In a past life, maybe Rapture was an okay standalone novel

In a past life, maybe Rapture was an okay standalone novel

★★☆☆☆

(2 stars)

Rapture actually has a lot of things going for it: lovely descriptions, vivid images of international locations, interesting angel lore, neat magical concepts, and a few raised and slightly discussed deeper themes. The problem is that all of these positives are beaten over the head with the fact this is book four, and the final book in a quartet, of an extremely uneven series.

The Fallen quartet is perhaps the most diverse series I’ve read in that every book is decidedly a different genre and story-type to the next, as if the author had a checklist of things she wanted to try and decided to use the same paper thin characters to act each one out.

So, while I enjoyed some aspects of this too-long book, it was always hampered down by the fact it was the last book, and thus needed to provide a conclusion and tie-in to the ones before it. The treasure hunt for ancient angelic relics to solve a mystery about the fall is a fine idea and easily could have been the plot of a different, better novel, which didn’t also have to weave in a whole ton of characters, revelations, and confusing reincarnation gimmicks in as well.

Plot

As always, I end up writing a full short plot summary- I know as a reader of reviews I’m often on the hunt for full details, and I aim to provide the same to anyone who finds this. Especially if this is a book you know you will likely never read.

After the last book of pure time travel, Luce and Daniel are together in the present. Satan has used an Announcer to portal all the falling angels from the past straight to Hell, thus rewriting all of human history and erasing it all. However, the fall takes 9 earth days, giving our heroes a small window to save the day. To do that, they first need to find out where the angels fell to Earth. Despite them all being fallen angels (besides the mortal human Luce), none remember because of the shock of the fall. To find out they will have to discover three ancient artifacts which contain the key to finding out about the fall, and unite them at Mount Sinai.

The teams split up: Luce and Daniel; Roland, Arriane, and Annabelle; Cam, Gabbe, and Molly. Each heads to a place Daniel thought the relics were ages ago, though he has no idea what they are or what they look like, nor does he really remember writing the book they are using to find the relics. This sounds very improbable, then, that the team can find three forgotten artifacts in such a short time span- but of course, they can.

Getting in the way are the Outcasts, fallen who were indecisive and chose Lucifer post-fall and to punish them they were made blind (and albino), as well as the Scale, new villains who are lower ranked angels who have self-appointed themselves Heaven Cops. There’s also the Elders, first mentioned in book one with the evil librarian Sophia Bliss, who have since not done anything (and barely do anything this book). The Outcasts early on join the protagonists side in an appeal to stop Lucifer, and all but four of their huge numbers die.

Luce and Daniel find the first relic, but then are told trouble has fallen on the teams seeking the second and third, and thus have to travel to each of those locations and get the items themselves. One of the items ends up being an old woman, a ‘trans-eternal’ who is a quasi-immortal human who cannot die of old age because her ancient ancestor was the biblical guy who invented prayer. Gabbe and Molly sacrifice themselves to save Luce’s life and the remaining guys follow the trans-eternal Dee to the correct spot. Luckily, she knows exactly how to reveal the fall site and the ritual involved.

The ritual to find the fall site includes excavating an ancient temple, putting the relics in the correct place, and then Luce has to kill Dee. She’s very much like ‘It’s fine, I’m happy to die’, but Luce is still kind of freaked out. She has to sacrifice Dee in a blood ritual and eventually does it, Dee’s blood being the key to reveal the fall site was in Troy. Dee’s last gift to Luce is that of self-knowledge, and Luce begins to feel weird and have visions.

As they travel to the fall site to prepare to stop Lucifer, Luce has flashbacks of her earliest life, and her true life: she was an angel. As Lucinda, she was the third-highest of all the angels. God made the universe and it was awesome, but then he disappeared for a while to make humanity, and the angels felt abandoned, some distrusting. While God was missing, Lucinda and Lucifer invented love, specifically the kind where God isn’t involved. She deeply loved Lucifer, and he her, but he began to press her to rebel and openly declare to the others that their love was powerful and true- as in, choose him over God. Lucinda grew unhappy by his controlling behavior (including semi-brainwashing her with a love song hymn about them), but then met Daniel and fell in love with his kinder love.

Lucifer, pissed off, threw together his rebellion. Angry at Lucinda for picking Daniel over him (and cheating on him, really), he cursed her. God also cursed her for not picking a side in the Heaven/Lucifer split. This is why Luce keeps being reborn and exploding whenever she remembers being an angel.

Luce, now fully aware of her past, gets her wings back. She flies into the Announcer time portal to confront Lucifer alone. She basically tells him to get over the fact she doesn’t love him, and that resetting time will not make her love him. He deflects and is weird, but eventually shows a small sign of giving up, lamenting she deserves better. Then God shows up.

