What I'm Reading: Firelight by Kristen Callihan

 

​Firelight is written in 3rd person, past tense and spans the genres of paranormal romance and historical fiction. It is a traditionally published book released in 2012 by Forever, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. Imprint basically meaning that the company has trade names that cater to specific genres.  In this case, romance.

 

What’s the book about?
Well, it’s about a man, Archer, and woman, Miranda, who have secret paranormal characteristics. They are hiding said characteristics from one another, falling in love, and fighting a mysterious antagonist. Oh, and it takes place in 19th century England. How’s that for avoiding spoilers?

 

What I liked about the book:

  • Kristen did a bang-up job of showing and not telling. Instead of telling us that the character was tearing up, she describes the way the world distorts when your eyes fill with tears. My favorite, by far, was how she managed to tell the audience that the male protagonist could see in the dark, while the female protagonist could not, by describing how the characters interacted with each other. Archer walks into the room and looks over Miranda’s beauty as she’s fumbling for the matches to light the candle next to her. At one point, Miranda attempts to look directly at Archer and he watches her look past the spot he’s standing. She also startles when he touches her hand. This is inference at its best, people! I love it!  

  • She takes the normal paranormal romance tropes and twists them a bit. She also seems to have taken a lot of classic stories and meshed them together. I got a Beauty and the Beast meets Romeo and Juliet meets Phantom of the Opera vibe from the story. Which is cool because I love revamps.

  • She has a strong female character that isn’t bitchy. Big applause there. I am all for strong-minded female characters.  But they don’t have to be abrasive, hot-headed and inclined to yell at people all the time.

  • The girl saves the guy, yay!

  • Kristen also has the hook technique down to an annoyingly good level. She frequently ends a chapter on a cliffhanger and then changes to a new character's point of view. A character that, conveniently, isn't currently involved in the previous scene. This is a slightly evil way to keep your audience reading longer. Now they have to read at least an extra chapter to get to the part that has the resolution they want. But she used this technique so often, that I found myself wanting to stop reading simply out of spite.

 
What I didn’t like:


I was left feeling kind of indifferent to the whole thing – and I’m not certain why. Overall, the book was well done. It hit a lot of the marks for a well-written piece, such as creative and intense scenes, detailed writing, and mystery.  But the best I can say about it is “yeah, it was decent”.  I might read the second book in the series, but I’m not dying to. The second book is a spin-off of a supporting character and his journey to true love. I can’t say I’m attached to that character enough to care about his finding love. 

Some of my lukewarm feelings may come from the fact that the story line is creative but not wholly unique. I kind of had a general idea of where things were going, no real surprises.  But I think that the biggest issue was that I didn’t really feel an attachment to the characters. The author was great at world building, I can remember the rooms she describes and the London fog, but I don’t feel like I ‘saw’ much of the characters and their actions. I can’t think of any nervous ticks or charming smiles. Though I did like their general personalities, I just didn’t feel that attached to them.

This goes to show that characterization is super important. You can have stellar world building, elegant prose, and a creative storyline, but if you don’t take the time to breathe life into your characters, make them stand out from the page, your story could fall short.
 
Some points about prologues and hooks:


This book opens with a prologue (which is an introduction of sorts, usually out of sync with the rest of the story’s timeline), and I have noticed that those have been getting a lot of negativity lately. Personally, I’m not anti-prologue. If your book needs one, then use one. But if you have one, it should be intriguing and have a purpose. For the record, prologues are NOT to be used to dump all the character’s past upon the reader. Half the time we don’t need all that info anyway.

In this story, Kristen’s prologue tells us of a chance encounter that happens between the male and female protagonists three years before the rest of the story. This meeting is basically an inciting event. If it didn’t happen, we wouldn’t know why the male character makes the choices he does in the beginning of the story proper.

So, if agents, publishers and the general public are becoming quick to shun a story with a prologue and you happen to have one, then you better make sure your opening grabs their attention.
 
This is Kristen's opening sentence:
 
“The knowledge that Archer would soon end the life of another cut at his soul with every step he took.”
 
The sentence is interesting enough to make readers (and publishers) want to continue. I’d also like to point out what we learned about Archer in just one sentence. He’s killed before (or maybe another just means another being?), and he doesn’t enjoy that he has to. So, now the reader is intrigued. Why is this guy killing someone? What did that someone do? Is Archer some kind of unwilling assassin?

Mission accomplished.

Now Kristen has people reading on to answer the questions that one sentence (the hook) posed. She continues to pepper intrigue and vivid descriptions of 19th century London at night, which holds the reader’s interest even after their original questions are answered. 

Keep that in mind!

Hooks don’t just belong at the beginning of a book and the end of chapters. They can actually go throughout the book, acting as a tow line, drawing the reader through the entire story. Mysteries are one of the things that keep an audience reading. So, before you answer the question that a hook generally incites,  it’s a really good idea to have a few more show up to keep the reader going.
 
This book could be a good resource if you are a…


writer of paranormal romance or a writer that wants good examples of the following:
•    showing instead of telling
•    strong female characters
•    non-alpha male characters that are pretty charming
•    prologues
•    stringing your audience along (hooks)
•    love scenes and sexual tension between characters

 


 

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