexual creatures and beyond that, I love the dynamics of pack life and this pairing would ensure that the novel would be saturated in it.

Riley and Mercy have made annoying one another an additional job requirement to their many responsibilities as pack liaisons. Since the wolves of SnowDancer and the leopards of DarkRiver made a blood pact and became allies, Riley and Mercy were put in charge of interpack communications and to soothe any pack related fur. The problem is that Riley and Mercy don't necessarily play nice with one another. Both are extremely dominant and hold identical positions within the highest ranks of their packs. While Mercy is flamboyant, opinionated, outspoken and daring, Riley is calm, steadfast, quiet and cunning.

As a dominant female and sentinel of the DarkRiver pack, Mercy grudgingly accepts the fact that she may never mate. While the human in her may love with all her heart, her leopard won't be able to stand being tied so strongly to another. This happens occasionally with very dominant and independent females of the pack. But at this moment, Mercy doesn't care if the man's her mate, she just needs release on such a primal level that all other Changelings are picking up on her heat and when "stick-in-the-mud" Riley Kincaid steps out of the trees, Mercy is more than willing to take him on. She could use a bit of violence to cool her need. But when Riley begins tempting Mercy on a highly sexual level during their sparring, it takes her but a moment to dispel any leopard instincts to turn away the enemy wolf.

“Yield.” His nose was almost touching hers.
“You wish.” She smirked into chocolate-dark eyes. “Come closer.”
“So you can bite me?” A flash of teeth. “First you yield. Then I’ll come closer.”
“Not on your life.” If she yielded, she’d be acknowledging his dominance, at least for tonight.
“Then I guess I’ve have to make you.”
“Try it.” Smiling, she went for his throat and almost had him, when — using a move that was all sorts of illegal — he flipped her again so her front pressed into the leaf-laden ground, her wrists still locked in his iron grip and pinned above her head. “Cheater.”
“So says the woman who tried to kick my balls into my throat,” he pointed out, even as he licked the salt off the skin of her neck in a lazy and highly provocative move.
“I’m going to kill you.” It was more hiss than sound.
He bit her.
In the soft, sensitive place between neck and shoulder.
She felt her entire body shiver from the inside out at the blatant show of dominance. “Stop it.” It came out husky, nothing like the rejection she wanted it to be.
He took his mouth from her. “I’ve pinned you.”
“That’s wolf shit. I’m a cat.”
“You’re still trapped under me.” He nuzzled at her throat. “And you smell all hot and wet and ready.” His voice was dropping, going wolf on her.
And the heat between her thighs was turning into a pulsing drumbeat. Her stomach twisted in a vicious wave of need. God she was hungry, so sensually hungry. And Riley had taken her, his hold unbreakable. At that moment, the leopard didn’t care that he wasn’t a cat. It just cared that he was strong, sexy and aroused.

Branded by Fire © Nalini Singh

Not only are Mercy's sensual curves and feline nature a physical draw for Riley, it's also the fact that she's the one person who can break him out of his shell. Not very long ago Riley's sister, Brenna, was kidnapped and horribly abused by a Psy killer. Although Brenna was rescued and now happily mated, he still feels the guilt of her abduction and mind rape. Dreams plague him where Brenna is found dead rather than alive and ever since that horrific time of his life, Riley has closed himself off from others. While his cool demeanor may keep others at bay, it only serves to instigate Mercy's need to crack through his brooding moments of guilt and shame.

It's not long before Riley proves that he's just a tad more dominant than Mercy. And while this knowledge raises Mercy's hackles it also ignites her sexual desperation for the wolf and besides, he makes her cat purr. But when the mating dance blooms, the two must face some serious ramifications to their potential mating. For one, they shift into different animals. How will that affect their offspring if they can even have offspring? And more importantly, how will this affect their packs? Both Riley and Mercy are blood bound to their alphas and neither has the desire to leave their respective packs but if the mating bond is complete, one will undergo the heartbreak of their blood bond snapping apart from their alpha. Because Riley is the more dominant of the two, most likely it will be Mercy that will be forced away from her pack by the mating bond.

