Cover Image: Last Guard

Last Guard

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Member Reviews

Note: Because Last Guard is the fifth book in this new Trinity arc and the twentieth book in the Psy-Changeling universe as a whole I will try my best not to spoil previous books.

Y'all! Y'ALL. This book was so epic I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it even three reads later. If I wasn't already a diehard Nalini Singh fangirl, this book right here would have been the clincher. I can't stop thinking about the absolute wealth of awesome that Nalini gifted us in this book. 

We got a neurodivergent heroine and a disabled hero! Both main characters are anchors! There is a queer side romance! We get more Bears! And more Mercants! Y'all! We were ridiculously blessed by this book!

I just want to live rent free in Nalini Singh's head because it has to be both an awesome and scary place. One of the things I love about this series is that a character or a minor reference in a previous book can become a main character or major plot point later in the series. Case in point, we now have a book where both main characters are anchors which, correct me if I'm wrong, were last mentioned briefly in Tangle of Need (Book 11).

The plot of the overall story arc is advancing at a fast clip with each book and we're learning more and more about the PsyNet and the whole situation with the Scarabs is giving me anxiety. As much as I love the interconnecting plot that links these books together, I absolutely adore the characters in this series! And y'all! I would die for Payal. She is everything! She may have skyrocketed into first place on my favorite heroines in this series. Sorry, Zaira and Memory! She is the classic case of don't judge a book by its cover and I loved learning about her hidden depths as she and Canto fell in love. Also, all of her interactions with a certain cardinal based in Russia were amazing!

Oh! And Canto! He is the classic grumpy, protective hero who will do anything to protect those he claims as his own. It doesn't hurt that he is also the one in charge of the Mercant's network of spies. I loved him so much! He is super protective but he knows when to stand back and let Payal take the lead. He's supportive and irascible and is basically the Psy version of the bears. And speaking of the bears, I loved Canto's interactions with them as part of their family thanks to Silver mating with Valentin. I could read a whole book of the bears working on breaking down Canto's walls.

I loved so much about this book but I'm going to end my raving ramble here. If you haven't read this series, I would urge you to go and pick up the first book! This series is one of my all-time favorites but this new Trinity arc has gifted me with some of my favorite books and characters and I can't wait to see where Nalini takes this series next!
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Last Guard builds on the global socio-political scope of the last few books in this series. The Psy are still dying because their mental infrastructure is collapsing; the humans are being allowed a fraction closer to the three other races, and the changelings and the Psy are becoming stronger allies in some places. The Psy also have to deal with the psychopathic individuals who have banded together under the leadership of one who has grand delusions of revolution. 

The main characters, Canto Mercant and Payal Rao, are both Psy - and anchors. Anchors are part of a new designation that hasn't been mentioned (much) in the previous books, but they turn out to have a critical role to play in the restoration of the Net. These two met when they were children in one of the ubiquitous torture centers for young Psy who don't fit in, although they haven't seen each other since. They meet again when Canto decides to bring the anchors together so they can play a larger role in the structuring of Psy society and so they can do more to protect the Net. Canto, as a result of his time in the torture center, has been paralyzed. Payal has been through her own struggles, as she's spent her entire life in a sociopathic family running a large cutthroat corporation. 

The usual follows: they fall in love, protect each other, work together as the Net splinters. Most of the plot revolves around major catastrophes that damage the substrate and the Net, and Canto, Payal, and other anchors help the Arrows and Kaleb fix things. 

It's a good entry into this long-running series, and I enjoyed the characters, the romance, and the plot. If you're hooked on this series, you should absolutely continue with this one.
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This was a fun read that was perfect for Romance audiences.  I gave it four stars and would recommend. Highly enjoyable
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Last Guard is an awesome addition to the Psy-Trinity series and overall the Psy-Changeling world! I absolutely love Payal Rao and Canto Mercant! ⁣
We've known about Canto since Silver's book, but I love getting to know about him here!⁣ His relationship with the bear cubs was adorable to see! ALSO BEARS!
In Last Guard, we learn more about the A designation - the Anchors and how this designation is an integral part in preserving the integrity of the Psy-Net.⁣
Payal is an amazing heroine! She is the head of their family and her backstory is heartbreaking. I love Canto and Payal's relationship grow and strengthen into love.
We also get to know more about the Mercant family and Ina Mercant!⁣
There is disability rep with Canto and I love how he has adapted his house to fit his and the bear changeling needs! Oh and Canto also is of Filipino descent. but his story is also heartbreaking. ⁣
We get to see more bear shenanigans here and I love how Canto interacts with them and how the bears have accepted a Psy in their territory.⁣
Last Guard kept me at the edge of my seat! There is a good balance of romance, worldbuilding and thrills that is pure Nalini magic!

