February Book Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

(I would like to say that no books were harmed in the reading of this novel, but as you can see, the great big tear dissecting the spine of my copy attests to quite the opposite. I have my younger clumsy self to thank for it. Any kind of damage to a book makes me want to weep in a dark corner, so this makes me very, very sad).

In case you didn’t know, this novel has actually been turned into a film adaptation starring Addison Timlin, Jeremy Irvine, and Harrison Gilbertson. (You can watch the trailer here à https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuCkCc7tRn4&t=4s). I think the film looks really great, and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen when it’s finally released, but as of right now, the release dates for different countries still require confirmation. Obviously some details have to be whittled out when a book becomes a screenplay, but I have to say that this adaptation looks like it stays pretty faithful to Lauren’s original narrative, which is always a bonus for the original fans.

In preparation for the film, I decided to revisit the novel by going back to where it all started. I first read this novel when I was still in high school, roughly seven or eight years ago now – which seems absolutely mental. I still remember where I read it – on the sofa, curled up with our Christmas lights twinkling around me in the living room. It was miserable outside, so I felt all cosy and warm with my book, reading all about the mysterious and intriguing happenings at Sword & Cross academy. Back then I absolutely fell in love with the book. There was something about the creepy setting and the complete mystery of the narrative that drew me in and captured me, so much so that it gave me chills.

Returning to the story and to the characters now, though, I was surprised to find that my reading of the story was an entirely different experience. I still felt a certain kind of appreciation for everything I’d fallen in love with the first time around – the setting, the characters, the plot twists – but I found the writing style slightly less satisfying. I think this is most likely because the books are much different to the ones I read in high school. Now, especially after studying Literature at university, I find that my reading list is far more varied and diverse. This is a good thing, but it also means that the books I grew up with don’t hold the same magic they did the first time around, which is sad, but true.

Still, Fallen remains a fun and arresting read, and I think this has a lot to do with the timeless love story that lays at the heart of the narrative. It still provided me with a perfectly good way in to the story. I love that the reader is kept in suspense right up until the final chapters when the climax starts to hit. The end scene is probably one of the most poignant and effective scenes in terms of description. I love the way the mood is conveyed, and I especially liked the final image of the girl sleeping fitfully, dreaming of wings as two angels shake hands in the rafters. Not a lot is revealed or even said in terms of dialogue in this scene, but for me it’s still one of the best scenes in the book because of the simplicity of it. If you strip it down to the basics, it’s three characters in a room, but it’s the description that packs a punch and delivers a wonderful end to an interesting novel that remains with you long after you turn the last page.

As the reader, I think we often share Luce’s frustration because none of the others, particularly Daniel, will tell her anything. They feed her certain details, but not the whole truth. From a practical angle, that keeps the readers hooked and ensures that they will follow the narrative to the end to find out what’s really going on, and I think this works well for the novel. Personally, I’m not a big fan of third person narratives because I always feel too distanced from the protagonist. The reader doesn’t become as immersed in the character’s inner monologue, instead we just get fed their thoughts and emotions through the narrative voice. However, I suppose it does allow for Daniel’s point of view to come in right at the end, so I think it’s probably the best choice for this story.

As I previously mentioned, the setting was the thing that struck me the most during my first encounter with Lauren’s novel. I loved the eerie darkness of Sword & Cross, the mystery and isolation and almost gothic feel to the whole book. I don’t think I ever got that from any other book until I read Lauren’s novel, and I think that’s by far one of its strongest selling points. In a way, the setting is almost like another character with its dark shadows.

So, to conclude, if you’ve been on the lookout for a romantic novel filled with suspense and plot twists and haunting landscapes, Fallen ticks all those boxes and plenty more. Romance novels can quite often feel like knock-offs of other great love stories: clichéd and regurgitated, but Lauren manages to explore something very original in a very beautiful way, and I think that’s why I was so eager to revisit the book again. The novel forms a kind of bildungsroman, as many young adult novels do, and offers lots of relevant themes for younger readers to immerse themselves in: love, friendship, identity struggles, dealing with guilt…I could go on, but I won’t. Instead, I suggest you read the book too. You won’t regret it.

 

March Book Review: Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

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