Author Caleb James has released his sequel to Haffling and it was more than worth the wait! Before I begin my review it is best to note that these books must be read in order and the second installment, Exile, picks up pretty much on the heels of its predecessor. Also without the wealth of background information given in the first, Exile will simply leave the reader lost as to the intricate relationship between the two worlds this author has so cleverly and painstakingly created. And finally, my review will contain a few spoilers for those of you who choose to read it before reading Haffling. Let’s venture into this amazing sequel now and highlight a few of the many reasons I feel that this novel was actually even better than the first.
First a very brief summary: In the first book, we have been made aware of the vicious and evil Queen May who strengthens her own powers by literally eating her own kind—the sidhe or fey people of the Unsee world that coexists with that of the world we humans know as the See. While she has been held in check by her two sisters, once she learns of the hafflings, Alex Summer and his sister, Alice, she makes it her business to possess him in an attempt to take over both worlds. But as you will recall, one of her minions, Liam, was sent to seduce Alex’s boyfriend in the first book and failed, leaving Alex and his boyfriend, Jared, even closer than before. It also seemed to spell the end for May—but the first novel left us with a virtual cliffhanger, knowing that she was indeed still alive and hell bent on getting her revenge. We were also privy to the fact that on earth, Alex’s mother who seemed undeniably mad was actually also alive in the Unsee world and not only sane, but along with Alex and his sister, has a third child named Adam—also a Haffling like his siblings.
This is where the second story begins, with a naked, frightened Liam under siege in a desolate New York apartment building that is alight with fairy fire sent by May to destroy Liam for failing to seduce Jared and escaping into the human world. Having very little knowledge of this world, Liam is terrified when a firefighter, Charlie Fitzgerald, uses an axe to break down the door and rescue him. While Liam may have lost the physical characteristics of a fairy (no pointy teeth or ears) when he crossed over, he can still glamour humans and fears he has done such a thing when Charlie seems instantly smitten with him.
Meanwhile, Charlie takes the confused young man to his Grandmother’s home for the night—for Liam has no where else to go and refuses to go to the hospital. It is then that Charlie is introduced to the fairy world for the first time by his grandmother Flora, who immediately recognizes Liam for what he is—the Queen’s whore and plaything. While Liam tries to assure her that he means no harm and is, in fact, attempting to escape May’s clutches, Flora is having none of it and knows that fairies are tricksters who often bring death and unhappiness with them. But Liam and Charlie have forged a connection beyond simple glamouring and when Liam returns to the fairy world only to find that May is growing stronger and cannot be held in check by her sister any longer, he must return to the human world and do everything he can to save it before it is too late.
Once again I must apologize for distilling down this story to such a simple summary when there is so much more here than one can do justice to in a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that the focus is now on Charlie and Liam, even while Alex, Alice, and Jared still play critical roles in this installment and these two are absolutely captivating. Their interactions are both beautiful and tender in so many ways and you watch the transformation of Liam, who has been dealt the harshest of lives under May’s evil hand, and cannot help but cheer him on as he stumbles his way into Charlie’s heart. The action in this one is intense and never ending. While there are still trips between the two worlds, they are done seamlessly and one never feels lost or confused by the different worlds or creatures that inhabit them both. The story is tightly woven and with the introduction of new characters, the novel takes on epic proportions while never feeling too big or rambling. The writing is clear, focused and packs a punch.
Once again, author Caleb James establishes his fairy world with exacting patience and incredible detail, painting pictures with his words that arouse the most vivid of pictures in the reader’s imagination. His heroes, Liam and Charlie, are the painfully flawed and yet incredibly brave and selfless. I was held enthralled by this story, reading it in one sitting, and left eager for the next one in the series to see just where this talented writer will take us next. Caleb James has arrived—and his work is more polished, fascinating and truly top notch. I highly recommend Exile to you—it is a paranormal fantasy novel you will not want to miss.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.