If you havent read this book or even started this series, I highly recommend it!
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Last Guard is the newest book in the popular Psy-Changeling Trinity series from Nalini Singh. In Last Guard we learn about another Psy designation, Anchors, which has never been mentioned as an important designation in past books. 

The pairing of Canto Mercant and Payal Rao is a Psy-Psy paring, which is sometimes a challenging pairing for me. I honestly felt like Last Guard moved slowly for about the first half of the book. I really loved that Canto and Payal had saved each other as children, but hated they had been kept apart for much of their lives. Where Canto was welcomed back into the Mercant family and always protected, Payal was constantly challenged and threatened by her older brother and her father. 

I have to say I saw so much growth of each character once they were reunited in Last Guard. I really felt they needed one another to realize their true need in both the PsyNet, and in the world itself. They seemed to complete one another in a way no one else in their lives ever had. Canto raised with love had the appearance of being soft at times, even though he truly had a will of steal. Payal was so much more than I expected when the book started. I found myself wanting to learn more and more about her, and was on pins and needles anytime she was near her father or brother. I did end up falling in love with Canto and Payal as a couple, but it took a while to get there.

The Architect continues to keep me guessing. I feel like once I find out who she really is, I'm going to be like of course she is, but at this time she is still a mystery to me, and I can't wait to see all she tries in the next Psy-Changeling Trinity book. Nalini Singh left me wanting more, and I'm already counting down until the next Psy-Changeling book is released next year.

Rating: 4 Stars (B-)
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Another absolutely amazing addition to Nalini Singh's psy-changling world! The pacing was perfect, the characters easy to love, and the story kept me engaged from start to finish.
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4.5 stars
This book delivered some real Heart of Obsidian vibes, and I have got to say, I was 100% there for it. This fifth book in the Psy Changeling Trinity spinoff features the love story of two Psys... two anchors in the PsyNet who are struggling to hold their part of the net together as everything around them unravels.

Our hero, Canto, is a Mercant, cousin to Silver. (I loved Silver's book and I am excited to say we get to interact with the bears again here.) He and the heroine, Payal, knew each other briefly as children, when they were sent away to a horrible facility because their families considered them defective. Payal saved his life, and he never forgot her. Unfortunately, he was never able to find her because he didn't know her real name.

It's not until they join together as A's that they realize who they once were to each other. It reminded me so much of Kaleb and Sahara, only Payal carries more of the Kaleb personality.

I liked the entire dynamic a lot. I appreciate how Nalini Singh weaves such great representation into her books from the hero in a wheelchair to LGBTQ rep. (Love me some Arwen and his bear.)

The romance hit all my damaged Psy sweet spots. The only niggles I had were that the ticking time bomb in the hero/heroine's head in this series is starting to feel a little overdone. I still like it, but it feels a little recycled. And the heroine's name. Maybe this is a common name in another culture, but for me, every time I read it, I swear I read "Paypal" which really took me out of the story.

I would recommend, though. Fans of the Psy Changeling series will not be disappointed.
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Such a beautiful installment to the Psy-Changeling series!

I loved the return to the Bears in Russia. They are definitely a favorite of mine. Canto is the most lovable grump and Payal was such a wonderful mix of closed off and secretly yearning for affection. She reminded me a lot of Sasha.
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This author is phenomenal. I could end my review here because I've said it all before. The complex world building is already brilliant, yet Nalini Singh adds another fascinating layer with Last Guard. This time we get a deeper look into designation A. The anchors of the PsyNet and those who can actually access a widely unknown network of it, the Substrate.

This is where our main protagonists come in. They are the hub anchors, the most important players in the game to safe the PsyNet which is rotting away but vital to the survival of all Psy, who need the bio feedback given via the network. Anywho, long story short - these two are as heroic as they can be and as kind and sweet as only Nalini Singh can write them. I loved Canto who reminded me very much of Kaleb Krychek, a little more broody where Caleb oozes danger. Being from the most influential and best informed Psy family, the Mercants, comes with a lot of responsibility. Every addition to the family has to pass Ena Mercant's scrutiny. As the matriarch of the family she's a tough one. I'm gonna let you find out how Payal masters this feat.

