Monday, 17 August 2009

Fallen by Claire Delacroix

When Lilia Desjardin's estranged husband's death is declared an accident, she knows that it will be up to her to discover the truth. Life in the Republic is lived under a cloud of suspicion and fear - a future dystopia where those unaffected by the radiation from multiple nuclear strikes live at the expense of those who were mutated and scarred (shades). The former angel Adam Montgomery sacrifices his wings in order to complete an earthly mission. His path will intersect with Lilia's and the two of the them will work together to find out exactly what is being kept hidden.

I think the last time a book had me this conflicted was Ghostland by Jory Strong. This is quite a long review and has some slight spoilers in it.

Things I liked.

The cover. :)

Adam's story was by far the stronger of the two. From the moment his wings are amputated, he is a character that you want to know more about. As is Raphael the second angel to come to Earth during the course of the story.

The majority of the worldbuilding (with one exception, see below). I thought the future dystopia was an absorbing and fascinating world. How the author had set up a unique class system based on mutancy and gender. And how the angels infiltrated the system, as shade, as cop.

The mystery was well thought out and multi-layered, revealing a corruption that will require heavenly intervention to overcome.

Things I didn't like

Whilst these are personal dislikes and it's a much longer list than the likes, I stress here that the likes and dislikes ended up balancing each other out. Which should give you an idea of how much I liked the worldbuilding and mystery aspects of the book.

We're back to genre labelling again. This is not (for me) paranormal romance. The hero and heroine spend the majority of the book apart. So when they suddenly decide they are in love it doesn't feel organic. It feels more like it's happening to serve the plot rather than because the characters feel an emotional attachment. At the beginning when they first meet Adam thinks :-
More than her physical assets, he liked the spark of her intellect.
He's only just met the woman. I wish that the author had felt able to let the relationship develop over the course of the trilogy - if that were possible, obviously I don't know what is intended to happen in future books, but this felt rushed.

I liked their relationship at the end.
Montgomery couldn't be dead, not when she was starting to count on him.
But it feels like we skipped an awful lot of steps to get to that point. Also the blurb for the next book seems to suggest that Raphael has got his own designs on Lilia, I'd be interested to see just how far the 'paranormal romance' label is going to be stretched.

Initially I did have a problem with the city being called Gotham. Mainly because for me that name is synonymous with Batman.

The Sumptuary & Decency laws - whereby women are not allowed to cut their hair, have to be covered up when they are out in public and have to wear corsets. This narked me for a couple of reasons. At a couple of points in the story Lilia runs about both to lose Adam, and to chase after a Shade, all whilst wearing a corset which didn't seem to cause her any problems. Women not being able to cut their hair just seems silly to me. I think there are other ways to show the subjugation of women. (I also wonder about the gender ratios? Women being built for survival and already being the majority gender on the planet. It seems to me that there would be an even greater disparity following an apocalyptic event - leaving women in the vast majority.)

The story took a long time for me to get into. At page 118 the story settles into itself as Lilia comes into her own as a character. But I didn't really get absorbed into the world until page 216. This is a long time to wait to get pulled into a story.

I felt that there were gaps in plot logic, especially in the first half of the book. The angel shades don't talk so how does everyone know their names - did they write them down? If so, why don't they write down what else they want to say. Adam thinks he recognizes Lilia because it was her face on her husbands tattoo p.53, which he saw on the body. But it was mentioned that Adam was on the team that informed Lilia of her husband's death p.22.

Maybe my main problem was that for most of the book I didn't like Lilia. The reason for this being that she keeps doing stupid things. She doesn't get the relevance of the ugly necklace - this is supposed to be a reasonably intelligent woman. She drinks with people she suspects of being involved with her husband's death. For the first half of the book she keeps assuming that the things that keep happening to her are Montgomery's fault.

If this were the first in an openended series I don't think I'd pursue it any further. However, according to the author's website this is the first in a trilogy, and I am intrigued enough by the mystery, by what Raphael's mission may be, by what Adam and Lilia may do next to want to check out the next book. I hope with the worldbuilding set-up out of the way, that the next book takes a lot less than 200 pages to pull me in.


Christine said...

Hmmm... that's too bad about your dislikes. I could probably overlook a few of them, but some of the others sound like they'd bother me as well.

Interestingly, when I hear Gotham, I think of Manhattan, not Batman. In fact, when I read the first chapter excerpt for Fallen on the author's website, I pictured Manhattan. It's a bit foggy, but doesn't something take place in a tunnel in the first chapter. I totally pictured that happening in the Lincoln Tunnel going from NJ (where I live) into NYC. LOL

I'm still intrigued by the story, though. I love reading about dystopian worlds.

Thanks for the review. :)

LesleyW said...

Christine - If you like dystopias I'd give it a go. I like a little more hope with my dystopias than happened in the first half of the book, but this comes through more in the second half.

I think when things are unremittingly grim, as a reader you need to know that there is some hope there.