by Michelle Ristuccia
Impact Velocity, the third in The Physics of Falling trilogy by Leah Petersen, takes us back into Jake’s life five years after the birth of his daughter, Molly, and his adoption of then two-year-old Owen Blaine, now seven. After a moving opening and transition showing the ups and downs of Jake’s life as the emperor’s husband and the father of two children, Leah Petersen blows us away with a death that drives Jake and his family underground.
One of the impressive aspects of The Physics of Falling is the way that Petersen takes us through most of Jake’s life, spanning decades between his teenage self, marriage, and parenthood. Because of this, each book has a different feel reflecting Jake’s increasing maturity and shifting perspective, from slum rat to scientist to emperor’s husband. Yet through it all, Jacob Dawes retains his identity as a scientist and reveals himself a man who cares deeply about his loved ones, enough to painstakingly teach himself how to live better for and with them. This is what makes the series an astoundingly successful romance, with a follow-through and time span often lacking in the romance genre.
Character development and descriptions of trauma, including post-traumatic, also help make The Physics of Falling an exceptional trilogy. It may seem as if no trigger is left untouched in these heart-wrenching pages, so readers beware. Petersen also explores the better side of emotions, from pure joy to bittersweet nostalgia, with equal eloquence. Each chapter of Impact Velocity is headed by a recollection, such as a journal entry or instant message exchange, many of which highlight the depth of Pete and Jake’s relationship and relevant events from the previous novels.
Yet what impressed me the most was the presence and importance of children in Impact Velocity. The Physics of Falling is even more of a hard science fiction trilogy as a romance, and here again it departs from genre tropes by including parenthood and children. Molly, who was carried by a surrogate for Pete and Jake, is a fierce 5-year-old who looks out for her older brother Owen as much as he protects her. Owen, for his part, is Jake’s adopted son, whose birth father and villain Duke Blaine plays a vital role in the novel along with Owen. Unlike most genre novels, the children are neither the main characters nor play things of casual mention, but rather play proper roles as secondary characters with appropriate power and scope for their age. And most importantly, even when they are not in the room, they are always on Jake’s mind, their very existence affecting his ever decision to the point where he will even consider working with Owen’s father to protect Owen.
Lastly, Duke Blaine himself deserves a mention, since he was a principal villain in the previous book and plays an intriguing, inextricable role in Impact Velocity. In Cascade Effect, Duke Blaine came up against Jake because he took offense at Jake’s lowly birth and marriage to the emperor. In Impact Velocity, Duke Blaine must face evidence of the illogic of social stratification first hand as well as fallout from his actions in the previous book. While I wouldn’t exactly call him a good guy, the Duke definitely brings moral ambiguity to the plot as he represents the larger societal prejudice that Jake and Pete strive to improve, and another villain rises above Blaine as the uniting antagonist of the novel.
The Physics of Falling is an amazing trilogy that no science fiction fan should miss. Leah Petersen delivers on romance, character development, plot and political scheming, and love of science – in no particular order. Each novel is as strong as the first and each offers a different flavor while presenting united themes and plotlines. Leah Petersen has earned my trust as a novelist and I would gladly pick up whatever she comes up with next, even if it be outside my comfort zone, as was a homosexual romance when I started reading Fighting Gravity. Come for the m/m romance or the strong science fiction, and leave with the full plate of a well executed series.
Purchase Fighting Gravity, Cascade Effect, and Impact Velocity by following the links on Leah Petersen’s website:
You can also read my review of Fighting Gravity, Cascade Effect and interview with Leah Petersen from 2012.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best motivation. You can find out more about her rabid love of SFF, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, http://wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com , or twitter stalk her at http://twitter.com/ mrsmica