Payal's hesitance over trusting Canto is absolutely relatable when you know that her whole family is a bunch of psychos (pun intended). They dance around each other for a long while but it's that sweet slow burn that the author excels at and makes these books so outstanding. I also love this gentleness all of the characters in this universe have. It's portrayed differently by each of them but they all have it and Payal is no exception.

One thing that I need to mention is that Nalini Singh does recycle major plot devices. Often times the characters are in danger either due to illness or some explosive device in their body or their power being uncontrollable. She uses this frequently to increase the tension. I'm still on board though and enjoy the hell out of it.

This book was a fabulous addition to the series. I think we may get an MM romance soon - at least it is hinted at and I can't wait to find out how this is going to play out!
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Brought to you by OBS reviewer Heidi

Canto was created as a result of a fertilization agreement.  But his father broke that agreement when he decided his son’s flaws were too much to handle.  He left him at a school to be tortured and killed.  And, when the teacher was attacking him nobody expected the wild little girl 3K to come to his rescue.  She killed for him.  Their bond had been strong before that, but he would never forget what she had done for him.

Canto’s maternal grandmother found him and welcomed him into the Mercant family with open arms.  And years later he leads a normal life, but he can’t stop looking for 3K and wondering what had become of her.  Until one day when he finally finds her.

The Psynet is deteriorating fast and the anchors that hold it together on the substrate level are becoming fewer and fewer.  Most psy can’t see the substrate or even know it exists.  Only the As do.  And, Canto has decided that it’s time to pull the As together and demand to be taken seriously.  The Ruling Coalition are preparing to try to break the Psynet apart, but they don’t even know how that will affect things because none of them are Anchors.  They must have their voices heard in order to save the Psynet and their race.

But first, they need a spokesperson.  Canto likes living in the shadows, but feels the Rao CEO, Payal, would make a perfect choice.  And, when she sees him for the first time she recognizes him by the galaxies in his eyes as the boy she killed for, 7J.

Now that Canto has found Payal he won’t let her go.  Their bond is still strong and he owes her his life. 

“In saving his life, she’d gained herself a Mercant knight who would always, always be in her corner.”

Payal wasn’t as lucky as Canto.  She was never taken in by a family that loves her.  She had to live under her cruel father and psychopathic brother’s thumb.  And, Canto will do anything to protect her from them or anyone else.  However, her father has her on a leash.  He is the only one with access to the medication that keeps her migraines from the tumors in her brain in check.  She can’t live without it and if she steps out of line, he will quit supplying it to her.

Canto and Payal are on a race against the clock to save both the net and Payal.  Can they make their voices be heard before it’s too late?

I didn’t expect to like this book once I saw the main couple were both Psy.  The whole emotionless race are just hard for me to connect to.  However, I actually loved this couple and this novel.  They sucked me in early and didn’t let me go.

I love how fierce Payal is and how protective and sincere Canto is.  And, the bears have really rubbed off on Canto.  His interactions with them were pretty sweet, especially when dealing with the cubs.

This couple definitely had their obstacles to overcome, several of which you expected.  But the two prove that they can handle anything that comes their way if they work together.

This book also showed glimpses of some of the other characters in the series, my favorite of course, being Kaleb!  I never expected to see him and Payal to connect the way they did.  But any glimpses of Kaleb make me happy!

