My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m wondering why it took me so long to read Kristen Callihan’s “Firelight” – the first book in her “Darkest London” series. It’s easily one of the best gothic adult paranormal/supernatural novels I’ve read in quite some time, and interestingly enough has quite a convincing romantic story within it. I didn’t expect to get sucked into this darker backdrop of Victorian London, and charmed into learning the story of Lady Miranda and Lord Archer’s respective meetings and coming together as the story moved forward. There’s much for me to say in this review, so allow me to hop into it straightaway following a brief recap.
Lady Miranda and Lord Archer both have their fair share of secrets. Miranda has had a hidden ability she’s tried to hide since she was younger. Lord Archer also has a secret that forces him to hide his disfigured face from the world around him, and it doesn’t help that his temper flares into measures that make him an isolated and infamous figure in his community. Fate would have these two meeting once in a brief encounter, only to reunite three years later when Miranda is betrothed to him. I was surprised to be taken in with this story that blends romance, mystery, suspense, and murder with supernatural leanings (the latter aspect is a bit of a slower burner, but certainly worth seeing through until the end.)
I was really surprised by how strong both Lady Miranda and Lord Archer’s came across in the novel. They’re both dynamic, well rounded characters with humorous tinges (their back and forth banter is certainly worth noting), and the collective cast of colorful characters and sharp villains frame the backdrop of this story very well.
Lady Miranda is witty, passionate, assertive and a character that drew me into her plight through the novel, as well as allowed me to see her respective struggles between her affections for Archer, her horror with the events occurring around her – particularly the murderer that sets to frame Archer for wrongdoing, and her ability to step up to the plate when she as well as her loved ones are threatened.
Lord Archer is a tormented hero who is surprisingly charming and likable in spite of his flaws. I think when all was considered, he made the novel that much more enjoyable because of his respective development and the delving into his thoughts and discoveries when he’s framed for a series of murders occurring around London. The murder mystery is certainly dark and grisly, with plenty of action and encounters that have the two leading characters in peril, but there’s also enough chemistry between the leading characters to satiate those who lean more towards the romantic aspects. I will say that some of the love scenes trip over their feet a bit, but I wasn’t bothered by that ultimately as the novel went onward.
This is very much a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with some odes to other tales I recognized, but ultimately, it sets itself apart by not only providing focus to the dark setting but also steadily building upon its supernatural elements until the ultimate climax, which I found very engaging and kept me guessing and eager in reading until the end. I would certainly like to read more in this respective series, and learn a bit more about some of the characters that were introduced in this story as their tales are developed in future installments. I would definitely recommend “Firelight” to those that want a refreshing paranormal/supernatural romantic read with gothic elements and a dark backdrop.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Grand Central Publishing.