Torment offers a glimpse of a far better series

Torment offers a glimpse of a far better series

★★★☆☆

(3 stars)

Even I’m scratching my head at this rating, folks. The second Fallen book is actually kind of decent. I enjoyed it. It made me want to keep reading the series, when I was sure I only picked it up to get lore missing from book one and put the story down forever. But no, I anticipate I’ll be reading the rest of the quartet now.

What did it? Well, this book took the good elements of the first book (few and far between, but: good friends, supernatural elements) and added a couple things really up my alley. For one, it takes place at a small school for nephilhim, who have only weak magical powers but still get weird lessons on biblical history and controlling shadows, all in preparation for the ‘end of days’. To avoid favoritism, the school is taught from a neutral point of view, with the two teachers being an awesome married couple of an angel/demon who never the less plan to fight to the death in the apocalypse. This is a really fun concept. It’s also nearly the exact set up of a book I wrote, Good Angel, so you know… it’s a concept I’m into.

Also, there’s a lot of deeper introspection from Luce, who starts to think about her relationship with Daniel and all the Unfortunate Implications that go with it. Especially that, since she’s reborn and dies every 17 years, she has a series of relatives and parents who are left grieving her. Daniel is essentially the world’s most specialized serial killer, and it’d good how she comes to resent and grow angry at the bad power structure they have.

Plot

At the end of the last book, Daniel just whisked Luce away and left her to deal with it. In this she’s set up at a lovely, modern boarding school in California that caters to Nephilhim, those with angelic blood. Since angelic blood can come from angels or demons, the school aims to be a place that simply trains nephihim to use their powers in the coming apocalypse, and chose the side they want. Nephilhim have various powers- Luce’s new classmates can levitate, travel through shadows, speak eighteen languages, create perfect images, and more. There’s a pretty funny scene early on when she has to do an icebreaker challenge on her first day of school, and the student body all has these ridiculous powers. Still, they aren’t really OP things, and it’s actually charming to see these kinda-magical mostly-normal teens.

As mentioned, the people who run the school are an angel and demon who are deeply in love but also bitter enemies, and I just love the grey area they represent. They do things like show a time portal of Sodom and Gomorrah burning and teach lessons against messing with announcer spirits. Luce feels slightly out of place as a mortal without much for power- she can summon and work with Announcers, which is forbidden, but otherwise feels out of place. Still, she comes to be good friends with several Nephilhim, specifically Shelby and Miles.

Meanwhile, Daniel and Cam are hunting down and killing countless Outcasts, angels which were very indecisive during the Heaven War and now are blind and rejected by both Heaven and Hell. They want Luce for themselves, so she has to stay on campus all day, where she’ll be protected by the headmasters.

Daniel says he’s not meant to see her- there’s a thing where he and the demon Cam have an 18 day truce of not seeing Luce and teaming up to kill Outcasts- but keeps sneaking over to campus to visit. While there Luce is struck by her deep love for him- they dance on the ocean and go for high flies in the sky- but they keep getting into arguments too. He’s keeping a ton of secrets and won’t tell her anything.

Luce, frustrated, learns Announcers all contain a moment in time inside them, and starts to learn how to coax and view them. With them, she’s able to learn more about her past lives, including tracking down former family members, such as her parents from a past life, and her once older sister.

Luce falls into danger several times for breaking rules, such as shadow-stepping through space using Announcers or leaving campus, but is also increasingly annoyed with how Daniel won’t tell her a thing. He hasn’t even said why she has to stay there, and is getting really controlling too.

Anyways, eventually it boils down to an overstuffed Thanksgiving at Luce’s house, where Daniel and Cam show up uninvited. When an army of Outcasts attack, Luce barely makes it through alive- and, realizing again how many lies and mysteries Daniel has been telling her, she steps through an Announcer and into one of her past lives, determined to learn the truth.

Daniel

I didn’t really mind Daniel last book. He was extremely basic, and very cold while he was trying to stay away from Luce, but he didn’t end up being horrible. In this book he’s suddenly very controlling, difficult, and rude. He’s just so unpleasant, and I don’t think I can forgive him for it!

