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Torment – Lauren Kate (sequel to Fallen)

Fallen, the first book in Lauren Kate’s series, ticked all the boxes for YA paranormal romance: mysterious hot guys, shadowy threats, doomed love and a gothic setting.

The first novel introduced the main characters and enough background to set the scene for a far broader story in the next instalment. By the end of Fallen, I was hoping Kate would further explore the concept of fated love in future books – particularly the role of personal choice.

While it took me a while to get into Torment (although it might have made a difference if I’d re-read Fallen first), I was happy to discover the notions of fate and choice emerge as being central themes.

Quick catch up: Teenager Luce is one half of a couple doomed to fall in love over and over again – and each time she must die. And each time, Luce has no idea what’s happened in the past, or what’s ahead. That burden is carried by Daniel, her fallen angel lover, who’s incapable of preventing her death.

Except in Fallen, Luce didn’t die, which seems to have sparked a huge celestial battle (the details of which remain frustratingly murky in the second book).

Luce is now in another boarding school – this one supposedly able to keep her safe during a short truce between angels and demons, who have joined forces to fight common enemies intent on getting their hands on her (for purposes also not clear).

Daniel’s all business this time around, which frustrates Luce no end. He might remember their hundreds of other relationships during her past lives, but she doesn’t, and at one point she actually asks herself that if this life was all she had to go on, would it be enough. The answer is no, and it raises a few questions for her. (OK, so Luce doesn’t wrestle with deep existential questions, but she does at least think beyond her hormones)

So, instead of giving us fated lovers who are torn apart by circumstance, Kate gives us fated lovers whose circumstance prompts at least one half of the couple to ask: is being destined for each other enough to make up for the pain their cursed love causes others (and themselves)?

It’s actually a refreshing take on the topic, particularly in the YA genre.

I like the ambiguity in Torment. Sure, Luce will probably end up with Daniel at the end of this series but at this point there’s still some question about his motives, which keeps it interesting. (And I know I’ll always cheer the bad boys, but how much more interesting is Cam than any other romantic interest in Luce’s life?)

The ending got a tad crowded with characters, and a bit more exposition on the mythology would have been handy, but ultimately, Torment delivered more than I expected – which is always a good thing.

Hush, hush – Becca Fitzpatrick

If fallen angels are the next big thing in urban fantasy, then Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush sets an impressive benchmark in the sub-genre.

As a first-time novelist, Fitzpatrick absolutely nails the right mix of suspense, romance, action and killer dialogue in this fast-paced page-turner.

Quick synopsis: Nora’s a smart teenage girl known for her common sense, but when newcomer Patch hones in on her, she’s equal parts attracted and repelled by his sexually charged attention.

But when it becomes obvious someone’s stalking her – possibly with murderous intentions – Nora starts to wonder whether she should be paying attention to the darkness she often feels in Patch’s presence.

In Patch, Fitzpatrick has created a deliciously complex and ambiguous character. He’s no chivalrous, sensitive suitor. He’s a bad boy with a penchant for sly innuendo and unsociable behaviour, and relies on sensuality over charm.

Nora, too, is a likable character: she’s smart, self-effacing (minus any cloying false modesty) and honest about her attraction to Patch despite the danger he poses.

But Hush Hush is about more than dangerous (read: sexy) romance: it’s also a gripping thriller, with plenty of mystery and misdirection. There are murder suspects, stalkers, and attackers in ski masks – any or all of whom may or may not be Patch.

The fabulous cover leaves no doubt this is a story about fallen angels, but while Fitzpatrick unfolds her angelic mythology through the story, it’s far from predictable.

In fact, one of the things that makes Hush Hush so compelling is not knowing whether Patch is good or bad – and it takes almost the entire novel to find out.

A confession: I read Hush Hush in a day – something I haven’t done in a very long time (and I read a lot!). I’m even seriously contemplating re-reading it again straight away, to track the clever plot threads Fitzpatrick has so adeptly woven through this book (something I’ve never done).

A quick check of Becca Fitzpatrick’s website as reassured me there is more to come in this story. And that makes me almost embarrassingly happy.

Becca Fitzpatrick talks about Hush, Hush:

Fallen – Lauren Kate

It seems it’s all about fallen angels at the moment, and one of the most prominent recent releases is the dark and atmospheric Fallen, by Lauren Kate.

Like Hush Hush (see review), it’s got an evocative cover, but while there are similarities between the two novels, it’s not fair to compare them as each has its own rhythm, style and intent.

Quick synopsis: When troubled Luce is sent to a bleak reform school, she’s immediately drawn to Daniel, convinced she knows him from somewhere. The handsome stranger acts indifferent to her, but it’s clear he’s hiding something. But Luce is also grappling with dark shadows that have haunted her for years, and which seem to be growing in strength since her arrival at the gothic reform school.

It’s not giving too much away to say that Luce is one half of a couple doomed to fall in love over and over again – and each time she must die. And each time, Luce has no idea what’s happened in the past, or what’s ahead. That burden is carried by her celestial lover, who’s incapable of preventing her death.

Fallen has one of my least favourite plot devices – the love triangle – but by the end of the book it’s clear there’s much more to this one than meets the eye.

(And the idea of fated love – whether it’s doomed or not – to me raises the question of the value of falling for someone you were destined to be with. Where does choice and free will come into it? I’m hoping Kate tackles this theme in future instalments.)

There are plenty of mysteries, morally ambiguous characters and red herrings throughout Fallen. In this first instalment of a planned series (Torment is due out in September), some of the big questions are answered, but even more are raised.

Fallen is a compelling read. It starts in the claustrophobic world of the reform school, and ends with a violent celestial battle in a cemetery. But all of this seems to be merely setting the scene for a story of far broader scope.

The proof of how well Lauren Kate unravels her gothic mystery will be in future books… which I’m looking forward to reading.