Lauren Kate's debut novel, Fallen, has garnered very mixed reviews, so I wanted to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, I fall into the group that disliked the book. Following on the heels of other recent paranormal romances, FALLEN uses a fallen angel theme. After a devastating fire, Luce is pulled out of her high-achieving prep school and deposited within the rusted gates of Sword and Cross reform school in Georgia. Though plagued by visions of lurking shadows and the unexplained death of her classmate, Luce starts making both friends and enemies and drawing the attention (both good and bad) of two guys. Despite his cold behavior, Luce is inexplicably drawn to Daniel, and she slowly finds herself on a path of discovery about her past and her potentially devastating future.
Author Kate appears to be able to write well, as there are some good moments here and there in the novel. However, these moments were outweighed for me by the clumsy dialogue and forced attempts to create a dismal, southern Gothic atmosphere. While the author tried to create a strong sense of place, the descriptions of the South and the reform school were so filled with contradictions that each setting seemed implausible. Editing was also lacking in the book, and these mistakes pulled me out of the story. Further, character development was very limited. Luce came across as mostly inept and uninspiring, even though we're told she's smart, beautiful, and worthy. The romantic connection between the main characters felt superficial at best. Luce's love for Daniel may have been fated, but I never felt why the two loved each other so desperately. The secondary characters of Gabbe, Arriane, and Cam were more interesting, but they seemed like caricatures at most.
The book's story arc was mostly predictable, and the most interesting components, like Luce's constant hallucinations of shadows, were dismissed casually once they were finally mentioned. We're told the two main characters have a damned love, but it was never explained why. Nor was it ever explained why these angels had fallen and why some were now fighting for good and others for bad. All of these things, including Luce's involvement as a catalyst for events to come, were never explained. It seemed obvious that these questions were left unanswered to set up things for the forthcoming sequels (Torment), but I feel that readers could still anxiously await the next installment while understanding why it's all linked and all so important.
Combined, these concerns made this book a very unsatisfying read for me, but I'm glad that others enjoyed it so much. In the three coming books, I hope that Kate better develops the connection between characters and that she provides more background about Daniel's and Luce's relationship.