This is a really strong book in the series and I hope the next installment is equally as good, if not better!  And, I am so ready for a Pasha and Arwen book!  Bring on the bears!!
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I liked the relationship between the two main characters a lot.  How Canto let Payal, despite her issues, take the forefront since she would be the best person for the job.  It is hard for me to believe that other Psys did not know to think about Anchors in the past if they are meant to be so calculating.  Would have liked to see the bears a bit more, but they were fun when they showed up.
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As a devoted fan of Nalini Singh and the Psy-Changeling series, my expectations are high for each new release. I’ll be honest, the Trinity spinoff series has been hit or miss for me. Last Guard blew my hopes out of the water, and it’s impressive when a new book becomes a favorite over earlier titles that I’ve been rereading for almost a decade.
The throwback scenes/dual timeline between Payal and Canto’s present time and their shared history as children laid such effective groundwork for their reunion. I loved knowing how each of their families contributed to who they are in the present, and I loved their ambition. The stakes are so high in this book’s plotline, and it is a gripping and satisfying ride.
Canto is a revelation as a post-Silent Psy. He curses, he is close with the bears, and he is content to make change without being the face of it all. He is respectful but unapologetic and he truly embodies the future of their race. 
Payal follows the tradition of many Psy main characters, especially women, whose Silence was always flawed but it was hidden away from the world for survival, with fears and instincts buried so deep that change is difficult.
The diversity of characters and representation in this book is a delight. Canto is disabled and uses a wheelchair. I am not part of the community who can personally attest to this representation, but the disabled readers I know have said this was handled beautifully. Payal is neurodiverse and her struggle was masterfully depicted. The acceptance and support she ultimately receives is so uplifting. I also can’t overstate my joy at seeing a nonbinary character who has a fair amount of time on page. For a long time, I have been starved for queer rep in this series, which has largely been relegated to brief mentions if it is present at all. To introduce each of these representations (and more) was a big step, much less to include them all in one book. This made me even more excited for Nalini’s upcoming release Archangel’s Light, which features her first queer main character couple (M/M).
I loved this book and I know I will be rereading it! The worldbuilding, the stakes, and the representation combined with a joyous romance make Last Guard a delight. I would honestly love to recommend it to any (paranormal) romance reader, but it pains me to think how much backstory a new reader of this series would be missing. That said, I do think this could stand alone decently well if necessary.
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The Psy Changeling series is one of my favorites and this one delivered exactly what I want from the series:

- interesting characters
- people battling emotions in a society where the lack of emotion is celebrated
- fun world building that resists past characters

If you are fan of the Psy Changeling series this one delivers 100%.  If you haven't tried the series before - I highly recommend it.  It has some absolutely phenomenal world building and some red hot relationships.  And the intermix of Psy, Changeling and Human allows for so many variations that this series always feels fresh.
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Jennie: A few statistics –

Number of Psy/Changeling novels including the Trinity series: 20

Number of Psy/Changeling Trinity books: 5

Number of books in the series Janine and I have reviewed together: 9 including this one

Chapter 1 of Last Guard opens with our heroine, Payal Rao, being described as “fundamentally defective” and akin to a psychopath by a business rival. Payal is an old-style Psy, allegedly without emotion. (Let’s see how long that lasts.) She’s also a cardinal telekinetic and CEO of Rao Conglomerate, a family business based in Delhi (her father and her brother, Lalit are the other major players in the business).

Payal is surprised (as much as she can feel surprise, I guess) to receive a message on a secret email account from Canto Mercant, who identifies her as a “hub-anchor” for her section of the PsyNet and goes on to state that he is also a hub-anchor and aware that Designation A – the Anchors – are all under extraordinary strain. He proposes a meeting to discuss the crisis.

The action then switches to “before”, some 30 years earlier. Two children, a boy designated 7J and a girl known as 3K are in a Psy…school, I guess, but more of a prison for Psy children who are considered “defective” or unwanted by their families. The boy 7J (who is Canto Mercant) is being attacked by a teacher, an attack that the girl 3K (gosh, I wonder who *that* could be?) ends by sticking a shiv in the teacher’s jugular vein.

In the present, Canto uses a wheelchair due to the tumors on his spine that led to him being deemed unacceptable by his father. Psy technology allows for a “full-body robotic brace designed for bipedal motion”, but it makes Canto feel like “he had insects dancing on his spine and buzzing in his brain.”

After the incident at the school, Canto was whisked away by his maternal grandmother, Ena Mercant, who he had previously never known. Canto’s mother, Magdalene, had entered into a contract with Canto’s father to give birth to their child and turn him over after delivery. The Mercants being a close-knit family, even while under Silence, Ena questioned her daughter’s decision but ultimately did not step in until she realized her grandson was being abused.

When he was rescued, Canto was angry, especially at Magdalene, but he has grown into an empathetic man with strong connections to his grandmother, mother and cousins, Silver and Arwen. His biggest regret in life is that he was never able to find 3K, the girl who saved his life.


Janine: I really liked the 3K / 7J backstory; the connection between the two kids was palpable. That’s something Nalini Singh excels at. She can get me emotionally invested in a new (even minor) character or a just-introduced relationship within less than a page. Their imprisonment for being “defective” and especially the way their names were replaced with a letter and number made me think of Holocaust victims and made even a kindness like young Canto giving the child Payal food (when he himself was starving) resonate with me as an act of resistance.