In the end, it's the female's decision whether or not to complete the mating bond and this causes the males to be a bit more feral than usual. Given the fact that Mercy holds the same rank within DarkRiver as Riley does in SnowDancer, there will be many times where both must face death. This poses a huge trust issue on Mercy's end for Riley. If his overbearing protective urges come into play, he could very well suffocate Mercy's leopard. Mercy will not drop her position in Pack and it's a real testament of Riley's promises to her when he walks into battle beside his mate.

Throughout all this emotional turmoil, added to the mix is the rise of the Human Alliance. No longer content with being known world round as the weakest link, the humans will not tolerate be looked down upon any longer. When launching a massive strike against the Psy Council members, the Alliance steps on the toes of the DarkRiver and SnowDancer packs thus rising their hackles and their claws. When juveniles from both packs are kidnapped, Riley and Mercy must put aside their mating dance and locate their packmates before its death that they find.

'Branded by Fire' lived up to every impossibly high expectation I set for it. In fact, it obliterated those expectations and rose above them into an entirely new realm of greatness. It's hard to imagine the Psy/Changeling series reaching an ever greater height of amazement but truly, this author continues to pleasantly shock me time and again.

I loved Mercy. It's not often that I fall in love with a heroine, but Mercy embodied traits that sang to my reader heart. She's strong, protective and intelligent and she never hurts anyone who is weaker than her, which is a lot of people. I love that she had courage and although mating to Riley was frightening for her, she trusted her heart. Mercy is a proud leopard but she didn't let that stop her from going to Riley when she's made a mistake and apologizing. Needless to say, Mercy earned my respect as well as my heart.

Riley. What a hero! He had so many shadows in his soul and its Mercy who shines some much needed light into his heart. Sometimes I've felt that in other novels, the heroine was more than the hero deserved, but not in this case. Riley deserved every inch of Mercy's soul. I also loved that although he was more dominant and frightfully protective, he gave Mercy freedom. He may have faltered a few times but in the end, he'd rather revel in the freedom of Mercy's soul than contain it. It showed depth in his love for Mercy that he could fight every dominant instinct and not smother Mercy's leopard. Riley has no wish to break her, he just wants to love her. Definitely a true hero.

The only draw back to this book is that it may not be a suitable start for new readers of the Psy/Changeling series. I even found myself confused at times since it has been a while since I read the book prior to 'Branded by Fire'. This wasn't enough incentive for me to drop the grade but I highly recommend new readers to start at the beginning of the series with 'Slave to Sensation'.



Pelehini aka Lisa said...

Oh VFG, wow! Doesn't this book only come out today? You got an early copy, huh? I'm sure your review is FABULOUS as always, but I only took a peek as I hope to pick up this book today and it will go to the top of the TBR pile for sure.

BTW, are you going to review Deeper by Megan Hart? I just read and I'd love to hear your take on it.


Cecile said...

Wow great review VampFanGirl!
I have been keeping my eye on this author and I am glad that you have put in prespective for me to start at the beginning and go all the way through it.
Thanks for another great review and author intro!!!
Hope you are having a great day!

Amanda said...

WOW that was a great review VFG!! I ahven't read anything by this author but I have seen a couple of reviews on her work and I am slowly thinking I am going to have to give in to the temptation and go in search of some of these books!

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Lisa!

No one was more surprised than I when B&N delivered BBF a week before its release date. Crazy! But no sense in wasting that gift. lol!

You'll love 'Branded by Fire' Lisa. I think this has to be my favorite in the series which is saying something because I love all the Psy/Changeling series installments.

Oh, I have 'Deeper' in the TBR. I think I might pick it up after I do my re-read of Nalini Singh's books. I just can't leave her world at the moment.

;) VFG

Thanks Cecile!

