"One thing that they don't tell you is that fires can't burn bright forever."
All the reviews for this book are like "OMG, I'm a blubbering mess." and "OMG, don't read any spoilers.".
So yeah, you REALLY shouldn't read any spoilers and just go along for the ride.
But there are two things that I just want to point out anyway:
1. TJ Klune has always been a great writer, but he outdid himself with this one. The writing quality is excellent, and given the heaviness of the story, it was beautiful, tasteful and one of the best-written books I've ever read.
2. Since everyone is recommending to avoid spoilers at any costs and go in blindly, I still feel like this book could have used a trigger warning, given the main target of M/M readers:
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Trigger warning: abduction of a family member, with no final conclusion or explanation to the disappearance or the whereabouts
So while a romance this is NOT, the writing and the revelation of bits of information a little at a time totally worked for me. This has been one of the darkest and most depressing books I've ever read. But I'm glad that I did, because not everything in life is just rainbows, kittens and sunshine.
Oh, and just to be clear: there's a tentative HFN, so this can still be considered as a romance. Though just barely.
Thanks to Elsbeth and Cinna MMon for the BR.
"Sky took my hand, opening my mind. I saw what he saw through small brown fox eyes. I saw that every single person had at least one good quality, and you could love that good one or hate the bad ones instead, but the choice was yours."
I'm afraid that this was the weakest book in the series for me. While I am still torn about the sudden paranormal shift which has been introduced out of the blue in the previous book, Rafael's psychic abilities approached absurd territory here and became more than a little ridiculous. I mean, am I really supposed to believe that he and his sister Mary can agree to meet up in their dreams where they can have full-on conversations?
What was even weirder was Mary's sudden urge to take out a blood law on Skylar's father (no spoiler, it's in the blurb). Where was that storyline in Looks Over? What makes this so bizarre was that Skylar wasn't kept in the dark about Mary's plans, but he fully knew about them. And yet this has never been mentioned in the second book WHEN WE WERE IN HIS HEAD.
All in all, I still liked the writing and the characters well enough to give this book 4 stars. Because I still love Rafael and Skylar and all of their family and friends. But the story hasn't really worked for me in the last two books. I'm worried about where this series is going, and I'm wondering if it's really for the best to retell the whole series through Rafael's POV when it changes the initial tone of the first books that much.
"I was seventeen years old. I thought about sex every five seconds."
~ Rafael, mentioning sex for the very first time EVER in 6 books. And also for the last time. ~
"I'd lived my whole life in the dark until I met the boy who blanketed the earth in his name."
This is the fifth book in the Gives Light series and a re-telling of the first one, only this time from Rafael's POV.
Now if you've been following my reviews, you already know that I've been DYING to read Rafael's story and to finally see Skylar through his eyes. And I wasn't disappointed. (Ok, maybe a little bit, but more about that later.)
It was so wonderful to see how Rafael's self-loathing at the beginning changed at the very moment that Skylar stepped into his life. How Rafael's view of the world, a world that for him only consisted of darkness, gloom and misery, turned bright and colorful, step by step, thanks to Skylar and his "light". Rafael's journey of self-acceptance, and his will to become a better person because he desperately wanted to be a better person, a person who's worth of Skylar's friendship and love, was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be and more.
And while this book covers the same storyline as the first one in the series, there are more than enough differences to keep this from just being a re-narration. Nothing here felt repetitive or redundant; it was a whole new story with a completely different feel to it.
HOWEVER (I always seem to have an "however" issue with this series), even after I finished the book, I'm still conflicted on how to feel about the inclusion of the paranormal element that was introduced here all of a sudden and out of the blue.
While I was reading the first 4 books, I just LOVED the idea that Rafael was able to understand and communicate with Skylar only by paying attention to his body language and his facial expressions. But now in this 5th book, the story unexpectedly shifts to supernatural territory. It turns out that Rafael actually CAN see people’s auras and literally feel their feelings just by touching them. He hears Skylar's thoughts clearly in his mind and the two of them actually have these full-on conversations, even without looking at each other. It was like Rafael suddenly became some sort of mind reader or something.
I have to be honest, Rafael's sudden psychic ability threw me off. And as strange as it sounds, but the inclusion of "magic" actually made the romance anticlimactically less magical for me. I still don't know if this series benefited from this paranormal component or not; but as for myself, I would have preferred to keep this universe realistic, without any paranormal or mystical component to it. I never really got over that shift during the course of the whole book.
But Rose Christo's prose was just as beautiful as always, and even though I always seem to find fault with every book in this series that prevents me from giving them a full 5 star-rating, I think a constant 4.5 star-rating is nothing to sneeze at.
"So this is what it feels like to be a father. To be responsible for another human life. To love someone so much, you almost can't stand it; and when you think about it, there's nothing you want in return.
It feels amazing."
This book was basically a big epilogue for the first 3 books in the series. It is set 15 (!) years after the last volume, with the former late teens Skylar and Rafael now being two adults in their early 30s. They're happily married, Skylar got his voice back and is finally able to talk (like Rafael promised him he would), and now they're trying to adopt a foster kid. All's well that ends well. Yay!
Fun fact #724 about me: I don't really like kids in my books. More often than not, they unbalance the relationship of the MCs and everything starts revolving around them, while the romance takes a backseat.
Thankfully, that was not the case here. I liked bratty little Michaela well enough that she didn't ruin Skylar and Rafael's relationship for me. Phew! Close call.
However, I did have an issue with this book. A HUGE one.
Like I said, the story takes place 15 years after the third book. And a lot has happened during that time. Things that are only mentioned in passing or as a footnote.
LIKE SKYLAR AND RAFAEL GETTING MARRIED.
LIKE SKYLAR, WHO HAS BEEN MUTE FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES, GETTING HIS VOICE BACK THANKS TO RAFAEL.
LIKE SKYLAR'S GRANDMOTHER PASSING AWAY.
Not gonna lie, this was more than a little disappointing and frustrating.
Because there was so much left to love here. It was really nice and touching to see Skylar and Rafael and all their friends as adults. And to see that their love has stayed so strong over the years was nothing but sweet and satisfying. And I liked both main storylines with Michaela/Mickey and Skylar's father.
But I can't help but feel like I missed some of the most important bits of Sky and Rafael's life, and that leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in my mouth.
Thankfully, I also can't help but give this book another 4.5-star rating. Because the writing was STILL so goddamn excellent, and all characters were STILL so completely and utterly lovable. Damn you, Rose Christo, for being so goddamn talented and for giving me all the feelz. How could I ever be mad at you?
PS: That twist at 91%? Shocking and awesome AF! I never saw it coming.