Release Day Review: Falling Into the Black, by Caitlin Ricci
Every aspasian at Asiq adores the handsome peacekeeper Resan—all except for Arin. While the other workers vie for Resan’s attention, Arin avoids him at all costs, which rouses Resan’s suspicion. When he discovers Arin is a runaway slave, Resan is bound by law to return him to his master. It is only later that Resan realizes what he’s done. Arin’s owner bought him at twelve, married him, and not only violated Arin himself, but loaned him out to his friends. Resan has returned him to a life of rape and abuse, and now he must make a decision: free Arin and abandon the oaths he swore as a peacekeeper, or leave him to languish and abandon his own conscience and heart.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
I'll admit, I re-read the first two books before starting this, mainly because of that over-excess repetition and explanation of previous events that just slightly dimmed book 2. However, there were no such problems here. Though they have to be read in order, this one could much more easily be read on it's own, but it would definitely make the reader want to go back and read the previous two books. And, I'm hoping that my theory that Descani, the Catcha, might be our next lead is right? Or maybe someone from Zion? I hope so anyway, because I'm so addicted that I never want this series to end.
Once again, characterisation is everything. The characters are vivid, realistic and reltable as well as a little out there, due to the whole 'fantasy' aspect. Resan and Arin were both introduced to us briefly in book 2, the peacekeeper and the shy aspasian but what they became in this book was so much more!
Resan was a bit of a d*ck at times, quite honestly, being completely obtuse and oblivious while making stupid mistakes that got people hurt. But, at the same time, Ricci gave us this incredible exploration of his mental state with the dual POV – the first in the series to do so – that allowed us to properly understand his motivations and the struggle he had with his conscience vs his job as peacekeeper. So, yeah, he did stupid things and was a tool, but he grew like nothing on earth, soaring out over these touching moments with Arin until he became this giant reincarnation of who he'd once been. It was beautiful to watch.
Arin, as well, had such a transformation. From the shy, brief viewing we had of him in book 2, I was intrigued but didn't know what to make of him. When we see his POV, we know there's a dark past there (which we're told about in the blurb) but we can also see that he's doing his damndest to cover it up with false confidence. He has a swagger about him when he's got that false mask on and a natural feistiness that comes out around Resan that made him so interesting to read. Yet, when he opened up about his past and we discovered what he'd been through, my heart broke for this bruised and battered child that lay within him. Albeit a child with a deep mistrust and a jaded, dark view of the world.
The journey that these two travel on together is not your quintissential love story. In fact, it's got more romance in the subtlety and the carefulness of the friendship and trust they build with one another than in any physical act they share. Because these two aren't about climbing all over each other in a million positions. They're about the emotional connection that two people can unwittingly make when they place their lives in each other's hands and make a concerted effort to look past the masks and the barriers we instinctively put up to protect ourselves.
I really, really loved getting to see my favourites again! Corbin and Em were just as great, Monroe was just as moody as before but fun too, but for me the biggest excitement came from seeing Thierry again, for real, on page. It was amazing to have him back, because even though I read all three of these books within two days, I'd so missed him taking centrestage. Oh, and I loved Corbin having the guts to slap Resan when he needed it. I was right there with him.
I love that we got to see so much of Asiq as well as the surrounding planets, through Resan and Arin's travels. It was a nice nod to the fact that the series revolves around Asiq, but it also gives a nice nod to Thierry's travels, his experiences and the fact that Ricci always manages to divide the story between at least two main locations, so that it's not all happening in one place. In book 1 it was the Academy and Asiq, then book 2 took us between Asiq, Corbin's home station and the Setina system. Here, we get to travel to a lot more places and each one is as brilliantly written as the next, giving us a sense of space and scenery without eliminating the reasons for being there or overdoing the description.
The whole slavery issue hit me hard. I knew it was coming from the blurb, but I wasn't really prepared for how I'd feel reading it all in 1st person, within Arin's POV. The way he was drugged and raped repeatedly, not only by his 'Master' but by anyone his Master sold him to for a few hours, was sickening but also blessedly not explicitly on page. The implications were enough to give me chills. For a child to be mentally abused, sedated, shared and tormented on top of the rape for so many years just made me marvel at how strong Arin was to have survived it all and to be as strong as he was. Everything about his situation, from the age it began, how it started and how twisted his Master was to find a way around the laws for slavery, using a loophole against him, made me want to reach through the page and do some serious damage. In fact, I'm pretty sure Resan said it best:
Honestly, the first 50% were, for me, the WHY to the entire story. It was the reason that things ended the way they did and the reason that Resen and Arin were so good together. It was the reason for everything. The second 50% was the HOW. When it all began to come together and form something so much more than what either of the characters could see for themselves.
Truthfully, this was part of the reason I fell so much harder in love with Thierry than ever. He was the only one to see what was happening between Arin and Resen, before anyone else even thought to suspect anything. As smart and perceptive as clever, his part in this story just made me want to scream with joy to have him back in a real, solid role.
There was never a 'predictable' moment where I exactly what was going to happen, but neither Resen or Arin were predictable people. They were the most unusual, interesting characters with a strangely detached emotional charisma that, at first, convinced me that they couldn't possibly work as a couple. Then, after all that growing and the journey they went on, it all began to make sense. Still, it's not your typical hearts-and-roses relationship. This is far deeper and more complex than that.
I love that there's nothing conventional about any of these couples. Book 1 offered us distance, a sort of insta-love that made sense and was still heartwarming, while Book 2 offered the complex problem of having two incompatible lifestyles in people who were mad about each other. This book offers us the compromise beyond book 2; the possibility of struggling to maintain the status quo even if that means accepting things as not being a problem, only to later realise that had they gone down that road, they would both have been miserable. It was so well done and both possibilities well explored.
Overall, it was another fantastic installment of the series and I can't say much more. It left me speechless and wanting more, but also unable to tell you all the amazing things I loved about it without spoiling the really good parts.
Brilliantly plotted, beautifully written and with characters that jump off the page to grab you by the heart and drag you into their world, I couldn't have asked for more. Except maybe another in the series.
Some of these would be huge spoilers, so I've cut out the worst parts and left the most haunting, beautiful pieces. There were too many to include them all, but these ones all touched me in a way that I just have no words to explain.
“I needed to live long enough to be able to have a night without him in my thoughts.”
“I'd been an aspasian once. I'd had choices once. I'd had friends, and I'd enjoyed sex for the first time in my life in Asiq. Bowman had been able to erase all of that so quickly.”
“Eventually either he will die or I will, and then it will be over for me.”
“My body is no longer my own. It's just a thing, and I have no more modesty.”
“If a man rapes a boy, he'll be charged. If a man rapes a slave, no one cares. The slave puts up with it because they know eventually their service will be over. If a man marries his slave to keep him as his property forever and then rapes him nearly every day for years, no one cares until that slave gets away.”