You're in luck girl. I'm re-reading the Psy/Changeling series so you can get a real taste of this author before you go out and buy. I should have the review for book one posted by tomorrow or Thursday.

(((hugs))) VFG

Hi Amanda!

What?! You haven't read the Psy/Changeling series either? Ack! I can't say enough praise about Nalini Singh. She's my number one favorite author. I just love her books. She never fails. You're guaranteed a good read with a Singh novel.

;) VFG

Lea said...

What an awesome review!

You rock girl!!! You know, I've got this series in the stacks and still haven't gotten to it yet...

I know, imprisonment with a chaining to the rack along with a good lashing is required... ;)

This review has urged me to move it up the stacks. I just have to stay away from the computer for a while!! lol

You have a great day girl!!
Thanks for the lovely review.


VampFanGirl said...

Thanks Lea!

Oh girl, you HAVE to move this series up in the stack. The Psy/Changeling series is my absolute favorite series. Shhh, it even reigns over the BDB. *hand slaps over mouth* Did I just admit that?! Yup, I did. ;) lol!

;) VFG

Michelle G said...


I love, love, love this series and I'm so jealous that you've read Branded By Fire. LOL

Thanks for the review.


Blodeuedd said...

Great review, I am yet to try Singh, but I do keep hearing good things. I should read her short story I have to try her out.

Good to know about not staring with this one, I do hate when i get all confused.

Erotic Horizon said...

Thanks for the review VFG, I am probably the only one who has never read her books..

Started once - but stopped for some reason - might just take them back up after this.


Leontine said...

Can I read this book for a second first time? I loved Mercy as a heroine too, the way she interacts with Riley the way she owns up to her sensuality and her feline part. Your review makes me want to read BBF all over again but, NO Time!!!

I loved Sascha, Lucas, Sienne, Kit and Hawke too and the development in their characterization. Thanks for the amazing review VFG!

VampFanGirl said...


Seriously, I was so freakin' surprised that B&N mailed this book to me a week before release. I've got crazy love for that bookstore at the moment. ;)

Meljean and Nalini <- favorite paranormal romance authors!

;) VFG

Hi Blodeuedd!

Oooo definitely read that novella. Both give a good look at Nalini's writing and her Psy/Changeling world.

Yeah, you should be alright with the novella but as far as the novels go, I'd start from the beginning. Well, you could even start with book two if you wanted...but I think you'd get more out of series from the start.

;) VFG

You're welcome E.H.!

lol! As you can see, you're definitely not the only one who hasn't read Nalini Singh but I highly, HIGHLY recommend her.

;) VFG

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Leontine!

GAWD! I LOVE THIS SERIES!!!! Hell, I want to read this book again and I think I might. I'm already re-reading the entire series. lol!

O-M-G! Hawke!!! You've already read my thoughts on that hot wolf. *wink* I'll seriously commit a crime for his book.

;) VFG

Barbara said...

VFG!!! I'm so happy you loved this book. I know how much you love Nalini's stories.

Great review. I'm going to take your advice and not pick up this one for myself. I have to read another one of her books. I need sigh worthy, VFG!!! Tell me which one will give me that!!!

Barbara said...

BTW, LMAO! It's like Nalini mania on your blog now!!!! You're too cute. I love it when you're all into what you're reading ;)

VampFanGirl said...

LOL Barbara! It is Nalini mania here!! I'm freakin' crazy over this author at the moment.

You know, if BBF didn't have so many over-reaching plots, I'd say that this one is seriously sigh worthy. But really, I love them all. I'm going to be posting my review for book one, 'Slave to Sensation' really soon so check that one out. Book one might be a good start for you.

Oh, and I think you had the magic touch in getting B&N to get this book to me so fast. I'm still in disbelief over my luck. Hell, you probably remember my surprise when you said they shipped it already. Total shocker! Thank you again girl!! (((GIANT HUGS)))

;) VFG

Barbara said...

