Berkley, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-23234-7
Trade paperbacks are not generally impulse buys for me, but I was drawn both to the title and the premise of Skyler White’s debut effort and Falling, Fly. The easiest way to classify this book is to call it a spicy romantic urban fantasy, but nothing is what is seems to be at the surface when it comes to this story.
Olivia Wright, our heroine, believes that she is a fallen angel, doomed to feed on the blood and desires of human being. Unlike her fellow sisters who seem to revel in their hedonistic hunting, she yearns to find redemption and become an angel again. The key, she believes, is in getting a man to love her for what she is. That is, of course, easier said than done, and eventually Olivia decides that there is no hope for her redemption. She travels to an underground sanctuary for spooks, the Hotel of the Damned or “Hell”, as the owner Gaehod calls it, where she intends to stay awhile as she tries to reconcile herself with her lost hope.
Dominic O’Shaughnessy is a Reborn, if you ask Olivia and Gaehod. Dominic can remember scenes from his past life, although he has no control over the triggering of these memories. Over the years, Dominic has convinced himself that he is not “cursed”: he is, instead, delusional. Therefore, if he can discover and isolate one’s memories in order to zap them from one’s head, he can cure himself. In order to gain some much-needed research money from a millionaire, our neuroscientist hero finds himself returning to that one place he swore he would never go back: the Hotel of the Damned. When he meets Olivia, the attraction is there, but he is certain that she is under a different kind of delusion. There is no vampire – she only believes that she is one in order to suppress some kind of shame or inhibition that she may have.
There are plenty of promises in this story, but most of them remain just that – promises. For example, despite all of Dominic’s big talk about using drugs and other marvels of modern science to cure the curses of the folks in Hell, the author never shows Dominic in his element. Instead, the whole story takes place in the underground hotel. A pity, really, since I’d love to see the author explore more of this modern approach versus faith and belief thing that is the theme of the story.
As you can guess, this story is as emo as a conference room full of self-identified Goth teenagers. Olivia and Dominic can get tad too whiny, especially in the middle portion of the story. At first, I am enthralled by the author’s elegant phraseology and prose and therefore I’m not too concerned about the whining going on. However, as the story lumbers slowly into its sagging middle, the characters’ whining become repetitious and plodding. They keep saying the same things over and over, and worse, their inactivity becomes apparent. Olivia, for example, keeps telling Dominic that she is damned, et cetera. Dominic doesn’t believe her. You think she would show him her fangs or even her supposedly disfigured private parts to prove her right? Of course not, because that will be… too obvious, I guess. So it’s back to whining for her, and whining it is.
It is only in the late third or so of the story when Olivia’s sisters must have heard my silent prayer and set in motion a chain of events that force Olivia and Dominic to stop whining and start doing things. This part of the story is easily the best thing about and Falling, Fly because it’s like waking up to a brand new beautiful morning after being bored for so long. Even so, Olivia makes me grit my teeth because the moment she gets her wish, she’d go, “No! I want to turn back!” For all the whining she had done, you’d think she’d at least spend a day or two trying to enjoy her new life.
and Falling, Fly does not attempt to rehash the now overused and boring tropes of romantic urban fantasy, which is its greatest appeal as far as I am concerned. It is a well-written story that is a pleasure to read. But at the same time, the pacing is too slow and the author’s attempts to keep things somewhat ambiguous in her story become rather contrived. I’d recommend this book to you if you want something different in your romantic fantasy and you don’t mind the $15.00 price tag, but do note that it can get rather heavy in the whining and very slow in the pacing. This is one of those books that you will either love or find most pretentious, so tread carefully.