Yeah, God shows up. God yells ‘Enough!’ and everything stops. They all show up in Heaven, Lucifer included, where God appears in human form. She declares since Luce has remembered and broken her curse, it’s time to ask if she’ll finally pick a side in the Heaven/Hell split. She chooses Daniel again. God gives up on her and decides her and Daniel should just be reborn as mortal humans with no soul link, and then die as mortals, with no imput from Heaven or Hell. They agree.

In an epilogue, Luce and Daniel meet as humans 17 years later as normal people, though they feel like they’ve met before. The angels watch from the wings.

Is this a conclusion?

I think the largest issue with this plot, and I don’t know how clear it was, is that this isn’t a conclusion to anything but Luce and Daniel. Even then, it represents little change. In a way, this ending is essentially as if Luce died in book one and we saw a chapter of the next Luce: she has no memory, and though as readers we know the same applies to Daniel, he might as well be doing his usual ‘I don’t know her’ stunt. Essentially, everything in the book has been rendered moot by this ending. Luce and Daniel, though now they will both eternally die and are strangers, are going to fall in love again. Lucifer has not been stopped or redeemed. Heaven and Hell are still in perfect balance. The Scale are still corrupt. The only permanent changes are the deaths of Gabbe and Molly, and the fact the four surviving outcasts got to return to Heaven.

This series wasn’t really heavy with plot threads, but the more you look at the lives of the background characters, the more you realize is unresolved. We never learned where Arriane got her scar. Cam, the other love triangle leg in book one, is barely in the rest of the series and has an unknown fate by the epilogue. Daniel swears Roland might one day switch to Heaven’s side, but he is no closer to doing so by the end, despite helping the angels constantly and being a nice guy. We don’t really know why the demons chose Lucifer and seem to stay by it, even as they plan to thwart his current plan.

I think the most telling aspect of books like this is the mystery of the main character’s human friends and parents. Ultimately, a para-ro will end with the main character and her love having a life together- often in an eternal/immortal sense, or else magic and secret. In this, Luce’s parents think she is still at her boarding school, with a human ally providing a cover story. She left at Thanksgiving and said by to her parents and her best friend Callie. Nine days later, at the climax, she spares no thought for them as she agrees to be reborn. What happened to them? God didn’t go back in time and just erase human history, since Luce is born into another family- the epilogue is 17 years into the future. After book two took time to explore the fact Luce’s deaths left a grieving family behind, it’s ironic for the last book to leave out she was no doubt buried without a body, yet again.

Or perhaps forgotten entirely. What did God do? She seems quite apathetic, this God- she sweeps in at the climax for a literal dues ex machina, but resolves things quick and carelessly. She doesn’t deal with Lucifer, and barely speaks to any of the complicated messes at hand- she just decides to reborn Daniel and Luce, and sends them on their way. Luce is probably buried and mourned as if she died in a freak accident. Her angel friends don’t mind, they know she’s now a baby in Texas. Her parents and friend will never get closure.

The dues ex machina is usually not a recommended way to wrap up your plot. In this case, it was startling and particularly unsatisfying. Lucifer and Luce were having a dumb conversation about an ancient bad break up, but they were getting somewhere, with Lucifer showing any sign of character growth. Or character. Then, God shows up, and she’s kind of pissed. Like I said, she sloppily fixes things up, and the book ends. It takes the wallop out of the climax to have an all powerful entity just decide the book has gone on long enough, and it’s time to end. There’s no suspense when God shows up. There can’t be, because God is a force which can’t be stopped or influenced or changed, and you know, in charge of reality.

The journey against time, and the race to stop Lucifer from rewriting history, is exceedingly pointless the moment you introduce God as a character. Her willingness to just say ‘Enough!’ and wrap things up shows Lucifer has never had any threat. He would never have succeeded, Luce or not, because God can just stop him. God can do anything. Race against time? No. Though why was God so lazy to wait until the last minute? Lucifer rewriting time so that he gets all the fallen angels in hell and can tip the balance? Pointless, God will just stop that from happening. I mean honestly, if you’re going to just intervene on Lucifer’s plans to nonchalantly God, why don’t you just kill him and tip the balance your way? Why don’t you rewrite time and copy his plan? Why don’t you erase him from spacetime, God?? Why did you only just show up now?

Really, having the Christian God as a character raises a lot of nasty problems. I guess I know the point of ‘people must be free to do evil as a test to still choose good’, and that applies to the fallen angels too… Yet, for some reason, she did step in here. One could argue it was simply because Luce had finally broken her curse and it was time for her to re-pick, but if God was otherwise hands-off, she really should have just unpaused time and let Lucifer go forward.