LOL! You're welcome. I'll be waiting for Slave to Sensations review.

VampFanGirl said...

Hopefully I'll have it up by tomorrow, Barbara. I think it's going to be another long one...

Tabitha said...

Borders, too, released the book early -- this time, it was 2 weeks early as I bought the book at end of June. :) Love, love, love this book. I've re-read this book once since I bought it, lol.

The chemistry between Riley and Mercy is scorching hot yet so sweet and about envious, ha!! I can't wait for Hawke and Sienna's story. Please, please, please Nalini, do not tease us about them together then break them up (like, cough, S.B.)

VampFanGirl said...

Hi Tabitha!

What's up girl?! OMGAWD! Hawke! *sigh* I love that wolf. I can't wait to see (and hopefully we will in 'Blaze of Memory') his reaction to Sienna holding hands with Kit. Whew! Doesn't that boy know that he's playing with fire?!

Yeah, I think I'm gonna have to do a re-read of BBF too. Might as well since I'm re-reading the entire series like the die hard fangirl that I am. ;)

Wait, hold the phone, to whom is S.B. referring too??

;) VFG

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...


I haven't read Singh yet either, but everything I've read and heard are screaming at me to pick up these books!

I'll look for Slave to Sensation on my next trip.

Thanks for the great review, made my mouth water for the books.

Dottie :)

Tabitha said...

Hey VFG!

I only started on Nalini Singh in March when Angels' Blood was released but I think I'll do a re-read from the beginning of the series too, to refresh my memory for when Blaze of Memory comes out, lol.

Woot, are you a Die Hard fan too? I was thinking of doing a Die Hard-a-thon one weekend even though I did it just last year, hehe.

I mentioned S.B. as the author of Dark of Night. I was a big fan of Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters' series but DON's couple pairings really disappointed me that I couldn't even finished the book. I could stand for one couple pairing but the two she set-up? Uh uh, and that's just my opinion. I still read other books by her but don't know if I could continue the series. Have you heard or read books by her?

Sophie Renwick said...

What a great review! I am going to start this series. I know it'll be great.

Thanks for another great recommend. The Visa company thanks you as well! :)

Mandi said...

I'm about 100 pages you said - the anticipation for this book has been so intense I don't know how any book could live up to it..but this one does!! I don't know how Nalini Singh does it!

I love how she is building up Hawke and Sienna too:)

Mandi said...

I gave your review a shout out on Twitter aren't on there are you?

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Dottie!

I highly, HIGHLY recommend Singh if my current Singh Mania doesn't shout that out enough. *wink* And I think it's perfect that you're going to start with book one. 'Slave to Sensation' is an amazing start to a kick ass series!

;) VFG

Tabitha! 'Angels' Blood' is my favorite Singh novel. It even eclipses the Psy/Changeling series. I'm anticipating the sequel almost as much as Hawke's story. There's just been too much build up where that wolf's concerned. ;)

I figured it was Suzanne Brockman that you were hinting at. While I've never read her books, I do remember hearing something about her breaking up two of her characters that readers were hoping would get their HEA. Actually, I think I have the first in her Troubleshooters series but I'm not really interested in that particular genre.

;) VFG

Thanks Sophie! lol! For all the money I spend with my own visa, I should be getting some free gifts or something.

;) VFG

Mandi! I know! How does this woman do it?! Seriously, she has yet to disappoint me. I think that's the same feeling for a lot of readers. Gawd! That's gotta be some aweful pressure....

I really hope that she'll go into Hawke's reaction to Sienna & Kit in 'Blaze of Memory'. He's going to be so pissed! Maybe it'll drive him to be a bit more aggressive. *waggles brows*

No...I don't twitter but thank you!

;) VFG

Tracy said...

Omg, loved it, loved it, loved it! So damn good. Love Riley and Mercy together and trying to work things out. Singh is wonderful!

VampFanGirl said...

Ditto to everything you said Tracy!!

;) VFG

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