A fallen angel is doomed to watch the girl he loves die only to be reincarnated over and over again, never consciously remembering him or their shared past. Such is the intriguing premise of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series. Lucinda “Luce” Price finds herself in an antebellum reform school where she is almost too miserable to notice that there’s something odd and familiar about her fellow students, particularly the hot-and-cold Daniel.
I don’t remember whether someone I know recommended this book to me or if I had read something good about it somewhere (it was probably the latter during the promotion leading up to the release of the second book in this series). Either way, the premise was enough to catch my attention and I’m sorry to say, I found the premise to be the only truly compelling thing about this book. The writing was annoyingly repetitive and the plot was comprised of a whole lot of nothing incidents. Even when something did happen (like the mysterious and deadly fire in the library), it didn’t feel like anything was happening (if there was a sense of urgency or excitement to those scenes, it wasn’t enough to register with me).
The novel is told in the third person but focuses on the ignorant Luce which severely limits the narrative. I think that the reader is meant to be enlightened along with Luce but there are two issues I have with this tactic: 1) Luce, though proclaimed to be highly intelligent, takes forever to piece things together and even once she does, she fails to adjust her behavior appropriately; 2) there aren’t enough answers given for anything more than the vaguest outline of a higher form or structure to take shape (though there are meant to be several more books in the series so I can’t fault Kate too much for not giving everything up in the first novel).
If the novel had been written in the first person, there would at least be an excuse for the repetitive and simple nature of much of the writing (it’s a weak and tired excuse, but it would be a plausible reason). But is wasn’t, so there is no reason why the same adjectives should be used for every aspect of the bleak reform school. For the dialogue, yes, keep it sounding like a teenager might have written it, but for the exposition, for the real prose, use this as an opportunity to increase the vocabulary of the intended teen audience. It has been proven possible for something that’s well written to appeal to a younger audience.
I’m not sure the writing would have been so noticeable or irritating (at least to me) if the pacing had been better. Most of the novel felt like fumbling around in the dark and then there was a nightlight turned on at the very end. What I would have like to see is some more background information given to the reader, not necessarily to Luce, so that I could feel something for the character other than frustration and annoyance. Even if the novel had just been structured differently, it could have been more compelling. All of the “action” is compressed into about two chapters at the end. If little snippets of those chapters had been interspersed through the rest of the novel, it would have created that air of mystery and held the readers’ attention better.
The good news is that there was enough to the “action” that I have a spark of hope for Torment, the recently released second novel in this series. I have hope that there will be more substance now that Kate’s premise and characters have been established. I have hope that with experience, her writing will grow in style and execution and that someone will get her a thesaurus. I have hope that a premise that seemed so promising, still has a chance to reach its full potential.