Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: The Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan

by Sara N.

When you consider picking up a new series that includes more than two books, don't you wish for some kind of guarantee that it'll be worth the time investment? I mean, what if book 1 is great, book 2 is OK, and the next five are awful? It'd be nice to know whether you should dive in or not waste your time.

Book 1, book 5, book 3, book 2. I LIKE TO KEEP YOU GUESSING, OK?
Well, consider this a strong recommendation for Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series. These historical paranormal romances are absolutely worth your valuable reading time, with each successive book contributing to Callihan's careful world building while balancing existing favorite characters with new ones. 

Each book in Callihan's Victorian-era series follows a different supernaturally gifted couple as they grapple with threats in their world — and fall in love, of course. This gives readers the best of two genres: You've got evolving storylines that run from book to book like an urban fantasy series, yet you've got new character perspectives and experiences each time like a traditional romance.

The books are full of fresh ideas for supernatural creatures and situations, a relief in a market saturated with vampires and werewolves. For example, the hero of book 1, Firelight, is always masked and is desperately in love with the fire-starter he's married. You will lose your mind trying to figure out why on the former, and you'll adore reading about the developing relationship on the latter. (Bonus points for this line from the heroine as she summons her flames: "You should be running." This is a Hellboy reference, right? It's got to be a Hellboy reference!)

Sure, there are still vampires and werewolves (hello, book 2 is called Moonglow), but Callihan plays with the typical rules in clever ways. Plus, the books have steampunk touches without trying so hard that you can feel the effort. The heroines are anachronistically feisty (this is not a complaint!), and the heroes transcend the asshole alpha tropes that run rampant in way too many supernatural romances. 

Book 4
Speaking of the romance, woof. Callihan writes some supernaturally hot sex scenes. Make that hott, with two t's. My favorite of the books, Shadowdance, has a scene of self-love that ... I just ... you will ... GUH.

OK, I'm back. There's nothing I enjoy more than "I hate you so much, why are we kissing?" romances, and Shadowdance, which follows a shapeshifter and a Ghost in the Machine, does that so, so, so, so well. 

Wait, what's a Ghost in the Machine, you ask? It's one of Callihan's creatures; GIMs are immortal and powered by clockwork hearts. Also, they can leave their bodies and travel astrally and, uh ... OK, I got the rules of all the different creatures a little muddled (and it doesn't help that I read five books in like seven days). But just shrug and go with it. 

The series is five books and two novellas long, with book six 6 out on Feb. 25. Yes, that's a reading commitment, but it's one I don't think you'll regret making. Fair warning: Callihan is a wizard at tying up the main plot points of the current book while also setting up a tease that will make you desperate for the next one. Once you start the first book, be prepared to race through them until you run out, which might happen all too quickly.
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  1. I read a sample years ago but never really got into the first book. I've been wondering for years if I made a mistake! I think I'm going to check these out.

    1. I feel that way about the Parasol Protectorate series! Didn't love the first book and bailed, but I've pondered giving the next one a shot because so many people love them.

      Anyway, I do think Darkest London just gets better and better (and weirder and richer and sexier and so forth ...). If you give them another try, you'll have to let me know what you think!

  2. Steampunk, historical, paranormal romance—categorize this book however you like, but one thing remains clear, EVERNIGHT was awesome!

  3. A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.

  4. Ember is being marketed as a prequel to Kristen Callihan’s debut novel Firelight. Ember doesn’t really feel like a prequel per se, instead it is more of a companion book that fills in some of the gaps in Firelight. As many reviewers have already said, Ember is more like the bonus and deleted scenes from Firelight.

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