Sunday, January 2, 2011

Torment by Lauren Kate

Having read the first in this series, Fallen, last year I was keen to read this sequel.

At the end of Fallen, Luce learned of the real identity of a number of her classmates at the Sword & Cross school and realised that the man she had fallen instantly and inexplicably in love with (Daniel) was an angel. She learned of his immortal status and her previous relationships with him, a relationship repeated every 17 years, as in each life a kiss with Daniel would result in her fiery doom. The story concluded with a battle between angels and demons, Luce being almost killed by an Elder, saved by angels and whisked away to safety by a mortal but angel-friendly teacher.

The prologue in Torment set some of the scene of the truce between angels and demons in order to allow both sides time to destroy other players in the game - the Outcasts (angels that were barred from entering both heaven and hell) and the Elders. Hints are given that Luce's mortality in this life (due to never having been baptised) has changed the state of play dramatically and it is imperative that she is kept safe and alive.

Chapter 1 ignored the epilogue from Fallen and started with Luce aboard a flight to California on her way to a new school - Shoreline - organised by Daniel. This turns out to be a school of 'gifted' and elite students. The gifted students in particular being nephilim - the offspring of angels and mortals who have some angelic abilities. Luce is placed in a dormitory with Shelby, an ascerbic character who I spent almost the whole book wondering if she is on the side of good or evil. A couple of bouncy girls make her feel a bit more at ease, and a boy, Miles, becomes a friend she feels she can confide in.

The book covers a period of a mere 17 days - from the beginning of the truce to the day before it ends. During this time, Luce is asked and warned to stay within the campus grounds, but irritatingly, Luce keeps endangering herself (and potentially her rescuers) as she travels away from the school a number of times.

Luce learns a little of the nephilim world and the some of the things that they can manipulate in the world around them. She sees Daniel a few times but although her heart sings at a glimpse of him, the stubborn side of her continually surfaces when she wants to know more and he won't tell her. This goes for her new angel/demon teachers too - although the demon one at least gives her a few hints.

She misses her family and her old school friend Callie and at this school there is no bar to her accessing a phone or email, yet she declines to have more than cursory contact with them during her stay which is a puzzling change from her mindset in the last book.

Thanksgiving arrives and she is surprised to be allowed home to her parents for the day - along with a host of angels, demons and nephilim, as well as her friend Callie. Word has leaked out however as to her location and a battle starts with the Outcasts who see Luce as their key back into heaven. The story concludes with Luce running away and avoiding everyone that cares for her.

Overall, I found the book very frustrating and started to wonder if the title was aptly named for the reader. So little was learned to advance the plot and add depth to the story. The characters were mostly shallow sketches and a number of them acted in ways that made little sense.

Luce repeatedly acted disappointed/upset/annoyed and frankly came across as quite bratty. She was constantly annoyed with not knowing enough about her situation yet didn't seek out the angel-teacher who had offered her help on arrival at the school, nor did she actively seek Arriane when she made an appearance back in the story to find out more. At the conclusion of Fallen, Luce was given a book by Gabe on angels/watchers that must have contained pertinent information, yet no mention is made of this at all and she even acts vague about the whole topic when talking to Daniel about it on her way to Shoreline. Was Luce so struck into immobility in the days between her rescue and her setting off to Shoreline that she couldn't open a book? One must assume so. She continues throughout the book as needing everything spelled out letter by letter for her, otherwise she becomes despondent and annoyed and almost a damsel in distress (yet annoyed by being rescued and treated as such).

She latches on to one lesson - that about the Announcers (or shadows) and learns to use them for the memories they hold as she seems fixated on finding out more about her past relationships with Daniel and her past lives families. Consequently we are taken on many a side trip that don't really add much to the story, so one hopes that they will come have a meaning in the next book.

Basically her character annoyed me terribly!

Whilst the reader can see that Daniel is afraid to tell her anything - worried that too much information will kill her and hoping that she can work it out herself - it is easy for the reader to see that telling her these small facts would certainly have eased the situation. Is Daniel really so dense after living for thousands of years, or is the fault of the writer purposefully using lack of information as a device for keeping everyone (her characters and her readers) guessing?

Daniel's character could have been improved upon as well - he gets very little character development and seems to perpetually be mooning after Luce. He only gets a starring role at the beginning and end of the book (where we finally get to see some more human traits like jealousy and pain). Otherwise he is limited to only quick appearances. Add this to the fact none of the nephilim seem to want to talk about him (even though the Daniel/Lucinda story has entered angel folklore) and the result is that both Luce and the reader are kept in the dark.

Most disappointing of all is that the sweet romance and gut twisting emotion that the first book had is missing and the book definitely suffers from the lack of this ingredient.

I think the writer has done her readers a disservice by not enlightening them but rather hoping that hints will be sufficient to keep her readers returning. She may be sadly mistaken.

I hold out hope that the next novel, Passion, will tidy things up. However, given the vagueness of the first two stories, I have to wonder if Lauren Kate even knows where it is heading.

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