Author: Lauren Kate
Reader: Justine Eyre
Publisher: Listening Library
Final Verdict: 1 out of 5. Contrary to the “Guide to the Final Verdict” sidebar, I was not so much ENRAGED by Fallen as disappointed. I found it to be frustratingly bland and insubstantial, and its primary conflict—Luce’s longing to kiss the inaccessible Daniel Grigori—uninteresting. The suspense of the story is not so much relieved by the ending as put on hold—true, there are three more books to anticipate, but the ending left me neither satisfied nor interested in continuing the series. The novel introduces heavy topics—student deaths, familial estrangement, to name two—but does little with them. The romance overwhelms every aspect of the story, and it reduces its heavier issues to the backdrop of a love story that is justified by fate and peopled by characters it is a difficult to care about.
The following review contains spoilers for true natures and tragic back stories.
Lucinda Price is haunted by shadows that no one else can see. She has suffered the rounds of psychologists and medication, but nothing can drive the shadows away. And when, through their agency, Luce is implicated in the death of a fellow student, Luce cannot confess to them—and so in silence, she is exiled to reform school.
It is here, at Sword and Cross, that she meets Daniel Grigori, a handsome boy who takes an immediate dislike to her. Luce is simultaneously bewildered and intrigued by his aversion, and as the weeks pass, her attraction grows—she cannot escape him, either in life or in her thoughts. And neither, it appears, can he escape her.
Luce feels that she recognizes Daniel. But she cannot place him, and Daniel denies any prior connection—though as his dislike melts, and he surrenders to her persistence, he displays an uncanny familiarity with the things she loves—things she has told no one at her reform school about. Too many people at Sword and Cross, Luce starts to realize, are more familiar with her than she is with herself. And too many object to her attraction to Daniel—as if its doom is fated.
What is Daniel’s secret? And who is she? Obsessed with questions, Luce begins a desperate search for answers. A search that, as the true faces of things begin to reveal themselves to her, could end in her death.
The thing that most disappointed me about Fallen is that I have read this story before, under different titles and by different authors. I have seen Lucinda Price, called Luce, before: her name was Bella Swan. I have seen the boy with whom she is besotted, Daniel Grigori: his name was Edward Cullen.
Literature, true, could be called the vast recycling bin of ideas. Stories are always being retold; characters are always being re-imagined. I live for the retellings, the re-imaginings: they’re like a great, never-ending conversation. But when a story treads the well-worn path of its predecessors so closely that it cannot be distinguished from them, that’s when my disappointment kicks in.
Fallen is Twilight, set in the heat of Georgia, [SPOILERS] overrun by fallen angels instead of glittering vampires. This isn’t necessarily bad, but neither is it especially stimulating. Daniel Grigori’s angelic nature has no real affect on his character. He is the hot and brooding and utterly unattainable—except, not—kind of boy whose presence is a staple of YA romance. Little distinguishes him from his Byronic brethren; he simply has wings instead of fangs/leather pants/inherited wealth/tragic past/etc. [/END SPOILERS]
This same reality applies to Luce, the designated heroine. Luce—according to herself—“… spent three years on a full academic scholarship at the best college prep school in the country”. She maintained a 4.0 GPA, “know[s] Latin and French, and in middle school… won the science fair three years in a row.” She “… do[es] the Sunday crossword puzzle, sometimes in under an hour,” and someday, she’s going to be a psychiatrist, “who actually listens to her patients and helps people.”
Unfortunately, the person Luce is describing bears little resemblance to the character we have been following for the past fifteen chapters. Ever since she set foot in Sword and Cross and discovered that there are cute guys in reform school and wow, exile doesn’t look so hopeless after all, Luce has been preoccupied. There’s a hottie with green eyes inviting her to his room. A golden-skinned Adonis flipping her off. Reform school is going to be a feast—which guy should she choose?
Again, Luce’s preoccupation isn’t necessarily bad. The unfortunate thing is that she is meant to be more. She’s meant to be seen as highly intelligent and highly motivated. But within the context of this story, she is not. She does not act like a conscientious and driven student, who thinks about other things besides her crushes. Her prowess is in the mouths of her teacher and admirers, not in her actions. TV Tropes calls this Informed Ability.
I wanted to be fair. I thought the beginning of Fallen was promising, and was ready to like Luce, before she decided that being flipped off was some primitive form of a pick-up line. Before she laid eyes on Adonis, called Daniel, Luce showed promise as an individual. She was haunted by an ugly past—sensational, yes, [SPOILERS] but here was the thing. She’d burned a boy to death and didn’t remember doing it. Her parents were afraid of her and she wasn’t comfortable with the girl she saw in the mirror. [/END SPOILERS] Already, there were consequences and self-doubt.
But neither was there a story. I had hoped that the romance stated on the back cover would form only a part of Luce’s struggle to come to terms with the girl (the monster?) she saw in the mirror. Her world was in disarray, and I wanted to see her put it to rights by her own effort, in a setting that was hostile to her.
But Fallen isn’t about Luce, not really. It’s about how she obsesses over Daniel, [SPOILERS]and finally discovers that her attraction to him is fated. Her love is the work of destiny and Daniel’s love for her. Not hers for him. His love damned her, and she gives way to her damnation again and again, century after century, as easily as a sandcastle.[/END SPOILERS] Luce has very little do with her own life. And this, ironically enough, is a plot point, but it isn’t explored. Luce comes to terms with her destiny in the space of a chapter and a half.
Justine Eyre’s narration keeps the story bearable. I fell into the rhythm of her voice quickly enough; she distinguishes characters without going overboard in her portrayal, and mixes in a light southern accent for several of the characters.
I personally would not recommend this story. It isn’t terrible; I simply didn’t enjoy it, and found it too derivative for my tastes. The audiobook makes for an entertaining, casual listen, and it helped my commute (and the hours I spent waiting for my classes to begin) pass more quickly.
Credit for the title goes to TV Tropes and its article “Strangled by the Red String”.