The conceit of the book is that Luce and Daniel are deep soul mates with this long history of love, but Luce realizes she doesn’t actually know anything about him. He gets kind of upset when she dyes her hair, and when she says it’s her hair and choice, he says “that’s not fair. I don’t want you to be anyone other than who you are.” He expresses a lot of very controlling behaviors here, like orders to stay on campus.

This book does such a good job of calling Daniel out for all his nonsense, my hot takes almost don’t matter. Beyond the big one, that Luce kinda keeps forgiving him, and I know will end up with him despite all the excellent points she makes in the book.

‘Daniel had ruined that couples’s life. Killed their daughter. All bescuase he’d been some hotshot angel who saw something he wanted and went after it[…]”I am suffering- me and everyone who loves me- for your curse. For all time. Because of you.”[…]”I want you to take back whatever it was you did to get me into this. I just want to live and die a normal life and break up with normal people over normal things like toasters, not the supernatural secrets of a the universe that you don’t even trust me with.”‘

Like, Tell Him Luce.

I’m not really a ‘soulmates’ kind of person, but this book showed a real glimpse of a very interesting narrative- a girl forced to keep being reincarnated because an immortal won’t let her die. It’s a strange, Hellish, idea.

She even questions something I called out last book: Why is Daniel so into her? How did he get this in love with her considering she isn’t that interesting or special?

“‘He chose me over some big role in Heaven, over some elevated position. That’s pretty major, don’t you think? There has to be more to it than just him thinking I was cute.”

“But… you don’t know what it was?”

“I’ve asked, but he’s never told me what happened. When I brought it up, it was almost like Daniel couldn’t remember. And that’s crazy, because it means we’re both just going through the motions. Based on thousands of years of some fairy tale neither one of use can even back up.”‘

So basically, there’s some good meta thought on the actual horror of this scenario, and how Luce is completely powerless in it. She loved Daniel on instinct, but she can hardly be with him, and knows nothing of his past of even really his present (while he knows all about her). She starts to question this idea of their love story and if she wouldn’t be happier if she just met a nice mortal boy. And you know, didn’t die at age 17, yet again.

I really like this development, and it also shows Luce as way more of an active character. She has a unique story, and an arc of her own. I could get in with her feelings of frustration and isolation. The story takes on a darker tone if you think that whenever she is with Daniel, she is always immediately overwhelmed with this love, and his light… almost like he has magical sway over her emotions.

The one issue is that, of course, she keeps turning back to him. Loving him. Even when she’s angry or questioning him, she still thinks of him as her one true love, when really it’d be nice to see her take a break from Daniel entirely. The idea of her actually just ending up with Miles, her new actually-her-age love interest, is a good one. A change in the normal dynamics.

Other stuff

There is one weird thing where Luce’s friend Shelby implies she had a relationship with Daniel before, but it was ‘ages ago’. In the epilogue, Daniel mentions it was just a crush on her part and unfulfilled, and also ‘years ago’. Since she’s 17 in this book, this is such a weird thing to bring up. Was Shelby claiming she hooked up with, or even kissed, Daniel when she was 15 or younger? That’s creepy.

Luce’s friends feel better this time around though. Without knowing it, there was always something kinda weird about how everyone around Luce was an angel, and thus from the beginning of time. Arianne, her wacky friend? Super old. The blonde ‘fembot’? Ancient. It also meant a weird power dynamic. Them being at that school in book one still isn’t explained.

In this, Luce’s friends are on her level, and also not hiding deep secrets. They just are Nephilhim, actually her age, and that’s nice. Her old friends show up again, but they are treated more as celebrities- angel books have names of all the fallen, so her Nephilhim friends recognize Arianne and Roland from history, and are a little in awe. When they show up, they are treated more as cool older siblings.

The idea of angels being celebs to nephilhim kids is fun. Similarly, everyone in the angel-related world knows Luce, which is pretty funny. They all know her story as the girl who keeps exploding. One character said her mother told it like a fairy tale ages ago. This was the kind of worldbuilding I really enjoyed and wanted more of.

I have read the plot summaries on wikipedia, so I’m vaguely aware of what goes on in the series, and I don’t think we’ll be returning to this setting or tone again. Which sucks, because it was something I wanted to read, and enjoyed.

This book really isn’t too bad. The main issue is just Daniel, and the griping around him. The romance isn’t that good, and there’s a boring jealousy plot, but there’s a lot of other cool things. Real shame.

 

 

 

 

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