fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFirelight by Kristen Callihan

Firelight is a paranormal romance set in 1881, and is the first in Kristen Callihan’s new series DARKEST LONDON. I urge all paranormal romance fans to give it a try — Firelight is sheer fun!

The plot contains many elements of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale. Miranda Ellis is roped into an arranged marriage with the mysterious masked Lord Archer as a result of the misdeeds of her father. There’s also a reference to “East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon,” a variant of the tale in which the heroine gets to play a more active role in saving the day. The reference is apt. Miranda kicks butt.

Archer is accused of a series of murders. Someone is bumping off the members of the secret occult society of which he was once a member. Miranda believes him innocent and sets out to clear his name and find the real killer, while also trying to figure out what lies behind Archer’s mask. The two mysteries are inextricably linked. Miranda hides a secret of her own, too, a paranormal ability that helps protect her in dangerous situations but that she fears losing control of.

The gradual build of the relationship between the leads is fantastically done. One of the things that often annoys me in paranormal romance is the trend of authors using the paranormal as a substitute for actually developing the relationship: characters will fall in “insta-love” and/or will be preordained as fated soul mates without going through the process of getting to know each other. Kristen Callihan does not do this. Instead, Miranda and Archer have conversations (both bantering and serious), slowly reveal their secrets to one another, and along the way have chemistry that is absolutely swoonworthy and sizzling. There does turn out to be a metaphysical reason that their relationship is fortuitous, but that’s never presented as why they fall in love in the first place. I love these characters’ marriage because, above all else, they are a team and have each other’s back.

Both Miranda and Archer are complex and endearing characters, there are a number of fascinating secondary characters as well, and the world-building leaves open a wide variety of paranormal possibilities. Callihan has a lot of room for more stories here. Book two, Moonglow, comes out in August 2012 and will star two of those aforementioned fascinating characters. I’ll be looking forward to it.

I enjoyed Firelight, and when I finished it, my main thought was that I wanted more of it — more ancient magical lore, more scenes with Archer and Miranda, and more of Callihan’s London. I read Firelight via NetGalley, so my review copy will self-destruct like a Mission Impossible tape, but I’ve decided I’m buying a copy for my shelves, because this is a book I’d like to keep around. I could see it becoming a great comfort read. Firelight takes us on a grand adventure and leaves us believing that maybe true love really does conquer all.

Darkest London — (2012-2016) Ember is a prequel. London, 1881. Once the flames are ignited . . . Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family’s fortune decimated and forced her to wed London’s most nefarious nobleman. They will burn for eternity . . . Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it’s selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can’t help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn’t felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

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  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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