Jennie: Back in the present, Canto and Payal agree to meet at a desert oasis, a secluded spot where they can talk Anchor business privately. When they do, Payal recognizes him immediately as her childhood friend and ally, due to “telekinetic memory,” which is a quality I’m guessing won’t ever be mentioned again in these books so I’m not going to remember it. Canto is shocked, naturally, and has an emotional reaction to finding 3K again. Payal controls her own feelings with merciless discipline, and the two discuss Designation A and how it fits into the turmoil of the PsyNet.

I’m sure As have been mentioned before but of course *I* don’t remember when, where, why or how.

Janine: I think they first came up in Max and Sophia’s book, Bonds of Justice (eighth in the original series).

Jennie: A lot of their story felt like Empaths Redux. A designation forgotten or discounted turns out to be critical to saving the Psy race, but they face their own challenges in achieving their goals.

Janine: I can see the similarity but also many differences. The Anchors’ power comes with another, more active and visible one, so they’re appreciated, just not for their A ability. They weren’t killed or brain-wiped merely for having the A ability, either. It doesn’t contravene the once-sacred principle of Silence, so it was never reviled in and of itself, though the side effects it has on 60% of them were.

Jennie: In the case of the Anchors, for various reasons they’re not nearly as numerous as they used to be. The frequent upheavals caused by the rot on the Net and the machinations of series baddie The Architect mean that Anchors are stretched thin, worn out and exhausted from their duties – duties the rest of the Psy world seems oblivious to.

This did not make sense to me. I do understand that the Psy as a race have a habit of not dealing with the parts of their history and their characters that they decide at any given time (such as during Silence) aren’t convenient or palatable. But at the same time, the Psy are a thinking, logical race – that point is driven home throughout the series and contrasted to the Changelings, who are more the “feeling” types. But we’re told, essentially, that the Ruling Coalition – the group now in charge of the Psy world – just kind of forgot about Anchors, because Anchors tend to not want attention and they just do their jobs in the substrate of the PsyNet. The Ruling Coalition is led by Kaleb Krychek and Nikita Duncan, among others – two Psy that I can’t imagine forgetting ANYTHING, especially a whole Psy designation that it just so happens is majorly responsible for keeping the PsyNet functioning and every Psy on Earth alive.

This becomes even less believable when you remember that it’s not like the Ruling Coalition isn’t aware of what a disaster-waiting-to-happen the PsyNet is – that’s been a major focus of these books. So wouldn’t they be combing through every designation, trying to figure out who can do what and how they can help?

Janine: Yes, that was ludicrous and made me roll my eyes.

Spoiler: Show

Anyway…the relationship between Payal and Canto intensifies quickly, and while Canto is definitely one of those “all in from the first moment” heroes Payal is considerably more reserved, with good reason. She has not had the luxury of growing up with a family like the Mercants; her father is an emotionally sadistic monster and her brother even worse (actually taking his sadism to physically hurting others).

Janine: Yes, and Payal has to keep her beloved teenage sister, Karishma, hidden from them so they won’t kill her.

Jennie: Payal has had to be on alert essentially her whole life, and so she has trouble dealing with Canto’s small kindnesses, such as always giving her food (a callback to their childhood friendship, when he used to slip her food secretly).

I found Payal more interesting than Canto, probably because she was more troubled and had experienced a more challenging life. I think particularly in the Psy/Changeling world, it works better for me to have the female protagonist be the one who needs to be “fixed” – the gender dynamics often bug me when the heroine is the “soft” one of the two (and in my recollection most, though not all, of the books have had a dynamic where one of the characters is the one who clearly needs to be fixed in order for the HEA to work). I have had issues with the macho nature of the heroes (particularly the Changelings, but Psy heroes can be alpha in their own way), so Canto, while certainly masculine, is probably more my type of a Singh hero.

Janine: The heroes in the Trinity series aren’t as domineering or obsessed with wiping out another race for the sake of love as their counterparts in the original series, and the heroines’ abilities get to shine more in these new books. I appreciate the last two things to the bottom of my heart, but will you hate me if I confess that though the bossiness drove me crazy when it verged on patronizing or led to a display of supposed superiority (Hawke comes to mind here), I think it could sometimes be hot and I miss the flying sparks?

Jennie: Oh, I know that’s an aspect that’s appealing to the vast majority of romance readers – there’s a reason the alpha hero exists and is so omnipresent. I think I’ve always liked it less than the average romance fan, but I do understand the appeal.

