As a psychiatrist and prior EMT, I view the world and people from many perspectives. I’ve chatted with thousands who hear voices and see things that no one else can.
I’ve listened to stories of what one person can do to another so horrific they make any kind of dystopic fantasy pale in the face of human reality. I’ve witnessed and been the first on the scene of fatal and near-fatal accidents. I’ve delivered a baby in the back of an ambulance and whispered words of comfort to more than one person as they took their last breath. And through all these lenses and all these memories, I sit down every morning with a cat demanding to be petted and I write. It’s everything from textbooks, to murder mysteries and thrillers, to my Caleb James fantasy novels, where I give myself permission to follow Alice and jump down the rabbit hole.
As Exile, the second novel in the Haffling Trilogy with DSP Publications heads toward publication and I put the finishing touches on a solid first draft of the third, entitled Hound, I get to step back and look at what I’ve created. Sure, it’s high fantasy, but it’s rooted in real experiences and lessons I’ve lived and learned through the years. It’s fun to write this stuff, where you must keep it both real and unreal at the same time.
In this trilogy my characters bounce between the human world and the worlds of the fey as well as a misty dimension that keeps things separate. It’s like a sandwich, with our reality as one piece of bread, the mist in the middle, and the fey world—the Unsee−as the second slice. Each dimension has its own set of rules, and travel between worlds is perilous and carries a terrible cost.
In Exile I drop the physically beautiful but emotionally and morally damaged Liam—a minor and not nice character in Haffling, the first novel−into a Lower East Side building engulfed in flames. As the cat’s paw of a despotic fairy queen whom he has betrayed, Liam assumes a fiery death is his just reward. In what he believes are his last moments, he reviews his life and his actions. He finds them wanting.
And then an ogre with an ax—at least that’s what he thinks—crashes through the door and hauls his naked ass out a six-floor window. Which brings us to chapter three, and an action-packed story that carries a central theme of redemption. This book allows me to ask the question, “Can the leopard change its spots?” My personal view is that we are all works in progress. Liam gets to show us in a big way the transformative powers of acceptance, forgiveness, and love. We can’t change our pasts or undo the bad things that have happened, or that we’ve done, but every moment we’re alive carries hope and possibility.
If I’ve achieved my goal as a storyteller, you too can fall down the rabbit hole into a lush and action-packed world where some heroes are born and others, like Liam, are made.
Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.
Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.
As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.
As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—hat even the most wicked are not beyond redemption and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.
Review by Elaine White
Book – Exile (Haffling #2)
Author – Caleb James
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 236
Cover – Great!
POV – 3rd person, Omni, multi-POV
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Fey, Romance
I loved Book 1 in the Haffling series. I was hesitant about entering book 2’s world because I liked Liam but wasn’t sure how his story would unfold, after the events of book 1.
I was NOT disappointed. If possible, book 2 was even better than book 2.
First off, let me go through the POV system with you, because at first, it’s a little confusing. With book 1 being 1st person, I assumed that this book would be the same, which was part of the reason I was so unsure about how it would read. However, the entirety of book 2 is in 3rd person, with multiple POV’s. But, in this case, the multiple POV’s are vitally important. Here’s how it works:
Prologue – we begin with the Prologue in the salamander’s POV (May)
Chapter 1- next up, we get Liam’s story, as he wakes up in the middle of a fire (as we’re told in the blurb) and realises that May is trying to kill him. Then, enter the “ogre” with an ax – our firefighter, Charlie.
Chapter 2 – begins the dual POV between Liam and Charlie, which are the most prominent POV’s of the entire book.
Chapter 3 – this is where the omnipresent POV begins. Before this, it was a straight one character 3rd person POV, but I think this was deliberate, as neither character knew each other and using omni would take away some of the mystery of their first POV’s.
Chapter 4 – enter Flora, Charlie’s grandmother. She has a very important part in the overall story and provides much-needed information that helps Charlie, so her POV is very important.
Chapter 6 – we get to see Alice’s POV. Also vitally important to the understanding of the plot and the experiences that follow, her POV provides so much information that we, the readers, need.
So, there you have it: May, Liam, Charlie, Flora and Alice all in a progressively omnipresent POV. Now, I know it looks confusing, but by the time I’d reached Chapter 6, I understood the need for all of the separate POV’s and the reason for the omnipresence. If the story had stuck to single person POV, it would have been twice the size and us readers would have had to read one event in sometimes multiple POV’s and the repetition would have killed me. I much prefer the sense of omnipresent, letting us see how two or three individuals feel about the same situation, without becoming repetitive. For instances, in one chapter, within Charlie’s POV for the whole chapter, we get glimmers of Alex, Jerod, Nimby and Liam’s thoughts. These are important, but also minor and make more sense slipped into the current POV.
