Hello my friends, welcome back to another review by me, Mrs. Y. Today I’m reviewing a book by Crystal L. Kirkham, and I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by Crystal L. Kirkham.
Let’s get started on this review.
The critique, how does one categorize this book properly? Starting with critiques, this one is non-scoring because it’s not the author’s fault; this falls more into the fault lies with Genre categories. “Falling Light” is a romance novel with adventure, dark urban fantasy and features an LGBTQ couple. However, if someone were to put that into genres or “Gay Romance” or “LGBTQ Romance” or anything like that, then the book is put in the same category as the “Torso” romances.
If you aren’t familiar with “Torso” romances, those are the romance novels that feature a male character, from chin to just below the belly button, with or without an opened shirt, oiled up like a WWE wrestler, and has very cliche titles, sometimes with the word “Hard” or “Oil” in them. This isn’t that kind of book, and that’s why I’m frustrated as a reader. I don’t know that this kind of LGBTQ Romance exists other than in this book. “Falling Light” has no sex in it and is a kissing book, and the intimacy in the moments is emotional more than sexual. So how do you categorize this? That’s my non-scoring critique; where does this fall? I have talked to Crystal about this before, and I don’t think the primary category should align with “Torso” books.
My following scored critique has to do with something I sometimes find with comedy overused to move tension; in this case, it’s the romance. I loved the romance, but there were whole cloth parts of the plot that I loved bypassed by the romance part.
As readers, we live and love and move around this couple, and again, the romance is beautiful. But I, as an action-adventure nerd, also wanted to know what the bad guy was up to. The bad guy almost felt like an afterthought. Crystal writes some compelling villains, so I felt the loss of that delicious evil bad guy part going on. “In Feathers and Fae,” she had these perfectly evil bad guys, and the plot drove toward it. I was hoping for more of that, and that story, too, had a romance. But for some reason here, it wasn’t the same.
Granted, I realize adding more would have made this book as big as “The Stand” but, I’m all for it. It’s just tiny things I enjoy about books like this that are fulfilling and satisfying conclusions. If the said bad guy is so bad that he has to meet an end, whatever that end maybe, wouldn’t it be nice to know how that happened? I missed that part. I saw the results, but explaining what was done wasn’t explained, and then we had more romance. Again, I love the romance, but I’d like a bit more in the “And here is how this happened” part.
For my final critique, it is almost a deus-ex-machina cliche issue. I say almost because none of the tropes were directly involved with climax exactly, so this isn’t a cliche as much as a writing trope bordering to the cliche. And if you’re not familiar with what I mean, let me explain it this way.
If you saw the “Lord of the Rings,” and after Frodo had dropped the ring, here came the eagles to get him, and we can surmise that Gandalf asked his Eagle buddies to help. We didn’t have to see Gandalf call them or summon them; we just were able to imply it and watch the result being that Frodo and Sam got away. That is a writing device.
Whereas, if you saw the “Hobbit” and you saw the part with the fire, and the eagles just showed up and took the dwarves away, that felt more deus-ex-machina. That was a cliche. It came across as though the director wanted us to remember how this worked for Frodo and was trying to get the group from point A to point B before the credits rolled on the 1st film.
In “Falling Light,” we had many the first type going on with off-page stuff. I can accept some of it to “Secret organization” stuff. But I wasn’t sure if that was a writing device or if it was the deus-ex-machina trope. It got blurry at times. Examples of these situations were resolved or caused in these manners as such, “This happens because of money” or “This happens because of a secret organization” or “This happens because of reasons.”
Again, a writing device makes sense when used where needed and is okay, but that began to multiply and happened a lot, especially near the end. And to be honest, I’m not sure if it was Deus or if it was a writing device because I’m not sure if the frequency is enough to make it cliche or not. So, therefore, I’m noting this as a critique, but I’ll leave you, the reader, to decide how you felt about it when you read the book.
With all of this out of the way, I’m going into what I enjoyed about “Falling Light,” and I want to applaud Crystal on her diversity of cast, characters, and approach. This is an LGBTQ novel, the main characters are incredibly diverse, and this book is an all-world kind of book. I think the characters were elegantly portrayed, and again, for a romance, this wasn’t a torso book. I wasn’t getting hot and bothered by anything. I was falling in love with the story with descriptions. Anyone can read this book, I firmly believe it, and enjoy it. I think a person would have to work very hard not to enjoy something about it.
I want to applaud here; there is a cliffhanger in “Falling Light,” but Crystal has mastered the way of closing all the story threads for the specific book before moving on to give the audience a taste that there may be more to come. My copy also included the 1st chapter of the sequel, but I did not read that. I’ll read it when that book comes out. So I am not scoring the bonus chapter, but I do love this kind of cliffhanger. I wish everyone could do a cliffhanger like this. I also loved that there wasn’t a prologue. This book gets to the point quickly, stays on task, and continues its way to the end. That’s the best kind of book. I genuinely enjoy structure like this in novels because it just gets right to the point. There isn’t a thing wrong with prologues, but sometimes, you don’t need one.
Thematically, I took away from “Falling Light” were three themes going on. These are my takes on it, and if I’m missing a theme or I’ve lost a concept, I apologize. The first theme is the family you chose. The second is that work shouldn’t be paramount over your life, and the last is that you can love whomever you love, and it’s okay to feel that way. I loved that there were three themes. I also loved that none of it was dropped or lost, and I enjoyed the story threads built upon these themes and ended satisfyingly.
Next, I loved the level of darkness to lightness in the story structure. This has a lot of balance to it. The purely evil things are not purely evil, the purely good ones are not purely good, and even the actual Villian, I could see his point of view perfectly. I think this is more of a story discussing how we all are approaching how to deal with life. If someone wants all the badness to go away and everyone to be good, how would they go about doing it? When the villain’s goal is to take away evil from the world and make it good again in the purely black and white sense, you have to admire the genius of the villain’s consideration. I think that’s why I enjoyed this villain. It’s that “Thanos” thing. When the bad guy has a point, and he still has to be stopped, how tough is it to not mourn for losing the point?
Anyone who has read or been on Social Media in the last three years should know what I mean by that. Things are gross right now; no one agrees on anything, there is a lot of shouting people down and telling people they are wrong. This villain’s goal was to stop that, but he would make things worse in so doing. So now, how does one rectify that in their mind?
So once again, Crystal wrote a fantastic villain, compelling, well-rounded, well thought out, and a perfect counterbalance to the story’s heroes. I say heroes because there was more than one, and two of them were falling in love.
The pacing, tension, and book structure were delightful. Aside from the before-mentioned issues I had with the romance, the book moved along very well for the most part. I was done with this book in about 1 and 1/2 days of full reading. That’s not something I usually do anymore, but the book didn’t make it feel like an exercise. Crystal has come such a long way. I’ve read many of her novels, and this one by far, I think, was the best-written one so far. I am so honored I get to grow as a reviewer as she has grown as an author.
Finally, and it’s my favorite part. This story was a striking dark urban fantasy under a romance. I loved the lore and the building of the world, the way the secret organization was brought up and spelled out, and I enjoyed the rules system was straightforward and in place. Worldbuilding can be complicated, but Crystal did a fantastic job here. The book was well done, well structured, and written for the rules and alignment, and I enjoyed that.
I’m scoring “Falling Light” with a 95/100, which is a 5-star review on Goodreads, Amazon, my blog, and The Reading Desk. This may be perfect for you, and I hope you enjoy it as well. Overall, this was a lovely read. I can’t thank Crystal enough for this opportunity. It felt good to read again. I want to read more books, and I think I’m almost in a good enough place to do that again.