Janine: To get back to this book, I agree that Payal is (by far IMO) the more interesting one. Singh takes some risks there; this is a very different kind of heroine for her. Payal has Zaira’s chaotic darkness and badass violent tendencies (both were caged children who killed their captors) and Silver’s not-a-hair-out-of-place exterior coolness, but in Payal the latter is closer to iciness. That’s new for Singh, I think. Generally, her heroines are warm.

The cold, flawlessly unemotional exterior is Payal’s way of imposing order on her violent and chaotic emotions. Ice on the surface, lava underneath. This combination places her in territory traditionally coded as male in romances (she’s even a CEO) and in our society. I thought her cold, edgy darkness was great.

Canto is warm, sweet, and occasionally grumpy. It’s hard not to like him but he’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t have Payal’s charisma. Supposedly the reason he prefers for her to represent the Anchors was that he doesn’t have patience for political bullshit but it’s not like Payal is Ms. Diplomacy. I kept watching out for his lack of patience but he had more of it than Payal did.

Jennie: Yeah, that aspect didn’t quite ring true. Though I liked that they both clearly brought strengths to not just the relationship, but the partnership.

Janine: Me too. Still, I always find it odd when Psy characters who were never Silent turn up. Silence was so pervasive, we were told in the earlier series, that a hint of being other than Silent could get your brain wiped. You couldn’t even openly show kindness without putting in danger not only your life but also the lives of the people you were kind to. Canto is thirty-nine, so what rock did he hide under? I never got a sense that he behaved any differently under Silence than he does now, afterward. Did you?

Jennie: I kind of assumed that the awesome power of the Mercants and his own tendency to keep to himself protected him. But you have a good point. Particularly as he seemed to have such a laissez-faire attitude towards never being Silent.

Janine: Precisely.

What did you think of Payal and Canto as a couple, Jennie? I liked them.

Spoiler: Show

I could see in that scene that their relationship really worked and also how it would continue to successfully work in the future. I read Payal as the more dominant one and I thought that was really interesting. In that regard, it was an unusual dynamic for Singh.

Jennie: I did like them as a couple. They had an undeniable connection from their previous relationship as children, and since I liked Payal so much I enjoyed watching her blossom under Canto’s care.

Janine: Me too.

Jennie: The continual thread to the PsyNet storyline…continues. The Architect pops up to “mwah ha ha” a couple of times, and a few events threaten the stability of the Net further.

Spoiler: Show

Janine: One of the things I’ve struggled with when it comes to the Trinity series, in particular, is that there sometimes isn’t enough conflict to absorb me as deeply as the books in the original series usually did.

This book did accomplish it. There was more than one conflict here that snagged my attention. Foremost was the internal conflict within Payal’s heart and mind—obedience to her father in defense of her sister’s life and her own vs. allowing herself the freedom to love Canto. There are also conflicts relating to multiple other people or situations that require her to prove herself. In some cases it’s her life at stake, in others her future with Canto, in others still the Anchors being heard and treated justly, and finally the fate of the PsyNet itself.

It’s partly because it all rests on her shoulders that she’s such a compelling character. So, though I’m often bored when there’s almost no romantic conflict between the main characters and I did want slightly more of it even here, the other conflicts mostly made up for it. Thoughts?

Jennie: I think lack of h/h conflict used to bother me more than it does today. And as you note, there are enough external conflicts that threaten the HEA to keep me involved in the story.

Janine: I think maybe I communicated badly. Years ago it would have bothered me more too. It was more a question of whether you usually feel that kind of conflict is completely unnecessary in any romance, and if not, if you still typically like a little, how does this book work or not work in light of that? Did it impress you that an entirely external-to-the-relationship conflict worked so well, or was it not even slightly remarkable in your regard?

Jennie: Hmm. Let me think. I guess it is notable – I still prefer some level of internal h/h conflict. But I also think that I impose these “rules” about what I like and don’t like, and those rules can easily be blown away by superior writing and characterization. So I think it’s kind of a balancing act. I do think the lack of conflict between Payal and Canto might’ve made the story a bit dull if there weren’t all of those other issues swirling around.

As is often the case, the description of what they do was hard for me to picture. They work in the “substrate” – another aspect I don’t remember ever being mentioned before.

Janine: I think the substrate’s new. I sometimes like learning new things about the PsyNet; it’s an expansion of the world and it makes it more interesting. At other times my eyes glaze over when some aspect of the Net is explained. It can be hard to visualize and that makes it abstract.