I really loved Liam in book 1, but in this one, we really got to see just how amazing he was. Flirts, sullen and mysterious in book 1, book 2 compounded on this by making him vulnerable, sweet and confused.
The first moment I really knew he’d changed was when he curled up in the bath and thought he was going to die, rather than go back to serving May. Then he saved the Chihuahua dog and became the Naked Chihuahua Guy on YouTube and he just became utterly adorable. As terrified as he was that he was going to die, that his life was over and that he thought he was the lowest creature in the universe, he still stopped to use what little magic he had – his glimmer – to convince the dog to go with him and live another day. Adorable!
When Charlie entered the story, it was a great new addition to the series. To see an adult, with his own life, his own rules, and a family to back him up, he had a whole lot more freedom and less to hold him back when Liam came onto the scene and complicated his life. And, although he questioned his sanity somewhat when he found out about the Fey and Liam, he had a historical background within his family that explained it all so well that there was no reason for him not to believe it.
I absolutely loved seeing Alex, Jerod, Nimby and Alice back again. It was really cute to see their romance still alive and to know that they were all still as strong together as a family as ever.
Flora was a hoot. She was entertaining, fun and shook things up a little, with her total scepticism about Liam. She had experience with the Fey and instantly distrusted him while keeping an open mind enough to learn about May and what she was up to.
It was fantastic to see that all the old rules still applied, but that Liam really didn’t have to live by them anymore because he was in the See, not the Unsee. Watching him navigate his way through conversations with regular humans who had no hesitation over asking a million questions was exciting and lovely. The way he reacted was so sweet and naïve, so innocent in so many ways, that it rejuvenated the character of Liam from the hard, frosty pawn that he’d come across in book 1.
I loved Liam’s innocence and the way that he gradually learned that questions weren’t going to get him hurt and that he wouldn’t be punished for asking questions of his own. To see him navigating the See world was just so sweet; the way he got to see and learn that people could be kind and giving without expecting anything in return and that questions didn’t equal pain. Even the simple things, like calling fire engines metal dragons and small rectangles for mobile phones were so sweet.
This story is a lot less YA, because it does mention sex, but not in an explicit way. As two grown men, it makes a whole lot of sense that their relationship extended beyond the flirtations and seduction of Alex and Jerod’s relationship.
Seeing Lizbeta in this book was fantastic because we’ve now seen all three of the sisters and we got to see the extent of her powers and what she’s capable of. Her part – and her sister’s parts – in the future book(s) will be very interesting.
At the same time, it was interesting to see the way Alex and Jerod began the story so prejudiced against Liam, for his past deeds. Yet knowing how evil May is and her power over the Fey world, I’m surprised they continued to believe him to be pure evil. As Liam grew and the story unfolded, it was really beautiful and incredible to see the way they changed their thinking and began to realise so much more than what they’d known before.
The entire book was a whirlwind of emotions, adventure, and excitement. There wasn’t one thing I didn’t love, from the incredibly diverse characterisation, the attention to detail that linked both books together and offered hints to the overall big reveal at the end, to the amazing chemistry between the main characters.
This book was nothing short of another piece of amazingly talented writing from Caleb James.
I can’t wait for book 3 when the whole gang get back together again.
“No, Charlie. Your gran knows. She will tell you it’s for the best. I’m not good.” Liam winced at the effect the words had. Now was no time for kindness. If he were ever going to do one right thing, it had to be now, and it would have to hurt. He averted his gaze and spoke. “May killed my parents and raised me a whore. That’s what you see. I am a vicious thing, unworthy of your affections. I will leave now and never forget your kindness. But trust me in this. I am not good, Charlie. Not for you…not for anyone.””
“He thought back through last night, Charlie’s hand in his as they’d walked along the shore before going upstairs. Charlie had stayed true to his word – damn him – of just one kiss. But that walk, gentle waves and sand beneath their feet, hands connected, and the moon’s silver light across the water. He replayed each moment, and when they’d finally gone up to his little house, and he’d turned the sofa into a bed. What sweet agony, lying there, knowing Charlie was just feet away in his own bed. Just one kiss.”
Meet Caleb James/Charles Atkins
Caleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.