Just so you know my biases.
And yet, I bought this one. It was pimped on John Scalzi’s site, and I kind of skimmed over all the “paranormal romance" blather and fixated on “fallen angels." I have a thing for angel mythology. It’s a weakness, like 80s power ballads, which Skyler White also mentioned loving, and anyway, the hot chick on the cover did at least look more bad-ass than anorexic, and someone mentioned “steampunk" so I thought, “Sure, why not?"
Eh, I was misled. (Hint: At no point in the book does the female protagonist ever pick up a blade. Second hint: No steampunk.)
An edgy, erotic blend of fantasy and romance-from a debut author whose star is on the rise.
In a dark and seedy underground of burned-out rock stars and angels- turned-vampires, a revolutionary neuroscientist and a fallen angel must pit medicine against mythology in an attempt to erase their tortured pasts...but at what cost?
Olivia, vampire and fallen angel of desire, is hopeless...and damned. Since the fall from Eden, she has hungered for love, but fed only on desire. Dominic O'Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist plagued by impossible visions. When his research and her despair collide at L'OtelMathillide- a subterranean hell of beauty, demons, and dreams-rationalist and angel unite in a clash of desire and damnation that threatens to destroy them both.
The first thing to know is, this is really a vampire book, not a fallen angels book. Okay, technically, according to Olivia, vampires are fallen angels. Except they might just be delusional and not supernatural at all. That was the unspoken but interesting twist, lying between the lines throughout the pages of this novel: what if all of the “Damned" really are just insane?
and Falling, Fly started out kind of interesting. Then it began to plod. And plod. And plod. Until at about the halfway point, I was this close to not finishing it, and probably would have put it down except that I’m a “finish-what’s-on-your-plate" reader and I paid for this book, dammit.
Then at about the halfway point, it started getting interesting again. And then... for the rest of the book there were brief periods of interesting stuff, some genuinely sexy interaction between the two main characters (I am not a reader of romances, and “steamy" and “sexy" in a book’s description usually leaves me cold, but damn, Olivia is hot), all padded with more meandering that made me think about giving up on the damn book again even when I was only a few chapters from the end.
Let’s go back to Olivia. She and all of her “sisters" (who appear later in the novel) are the “fallen angels of desire." They are vampires. Vampires have quills in their teeth and nails that can extract blood from the people they feed on. Olivia can extract just a few microscopic globules of blood from a kiss or a brush of her nails on someone’s forearm, barely enough for the victim to notice, or she can feed “full-mouth," opening up their neck in the more traditional vampire style. But vampires can only feed on someone who either desires or fears them; otherwise their teeth will break against the would-be victim’s skin.
Additionally, being a fallen angel of desire, Olivia has no desires herself -- is, in fact, unable to feel anything. She reflects the desires of others, literally. When she is getting close and personal with someone, her body will morph to assume the shape of their ideal woman. And she cannot see herself in mirrors, though other people can. She cannot actually have sex, but she believes that when she finds someone who will love her and desire her, truly, knowing what she really is, she will be able to get back into heaven.
And, most importantly, all of this is told to us from Olivia’s POV, which raises the question of whether any of this is real or just her imagination. Because in the sections of the book that are written from her first-person POV, she is always talking about her vampiric powers, but she never actually displays them around witnesses in an unambiguously supernatural manner. Which makes her an extremely unreliable narrator, especially when the second character is brought in. Dominic O'Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist who is one of the “Reborn": he keeps being reincarnated, over and over, and he remembers all of his past lives. Except he believes that this is all a result of his own screwed-up brain chemistry (which is why he became a neuroscientist), and that “vampires" suffer similarly from mental illness. He and Olivia both wind up at a strange underground “hotel" in Ireland, which the in-patient residents there call “Hell," and for much of the book it remains an open question whose worldview is actually the correct one: Olivia, who believes she is a vampiric fallen angel, or Dominic, who believes they are both, clinically speaking, batshit crazy.
I liked it when this subtext began to emerge, the possibility that everything we’ve been told so far (by Olivia) has been a delusion on her part. But there are long stretches of the book that are just... WTF and why do I care?
As I said above, I usually could care less for romances, paranormal or otherwise, but I’ll admit Dominic and Olivia have chemistry (even if the sparks between them do seem to ignite rather quickly) and inasmuch as I can be moved by steamy scenes, there are some steamy ones here. If that’s your thing, you might consider this book worth reading for that alone. This brings me to the other virtue and flaw of the book: Skyler White’s prose.
White has a way with words. Her style is lush and descriptive, and sometimes she writes a very nice turn of phrase or some really witty dialog.
Tattooists are the new priests for the fucked-up and the thrown away. They speak the language of symbol, and administer penance in tiny metallic lashes.
"Kiss him, but don't dare ask for what I need. Sounds like every marriage I have ever seen."
"When you're quite done gazing about you in delight and surprise like fucking Harry Potter, you might help me up. Or maybe you'd like to kick me again?"
She also writes a lot of sophomoric purple prose, and some really amateurish crap that an editor should have caught. You could play a drinking game with the number of times Olivia refers to Dominic's "copper head." And dialog is always being marked with “use-any-word-but-’said’" clunkers, like this atrocity:
"I said it was my fondest desire," Dominic struggled to joke, "not my only one."
"There's something about you I don't understand," the dark beauty mused, "and it's been bothering me since I met you."
It made me wonder why no one ever sent White to the Turkey City Lexicon.
The ending was a fairly predictable (though confusing) resolution. It was okay, I guess, since by that point I wasn't really expecting anything novel or brilliant, but it made me groan a bit.
Hot or Not? This book was not for me, but if you're a fan of paranormal romances... well, who am I kidding? I have no idea what you see in it, so I don't know if you'll like this one. Don’t buy this book if you’re primarily looking for fallen angels, vampires, urban fantasy, or steampunk. I liked parts of it. I’m not sorry I read it, but I doubt I’d read a sequel. All things considered, it seems like a good book to buy as a used paperback a few years from now for trashy beach reading.