I’ve grown sick of paranormal romances that I’ve stayed away from them for some time now. It just seems like the same old broody plot with flawless characters–especially vampires. Man, those vampires.
But I wanted to read And Falling, Fly by Skyler White precisely because of my aversion to the same-ol’-schtick. Because this novel presents a fresh reworking of the entire mythos, and even pits it against modern medicine, and a lot of skepticism.
In a dark and seedy underground of burned-out rock stars and angels-turned- vampires, a revolutionary neuroscientist and a fallen angel must put medicine against mythology in an attempt to erase their tortured pasts… but at what price?
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’Otel Mathillide-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.
In this fractures Hotel of the Damned, Olivia and Dominic discover the only force consistent in their opposing realities is the deep, erotic gravity between them. Bound to each other finally in a knot of interwoven freedoms, Dominic and Olivia-the vision-touched scientist and the earth-bound angel, reborn and undead-encounter the mystery of love and find it is both fall… and flight.
Cramming together fallen angels, Desire, and vampirism, it’s a darker, grittier and more philosophical approach to the vampire trope. Think Anne Rice when she wasn’t so hokey. It’s a vampire mythos that goes back to the Fall, and our heroine Olivia is as bad-ass and lonely as they come, our reluctant (in many ways) hero is cool and freckly and dorky with a lot of baggage. That’s what happens when you pit a fallen angel who wants to go back to heaven, and a neuroscientist who refuses to believe he’s supernatural (then again, maybe he isn’t!).
There I was, completely hooked by the mythos and Olivia’s lifestyle–when Dominic and his theories come in. With Dominic’s proposal of his counterargument–that vampirism are delusions, and can be “cured” by medicine, medicine that he’s striving to create–anyway, his counterarguments throw everything out of whack. Everything has to be looked at twice. And with the story told in alternating POV–first person for Olivia, and third person for Dominic–there’s a lot of clashing in my head.
For example, after the part where D. poses his side–in a fund proposal–the chapter where we refocus on Olivia: the vampires are now overwrought. Badass Olivia had become theatrical. Her world, and how she saw it, had become dubious. The lyricism with which she had described her existence was now overdramatic. I’d been so eager to be drawn into the muthos, eager to explore more of it and immerse myself in it for the rest of the book–but Dominic’s side had me hyper aware of the flaws in Olivia’s life(style).
And then something happens to Dominic, or Olivia becomes privy to knowledge about Dominic, and the whole thing happens all over again, but, well, with Dominic this time. He’s got some supernatural inside him too, even though he struggles to dismiss this as a mental illness. Who do I believe? That was awesome.
The book’s divided between two unreliable narrators, then. The dissatisfied immortal and the hardnosed scientist. The lovely immortal who may just be delusional and the hardnosed scientist who stubbornly refuses to accept that some things just cannot be explained.Their lives pit their arguments against each other. The action of one could confirm or disprove the other’s. It’s a tug-of-war of beliefs, and not just within the book; the reader’s pulled into the fray, and is occasionally pressured to take sides.
Halfway through, however, it was apparent that White had stepped into dangerous waters of Too Much Ambiguity. The book was failing to live up to its promise, buckling under the weight of that awesome premise. At times it was tedious, and then it would descend into the pits of ridiculousness. [Case in point: we never see these vampires/angels in action. In their supernatural glory. Sure, we see it c/o Olivia–but it is through her, and we’ve all talked about how unreliable she is. When there’s cause for Dominic to witness Olivia’s powers, she goes on and on about “Oh, I could use my super-strength to do this, but that might scare Dominic so I better not.” Countless of times. Almost all the damned time. And when Dominic does witness somethiung, it’s in the aftermath of head trauma, or drugs. I mean, come on.]
See, Too Much Ambiguity is when the reader’s been refused to access the story. In this book, when things are divulged, whatever it is isn’t ever clear. There’s always a catch, or the next page gives you reason to be suspicious of the revelation.
It was great in the first part–the hooks, the hinting, the debates. But I want some resolution. I want answers to the questions the story had raised. Never good when you beguile the reader with awesome things–and now that I’d read more, don’t you owe me a fulfilment of those promises? Even just a little bit?
That’s mainly why I felt this book inevitably fell apart for me.
One blogger [I can’t remember who you are, and I tried looking for you, but you’ve disappeared] mentioned that readers who’d whine about the ambiguity in this book “just didn’t get it.” Well, I respectfully disagree–
It isn’t the failure of the reader, but the failure of the narrative. It was the lack of smooth storytelling. It was the story intent on not trusting the reader with its secret. See, I didn’t want this book to be predictable–but I wanted it to be reliable.
I do hope Skyler White’s following novels would live up to the promises they make. Because her language is lush, and the very existence of that reworked mythos deserves applause. I just wish I was satisfied, ya know? As I wrote in my little red Moley, “Man, you could’ve been an awesome book.”
PS – I seriously have a crush on that Olivia on the cover.