Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1792-1804 Paris, Bois de Valmy, Malta, and Egypt (but mainly Paris)
***I received an eARC copy of Where the Light Falls from the publisher, The Dial Press, via NetGalley***
Review: A perfectly fine historical fiction piece that takes place during the French Revolution. Too many battle scenes for my taste, but there’s a good story here, one that picked up at about the 40% mark.
Where the Light Falls starts out with a prologue in which a main character’s father is beheaded. The scene was so very reminiscent of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that I fully expected Madame Defarge to appear from the shadows. As the Reign of Terror continues, we are drawn into the lives of Jean-Luc St Clair, a lawyer who fights for justice; his wife Marie; and also Andre Valiere: the son of the man beheaded in the prologue, who is fighting at Bois de Valmy, and is an aristocrat who has renounced his title. Andre falls in love with Sophie de Vincennes, the niece of a dangerously powerful man, Murat. How Jean-Luc’s and Andre’s stories intertwine I won’t spoil here, but I did enjoy reading historical fiction that focused more on the men’s stories. So many times in historical fiction we read primarily from the women’s point of view, (or that may just be the books I gravitate towards), so this book felt refreshing to me in that it pretty much just focused on the men. The women are there, but you don’t see things from their perspective like you do Jean-Luc and Andre. The one downside for this perspective for me is that Andre is a soldier, so there are many battle scenes that I personally didn’t care to read about, so this was disappointing to me. I don’t care for reading battle scenes because I can never follow the action. I get overwhelmed with all the stabbing, blood, and different characters that appear, so I get confused and have trouble following what is going on. I also have this problem with heavy action books as well.
In terms of the historical aspect of the book, I thought it was done very well. It wasn’t as heavy in the history as I expected, there weren’t any large “info dump” sections. The way the history was presented was easy to follow and interesting, but the book as a whole took me to at least the 40% mark before the characters and plots started coming together and clicking for me.
In terms of the characters, I enjoyed Christophe Kellerman, Andre’s battle leader at Bois de Valmy, and I enjoyed all of the main characters (Andre, Jean-Luc, Marie, and Sophie). The villains are your everyday bad men, I kept waiting for one of them to start twirling a mustache, as they were very much your generic bad guy.
All in all, this was a fine historical fiction book. One in which I learned a bit while reading, but not one that I’ll think about for too long after.
Bottom Line: Too many battle scenes for me, but Where the Light Falls is historical fiction worth a read if you’re interested in the time frame.
Does this sound like interesting historical fiction? Have you read other books set during this time period? Can any book set during the French Revolution compare to A Tale of Two Cities?