When I Fall

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Title: When I Fall
Author: Belinda McBride
Cover Artist: P.L. Nunn
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy Link: When I Fall (An Uncommon Whore)
Genre: M/M science fiction romance
Length: Novel
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review:
The sequel to An Uncommon Whore is darker than the first book and lacks the engaging narrator of Helios but is still a very good read.

THE BLURB

As king, Helios Dayspring is desperate to secure the future of his people and their new homeworld. His lost memories are slowly returning, bringing with them danger and betrayal.

As the king’s consort, Griffin Hawke wrestles with growing isolation from his lover. When Helios’s secrets begin to come to light, Griffin finds that he barely recognizes him anymore. And Griffin is haunted by his own secrets, nightmares that bring torture and death in his sleep.

Surrounded by enemies and allies, seductive aliens and dangerous operatives, Helios and Griffin find themselves tested to their physical and moral limits. Not knowing who to trust, they can only turn to each other.

Will you be there to catch me when I fall?

THE REVIEW

When I Fall is the sequel to An Uncommon Whore which I liked a great deal and reviewed here.  That previous book had been taken from the first person point of view of Pasha/Helios and I found him to be a very sympathetic narrator.  When I Fall has a change in narrative and is taken from the first person viewpoint of Griffin, Helios’ rescuer and later lover.  The story picks up a little while after the end of the previous book.  Helios is now established king on Neo Domus, ruling over the band of displaced refugees who have found a new home on the planet.  Griffin is Helios’ personal guard and consort, a position which he enjoys on the whole but which has its limitations in that Griffin is not privy to many of the state secrets that Helios has to keep. It’s this which is starting to cause a rift between them as the strong and protective Griffin finds himself shut out.

The story is essentially divided into two halves. The first half, set on Neo Domus is full of political wrangling and Helios’ struggles with power over the council.  As the story is from Griffin’s point of view, and because he is excluded from some of the things that happen, it was, for me the weakest part of the book.  Griffin spends most of the time mooching about feeling sorry for himself because Helios is keeping secrets and no longer needs to rely on Griffin quite so much.  Gradually we learn some of these secrets but I couldn’t help but get the impression that this section would have had more dramatic impact if taken from Helios’ point of view. I wanted to know his thoughts and feelings about being in power, and his frustrations and sadness over his deteriorating relations with Griffin. As it is we only get everything second hand when Helios chooses to tell Griffin. The rest of the time we are subject to Griffin’s sulking insecurity about his place in Helios’ life.

The second half of the story takes place on another planet as Helios make an important diplomatic visit to secure allies for Neo Domus.  Here the action and tension of the book is ramped up as Helios and Griffin are under constant threat.  This allowed for less of the self-absorption from Griffin and more positive action.  We are introduced to a few new species and whilst there was still some political wrangling and arguments, this was broken up by some exciting action scenes. It was in this half where Griffin and Helios begin to resolve some of their differences, narrowing the gap that had begun to widen in their relationship.  It was interesting to see how the power dynamics shifted and also how the secrets between them were used to strengthen rather than weaken the relationship.

Another aspect of the book which I found very interesting was the way in which it dealt with the trauma of the past war on the Arashan people.  Some readers may not like some of the more brutal descriptions of what happened when the planet was invaded by the Landaun, but I thought it added a realistic note to the lives of these displaced people who are still recovering from the terrible things that happened to them. We get more insight into Griffin and his family, especially his wife, as a result of this dwelling on the past and some of the parts where we see the effect on Griffin’s children in particular were poignant.

Despite my misgivings about the first half of the book the writing is still beautifully done. The descriptions of Neo Domus were vivid and brought the place to life in my mind.  The author also has a poetic way of writing at times which lifted this story from the ordinary. In particular I liked this passage where Griffin reflects on his and Helios’ differing personalities:

Helios sat down next to me, sharing the silence like the gift it was. The snow came down heavier; tree limbs bent under its weight, until the springy branches finally bowed enough to rid themselves of the burden, then sprang up to collect it again. That was Helios. He bent under his troubles, then finally let them slip away. I was more like the giant hardwoods of Arash; they would split and crack under the burden of the snow. It was a lesson I would take to heart. I wanted to be more like him.

