As readers might know, I’ve been on a bit of a Beauty and the Beast marathon of late. While this pleases my inner BatB fanatic to no end, it also comes with the unfortunate side effect that I am inevitably bound to draw comparisons among them. In the case of Firelight, the contrast actually works in its favor, for Callihan works with the tale in a way which, while not entirely unique, nevertheless offers a fresh flavor to the classic story.
Firelight is very much an historical paranormal romance. To be honest, at first I was
somewhat thrown by how erotic this story is. Only a few pages into the prologue and the characters are already having some decidedly non-innocent reactions to each other. Overall, Callihan does well to keep the romantic tension simmering without going overboard. Miranda and Archer have chemistry in spades, and their interactions were some of the best in the genre I’ve come across recently. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Miranda was no shrinking violet of a beauty. She consistently holds her own, with Archer and with all those who try to cross her, and her strength was a welcome thing to behold in a genre that seems to be replete with wilting wisps of heroines. Unfortunately, that attribute also wound up being one of the things I disliked about the novel, both because I find such headstrong heroines difficult to relate to and because, aside from her superficial beauty, I found little to suggest that she was a reincarnation of the Beauty from the well-known tale. I think perhaps Callihan wished to meld both beauty and beastliness into her female character, yet she fails in her task if she thought to make Miranda part Beast simply by giving her a potentially deadly power.
Though I enjoyed Miranda and Archer’s interactions, the entire novel felt half-done, as if every third chapter had been lost in a mad rush to the printers. Thus, while I wanted to be sold on their romance, I felt there simply wasn’t enough development early on to draw me in. This flaw pained me more so than usual since I could see the potential in this story; had Callihan added an extra hundred pages, I would have been all onboard. This potential bled through to the twist on Archer’s Beastly affliction, which was telegraphed a little too early, yet at least lent an interesting twist to the standard formula.
To be sure, lack of character development early on wasn’t the only fault in this novel. Archer’s disfigurement, while novel, appears somewhat superficial when compared to the moral the original fairy tale attempted to convey. The villain was obvious and drawn in shades of black-and-white, while the resolution was impossibly neat and tidy. Still, I look forward to reading the next in the series and applaud Callihan for offering something new to the Beauty and the Beast retelling mix.