Spoiler: Show

Jennie: I have mixed feelings about it – since I’ve never been able to picture a lot of how the PsyNet works, new aspects sometimes feel like a burden to me – something else to learn and try to understand. I also sometimes feel like Singh is just making it up as she goes along, which makes me uneasy.

Janine: Speaking of picturing and imagery, I noticed many clothing descriptions in this book. So many. A certain amount of description is good and necessary in every book but it doesn’t need to focus on outfits so frequently. Most of the time, the clothes don’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the characters who wear them. C’mon Singh, mix it up more.

Jennie: I did as well, but I sort of thought that was typical of Singh? I definitely don’t find it necessary. I wonder if Singh (and other authors who do this) are more visual writers and lean towards descriptions of clothing to set the scene for themselves?

Janine: Yeah, it’s typical of her books. :-/ I have theories too but I’ll save them for the comments.

Jennie: Over the past 20 books, I’ve gotten used to certain aspects of the Psy/Changeling world – a lot of repetition of phrases (here, it’s variations on “we’re Anchors, this is what we do”), hyperbole (a character making a statement that isn’t even that shocking has her words described as “massive boulders crashing into the earth”), and reuse of themes.

It’s the last one I’m still struggling with in this book. I didn’t mind the similarity between the emergence of the Anchors to that of the Empaths – there are a lot of differences there as well.

But this is another book where true love is threatened by one of the protagonists’ potential death (Janine and I talked in the last review about how many times either death or insanity has faced one of the main characters in the series).

Spoiler: Show

Janine: You know, when it comes to the ubiquity of the impending death trope, I think I’ve arrived near the point you did when you finally made peace with those other irritants. I don’t like it, but I’m starting to feel like I’d rather resign myself to it than grind my teeth every time it comes up. It’s one of the many reasons I prefer her Guild Hunter books, though. There’s plenty of that there as well, but overall, the plot conflicts in those books are more varied.

Jennie: I totally get that. At a certain point with some of these tropes complaining about it feels like going to a Shakespeare tragedy and whining about all the deaths – like, you know what you signed up for, right?

Janine: Exactly.

Spoiler: Show

Janine: I can’t finish this review without mentioning how much I enjoyed Kaleb’s appearances in this book. As ridiculous as his and the council’s ignorance about the Anchors was, I was glad when one of the characters told Kaleb that he wasn’t all-knowing and all-seeing, because too often in this series he’s been portrayed as exactly that.

Biggest, baddest, bestest gets old for me eventually.

Spoiler: Show

And briefly, I’ll express my feelings on the Anthony and Nikita front…when are we going to get that promised Anthony and Nikita novella? I don’t care that much about Nikita, but I’ve wanted a story for Anthony for at least a decade now.

Jennie: So, a grade…maybe a B? B-? With long series it becomes difficult for me to judge individual books because there’s too much history for me to separate the book and view it as a stand-alone. I’m going to go with B/B- for Last Guard.

Janine: The tone of this book was a bit monochromatic but even so, it was my second favorite book in the Trinity series (after Ocean Light). There were multiple exciting points in the story for me, including Payal and Cato’s first meeting as adults and many others that involve spoilers.

Spoiler: Show

Basically, I just found the atypical (especially for Singh) Payal enjoyable and entertaining to read about. This was a B for me.
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One of the better books in the Trinity series. Reviewed with Jennie on July 22, 2021. I gave it a B.
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Canto has searched long and hard for the female who saved him as a child.  But he needs to put that desire aside to save his world.  Has fated granted him the means to do both?
Last Guard is the latest in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling Trinity series.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Canto and Payal.  They have survived a childhood no child should live through.  Their childhood bond was  forged in  fire but can it survive adulthood?  
I enjoyed seeing Canto fight for Payal.  I loved that he added changeling like behavior to his courtship of Payal.  He loved hard and protected even harder.  I love that he supported Payal even as he showed her his love.  He was her rock even when she didn't want or believe she needed it.  And Payal understood more than her family expected.  When you were hers than you knew it.  She was a ferociously protective as Canto.  I loved seeing them together.  They were one and fought for and with each other.  
I thoroughly enjoyed their journey toward acceptance.  This is a wonderful addition to this series and I can't wait to see where Ms. Singh will take us next.
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Nalini Singh continues her psy changling trinity novels with Last Guard.  Payal Rao is both CEO of major companies, a ruthless psy predator, but also the anchor for the Delhi area of the psy net.  Her partner Canto is a member of the ruthless but fair Mercant psy family and another anchor of the net. Together they plan to make the anchors a power in the psy world and save the psy net that is failing.  Romantic and ruthless what a combination!
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Last Guard is the fifth installment in the Psy Changeling Trinity series, and it continually baffles me how long of a series this is becoming especially if you combine all the books in this marvelous series together. I was actually wanting to enjoy this so much but unfortunately, it didn't quite make it to the rating that I was expecting. This story just didn't engage me immediately like I was expecting it to, and it took a while to really become invested in the story. I think I have tried to read this over the past couple of months, but finally pulled myself together to get it read. And I am so relieved that I was able to do that. Because while it starts slow, once you become invested in this pairing, you won't be able to put it down. This is the talent of this author, that I just wanted to see how these two would find their HEA and overcome the conflict that is facing their people.

