Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
The plot is rather simple. Luce gets sent to a boarding school, when a boy she likes, dies under mysterious circumstances that implicate her. At Sword and Cross school, Luce meets Daniel – a boy that she can’t help but feel she already knows. She gravitates towards him and he oscillates between cruelty and kindness.
My main issue with the plot is that there’s not enough in the book to bite into. You have Luce – the heroine that I don’t particularly like – whose whole story revolves around Daniel. You have the introduction of a love triangle when she meets Cam. You have allies in the form of Penn and Arriane and a kind-of-antagonist in the form of Gabbe.
The story would benefit from a three-act structure:
- a beginning in which the set-up and the characters are introduced;
- a middle where Luce faces a series of obstacles, each greater than the last and;
- an ending that packs enough punch where Luce must deal with a final confrontation or face something that will change things.
Instead, Luce acts as a beacon that satelites around Daniel. Her struggles are undermined by this obliviousness to everything else when he’s around.
Luce’s thought process don’t make sense a lot of the time. After she has been touched by the shadows, there is a weak rationalisation:
“That was impossible–she’d just been standing in a weird place; a draft must have shot through the gymnasium.” (136)
Really? I’m not buying what you’re selling (unfortunately, I’ve already spent seven quid on the book).
At another point, Cam is sipping coffee when previously, there’s no mention of where he gets coffee from. you’d think there’d be some mention of it seeing as how we get pages and pages of tedious description but no. Cam pulls his coffee out of thin air. There’s problems also with the transitioning of the relationship between Daniel and Luce. I find Daniel’s responses a bit clunky and jarring at times, especially when he accuses her of being a stalker. Daniel is portrayed as this elegant, beautiful boy with a way with words and he comes across as the complete opposite in some of these interactions. I’m also confused with how Cam gets a driver and a black sedan to pick Luce up and bring her to an obscure and seedy bar. The ending is satisfying but that’s only if you manage to get through the first 300 pages.
The third-person narration is quite distant and the lengthy descriptions further distance us rather than anchor us in the scene. The narrative detail is told rather than shown. The story would have benefitted from more dramatisation compared with the lengthy, run-on-forever paragraphs. If you look at Michael Grant’s writing style, he filters in detail into dialogue, body language – the small details that help build a scene and a world instead of bombarding us with chunks of description. There is many a clunky sentence structure in the piece. These sentences aren’t gramatically incorrect but they are difficult to get your head around:
“Which didn’t make sense, because a gorgeous and friendly guy was standing right behind her, asking her what she’d like to drink. The other gorgeous, infinitely less friendly guy sitting across from her should not be the one she couldn’t stop looking at.” (117)
The third-person narration distances the reader also with the word choice: “moniker”(60/67) / “powwow” (66) – have girls ever used this in conversation? I hope not!/”Daniel could be with whomever he wanted” (134) – why not just say whoever?
The word choice clashes with the character we’re getting to know and it seems that author wants us to know what a broad vocabulary she has rather than helping us to understand her character and strengthen her narrative voice.
As far as character is concerned, I don’t compare about any of them except for Arriane. Anything that happens to Arriane piques my interest:
“”It’s detention,” Arriane said flatly. You have to pair up. Do you think Roland and Chester the Molester are friends?” She pointed at Roland and Cam.” (91)
The other characters could die in a horrific explosion and I’d probably still have a more emotional reaction if I discovered my Corn Flakes went mushy in my milk. The distant narration doesn’t help. The lengthy descriptions take us away from the characters. The flashbacks pull us out of the scene and do little to reinforce character.
Penn is fine as the mousy, book type. Roland is an interesting character in that, you don’t quite know where he stands. Callie as the over-the-top BFF – even though we only gets glimmers of her throughout the story – is credible. Luce is about as interesting as a whitewash wall. Daniel acts as a mirror in which we catch glimpses of her character.
I’m especially surprised that her character is so weak when the narration style follows her every move. I feel like Kate could have done more with Daniel’s character. He reminds me of a doughy cookie before it’s been baked and rises – he’s a cut-out and until he rises, he won’t become a fully-realised, three-dimensional character. Arriane steals every scene she’s in and she reveals just how weak and under-developed many of the characters are.
Quality of Writing:
The technique just wasn’t her in this book. At best, it’s middle-of-the-road. The descriptions run on for far too long. I feel like there could be more variation in the sentence structure. At times, I suspect it may be an attempt on the author’s part to show us all the words that she knows when it doesn’t fit in with the sentence, the scene or reflect on the character.
I get a sense of place but this is overshadowed by the over-detailing of each scene -with both character and setting. Information overload.
Compared to Hush Hush, Fitzpatrick’s characters are more interesting than what Kate has to offer, her scene description is significantly less over-egged and her in-the-moment scenes draw you in more than any conflict scene in Fallen. There’s nothing really new here. Arriane is a fresh character to the genre but that’s about it. There’s nothing special about the narrative voice, the location or the characters. L.A. Weatherly puts a new spin on the “angel” motif which is definitely worth a read.
Get your reading fix elsewhere.
Books You May Also Like:
The Immortals by Alyson Noel – Noel’s protagonist can see auras, infusing her narrative style with something extra
Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick– great world building and fast-paced action scenes
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia – believable Southern setting and a story about the good and evil that fights within us
Angel by L.A. Weatherly – new spin on a popularised motif and fast-paced plot