It was passages like this and the descriptions of the setting which added to my enjoyment of this book.

Overall, I very much liked When I Fall, perhaps not as much as the first book in terms of character, but it was certainly a book with more depth and richness of setting than An Uncommon Whore. For those who have read the first book this is a must-read, but I do suggest that you read An Uncommon Whore first to really understand some of the background to this sequel.

15 thoughts on “When I Fall

  1. AndyB

    Thanks for the review, Jenre. I really enjoyed the first book and I love good writing, so I’m putting this one on my TBR list. :smile: (PS-I love these Halloween smiley guys!)

    1. Jenre Post author

      You’re welcome, Andy. This book is well worth putting out the money for, especially if you’re a fan of the first book :D.

  2. larissa

    Awesome review! The first book was awesome, which is the reason i got this, but I still want to re-read the first book before starting this one. There are so many books in between reading ‘An Uncommon Whore’ and this one that I need to refresh a bit.

    1. Jenre Post author

      Thanks, Larissa :). I re-read An Uncommon Whore before I read this sequel to refresh my memory of the events in the first book. I liked it just as much the second time around :D.

  3. sfrizell

    Am happy to see that the sequel wasn’t a flop. I’ve been watching and waiting for it to come out and was hopeful it was comparable to the first. :wave:

  4. hannah

    I was just looking at this book and cover at loose-id’s website. I havent read the 1st one, but I will check it out.
    Thanks for your review.

    1. Jenre Post author

      Hi Hannah

      You’re welcome :). The first book is a must read. The covers for both are very distinctive. I love PL Nunn’s artwork.

  5. jeayci

    Great review, Jenre! I also had trouble getting into the first half, but stuck with it and loved the second half almost as much as the first book.

    In addition to what you mentioned, part of what made the beginning so difficult for me was that I’d just re-read An Uncommon Whore, so it was glaringly obvious to me that Maia and Lauren had swapped characters. In the first book, Maia is blonde while Lauren is the image of Grif and also scarred. In the second, suddenly Lauren is the scar-free blonde and Maia is the mini-Grif. :blink: :???:

    I had to go back and find the description in the first book to be sure, because that seemed too bizarre to have not been caught in edits. So I think my reading was more cautious for a while after that, leery of what else might trip me up. But it won me over by the end, and now I’m looking forward to reading more about Markus and Caius. :smile:

    1. Jenre Post author

      Hi Jeayci

      I completely missed that switch with Griffin’s daughters and I did re-read the first book directly before I read this! Possibly because for me the kids aren’t the focus of the first story so I didn’t pay much attention to them. It’s only in the second book that their characters become more important and even then I kept getting confused over which one had the scar. Oh dear, that’s a bad continuity error.

      I’m looking forward to seeing what has happened with Markus too :).

    2. Belinda McBride

      Awww…you caught me! We’re working on the re-format right now. It was a glaring error and managed to slip by many readers.

      I think we get so close to the book during edits what we belabor little things (what exactly IS the plural of Somian?) and then we totally miss something big like this.

      Anyhow, thanks for catching it and for your kind words!

      1. jeayci

        Oh, I so understand how focusing on the little things can cause you to miss the more obvious things. I’m just glad to know I didn’t imagine it, as I thought maybe I was going crazy (it’d be a short trip). :smile:

  6. Reggie

    Hi Jenre!

    I bought both these books after reading your review. Really liked them.

    I was glad to have been warned of the POV change. I wasn’t caught off guard by it. Given the character arch I can see why it was necessary. The second book was about the loneliness of leadership and the sacrifices of their partner.

    The ending was abrupt for me emotionally. I mean it was appropriate but I like to see more wrestling with the solution. I lived through wrestling with the problem I need more than one scene to get grounded in the solution. This is just a personal preference of mine though.

    I will definitely be looking at this writer in the future. One of the better scify/fantasy books I’ve read.

    Thanks for the review and the rec!

    1. Jenre Post author

      You’re welcome Reggie :). I see what you mean about the point of view change. I think I was so taken by Helios in the first book that I was a little disappointed not to have his thoughts again in the second.

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