Welcome back to and Blue Skies from Pain by Stina Leicht. We last left our half-fey hero, Liam Kelly, on the run from the church, the fallen, and the IRA, including one of them wanting to recruit him again. Amidst it all, he might have killed Father Murray, his mentor and friend, and is haunted by a ghost eager to torment and murder him.
Knowing he’s being watched, Liam goes to a pay phone to call Father Murray’s parish house, praying he’s not dead. Through Father Thomas on the other end of the line, he learns that Father Murray is in the hospital but will indeed live. Father Thomas also warns Liam to lay low because some in the church intend to assassinate him.
As part of his laying low strategy, Liam searches for a place to stay for the night. In the process, the ghost of Haddock, the investigator Liam killed in the previous book, Of Blood and Honey, plays rough with Liam, shoving him into the street and offering to smother him in his sleep. When Liam spots a punk on the street, he follows him onto a bus and gets invited into the group and to a party that night held in East Belfast, the wealthy Protestant district where Liam would normally never dare go.
Reader Comments: I love how Leicht adds complexity to her books. It isn’t just about one or even two many threats or plot layers. Much like real life, Liam is dealing with so much, and it never seems to end. At each turn, there is danger and, on occasion, relief. It makes for a very rich story.
Writer Comments: In this chapter, Leicht tackles one of the small of deceptively big problems a writer can face: how to introduce several named characters at once. On the bus, Liam meets five punks he feels kinship to. Normally, five new characters, especially named characters, in a single scene is a massive amount for a reader to hold onto. Often, people might recommend cutting down the number of characters to decrease confusion. However, in my opinion, this can lead to unbelievability if taken too far. After all, Leicht needs a larger group to give the sense of community she lets Liam glimpse. These punks must feel real and dynamic, which is difficult to do with one or two. One punk would seem like he would either be Liam’s new friend or an enemy, one too easily polarized in either Liam or the reader’s mind. Two punks would make Liam the third wheel. Three could appear like a pairing and a spare that Liam ought to connect with, relieving them, perhaps, of their third wheel status. However, Leicht chooses to five (Paul, Conor, Skinny Pete, Mark, and Alice). Leicht introduces them through dialogue, just as Liam would learn their names. She stays with each just long enough to establish them as characters. The danger with using so many new named characters all at once is that they easily blur into one another, but if one needs to use so many, the way Leicht handles it is a good example. Give each distinguishing elements of speech and/or appearance, and keep them all somewhat involved in the scene so that they do not simply fade into the scenery.
Liam accompanies the group of punks to a party that night at Daft Kevin’s, where he figures he will be least likely caught. After all, if you’re a catholic fleeing a murder scene and the IRA, what better place to hide than right in the middle of Loyalist territory?
At the party, Liam finds himself crammed and on the verge of snapping. He’s unaccustomed to the press and far too accustomed to getting attacked. Conor takes him out back for a breather and asks after his past when he sees Liam’s lighter with its tricolor symbol that Mary Kate gave him. Liam confesses only to having once been political but having given it up. While they talk, Paul runs over to tell them that Skinny Pete is getting beaten up down the street. Liam goes to help, but Conor first makes him take his coat after he smears blood on the sleeve and murmurs something in Latin. Liam jumps in to save Skinny Pete, is helped by Eirnin, a girl he saw at the party, and gets shot. His fae father and uncle show up then and take him away.
Reader Comments: Hmm, I wonder if Eirnin is a potential future love interest. Leicht introducers her with a few hints in that direction, and she is clearly known among the fey. Not that Liam would “betray” Mary Kate anytime soon, but it could be an interesting development.
Writer Comments: What is the true test of a hero? No matter the circumstances, no matter how well or little he knows someone, he will do the right thing. Liam knows practically nothing about Skinny Pete. Helping him holds far greater danger than avoiding getting involved, yet Liam rushes to the punk’s aid at the risk of his own life. Further, Liam goes out of his way to protect the punks from the war he got dragged into. He makes a conscious decision to protect these kids’ right to live their own lives separate, as much as possible, from their parents’ religious war. Every hero needs these moments to reassure the reader that he is truly worthy of affection.