Last Guard features our two main leads:

Canto Mercant-Head of the family, Spinal Injury, Cardinal Empath and Anchor

Payal Rao- Anchor, Designation A, Cardinal Telekinetic, CEO, Indian Descent

Last Guard features two characters that once knew each other as children, where they were tortured among the unwanted at the time, until they were rescued and they never saw each other until now when they are to work together in the search of solving the problems involving the psy net, and now the net is dying, and only if the anchors work together will they be able to save it. But Canto recognizes Payal for the girl he always loved and never stopped, but he also needs her to help save the net. Payal, the girl he once knew, is hidden behind her cool exterior, but he is going to take a lesson from the courting handbook of the bears, and court his girl no matter how long it takes. He is dedicated to digging deep and finding that sweet strong girl who loved fiercely. Payal is not the girl that Canto used to know. Her father and brother are brutal psychopaths, who only use her for their own means, and as a means of survival, she protects herself behind a shield of ice. She doesn't truly know Canto, but there is a hidden part of her that trusts him completely. And with each day, she feels her shields against him, softening and slowly trusting him and desiring full on "skin privileges" and more with Canto. But they have enemies, and the whole psy's survival depending on them. Will Canto and Payal find their way fully together and saving their people?

Last Guard was such a brilliant story and I was so much in love with this one here. But it took a while to get to the "love" part of the story. I do struggle with books where you want to love it, but can't quite get on board all the way through. However, despite the struggles I had initially, I just knew that I would eventually fall for this book, and man Singh really worked her magic in this book. I just couldn't get enough of Payal and Canto. They were utterly brilliant together, and one aspect I have truly adored about this author, but most especially in this series, is seeing characters fight for each other in such a equal way. I truly appreciate the way that she shows the hero AND the heroine fighting for each other in the relationship. In most romance, you will see more fight from the hero than the heroine, but in this one, even though the fight begins with the hero at the beginning of the story, this heroine fought for the hero in the latter half defended him, and protected him. And this is my true catnip in a romance and will win my heart every time. This book also contains many of the tropes I adore: friends to lovers, childhood sweethearts, second chance romance, forced proximity. The secondary characters in this one (most specifically the BEARS) were hilarious, and I just wanted more of them. They are the true delight from this "trinity" series that Singh has implemented. Loved seeing members of the Mercant family and even some delights from our beloved favorite psy "Kaleb Krychek". I am very curious about what Nalini Singh has planned for the series next because I need more but she is an author worth waiting on.

Overall I found Last Guard to be a story that combines the beauty of two lost souls finding each other once again, to the intensity of the battle in the fighting for your people, a sweet yet sturdy courtship that wins your heart with each step in the dance, a romance that will strike a transcendent chord in your soul and leave you with a smile on your face.
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I feel like I say this with every book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity series, but Last Guard is my new favorite in this series. The story reminded me of Heart of Obsidian (aka my favorite in the original series). And I just loved Payal and Canto so much. 

Plus Singh somehow still managed to expand the world-building, which is an incredibly impressive feat after ~20 books set in the same universe. We also finally get to see more of the main antagonist for this series, which just made me more excited for future installments.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an excellent paranormal romance series, definitely check this one out! But I HIGHLY recommend starting with the original Psy-Changeling series because this series really does build on the foundation established in that series.
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Last Guard is the fifth book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity series by Nalini Singh.  This story is fantastic,.  We are introduced to Payal Rao, a member of a Psy family who is fanatical to maintain and increase their status, no matter what the cost.  And then there is Canto Mercant, a member of the Mercant family.  And the Mercant family protects its own no matter the cost.  Payal and Canto's story is one of loss, determination and love.  It is fabulous.  Highly recommended.
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