Oh, won’t even bothering musing about this, but Lucifer’s plan makes so much sense in a world where angels/demons can literally time travel, it’s confusing why it took him this long to try it. You’d think the moment he realized he was at risk of eternal stalemate he would have been like ‘what if I went back in time and made sure it wasn’t a stalemate’.

Lucifer

I’m actually really big on the devil. My main boy is Archangel Michael (tragically, or luckily, absent from this series), but I like Lucifer quite a bit. I’m interested in books about him or with him, and I’m quite prone to Sympathy For The Devil.

I’ve covered how he’s not a threat the moment you introduce God (and time travel) into play, but Lucifer is really such a non-presence in this plot in general. He’s not around until the climax due to being trapped in a time vortex, so we really only have him as Bill to go off of- unfunny, ugly little gargoyle Bill. He talks weird (sort of like a radio DJ) and hilariously, Luce spends portions of this book thinking about him and being flustered by how strong he was or the idea that she had trusted/liked him. This is because she hasn’t remembered she used to be in love with Lucifer, but it’s funny how she seems to have a crush on Bill.

Lucifer in this book is reduced to a creepy, stalker-like ‘Nice Guy’ over Luce. Any book is way weaker when the villain is just a miserable ugly guy who is annoyed he got rejected by a girl, but it’s way more embarrassing when the guy in question is Satan, and the breakup happened at the beginning of time. Lucifer and Luce were in love, and then he got super possessive, insisting she change herself for him and projecting what he wanted onto her- like saying she wanted to rebel, when she didn’t. The rebellion isn’t purely because of Luce (it’s implied she is more the excuse he used), but ultimately it is framed that, because Luce and Lucifer discovered love, the fall happened. Free will isn’t really discussed. It’s because of a girl. Heaven fell to pieces and evil was born because one sniveling guy couldn’t accept a girl liked the boy who didn’t want her to change over him.

It’s so hard to be interested in the villain when he’s just hanging around the fall in perpetual time travel limbo so he can cradle his ex-girlfriend’s paralyzed body and sing love songs because he thinks resetting time will mean she’ll pick him at last. It’s just stupid.

Lucifer is, by the way, hot in this book. He’s super hot in Heaven, and again you get the feeling the book series would have been way stronger if he was allowed to just be hot, and around, way more. Listen here: the brokenhearted Lucifer plotline isn’t great, but it could easily work better if we’d seen Lucifer more before this. If as Bill he was his attractive self, and Luce felt oddly drawn towards him without knowing why. If he was even in book two, helping Luce learn dark magic and secrets. If he was the other love triangle leg, so that when she rejects him in the climax and swears she could never love him again, it actually meant something. Because we’d actually seen them in love before, or that they had dormant chemistry, and it was only the revelation that he was a dickhead in Heaven that helps Luce realize his abusive qualities and how Daniel is the better choice.

I need to talk about Lucifer in the epilogue too, because he is there for unclear reasons. God makes a note about him being a little different, but he’s not redeemed. However, he is in new-Luce’s college laundry room for some reason. He sits there flipping a coin and asking her to call it. She gets it right both times, and he says ‘you won. You won again’, obviously lamenting that she is going to meet Daniel in a few minutes and they will fall in love again.

Still, this is pretty mysterious. Was Lucifer also cursed to be mortal? What is he doing there? Just chilling? One of God’s clauses on the reborn thing was that they would have no visits or influence from angels/demons, so Lucifer being there suggests he no longer counts as either, despite him seeming to know who she is and what’s going on. I can easily imagine he’s been cursed like Luce has until he learns humility or something, which is an interesting premise this author will never explore.

Other Notes

+Daniel tells Luce she can stop feeling hungry, tired, in pain, and cold if she just wills herself not to. She finds she can do this and never once questions it, despite believing she is a normal mortal beyond the curse. She even finds she doesn’t have to breathe and doesn’t wonder why.

+Molly’s death is just clearing her out the roster, since she says/does nothing. She bullied Luce in book one and since she was a demon, ended up sticking around. Gabbe had a little more personality at least.

+We still don’t know why everyone was just hanging at that school in the beginning, and pretending to be a teenager.

+The Outcasts make a healing potion for angels by dipping starshots (supernatural bolts, only thing which can kill an angel) into diet coke. This turns the drink silver and super heals them instantly.

+There is never any discussion why some fallen side with Lucifer- including like, the charming angel/demon couple Steven/Francesca, who are fully prepared to kill each other in a final battle. What makes some become demons? Cam joined Lucifer because he got rejected by a girl, but seriously, what is the argument they’re all split over? Our fallen friends are never enemies in the timeline of the book, constantly working together to help Luce, and we never hear them talk about why there are different sides.

+As often, ugly is evil in this book. The Outcasts are blind, albino, and ‘strange looking’, but when they are restored to Heaven they go back to being beautiful. The Scale are all angels currently part of Heaven, yet are wrinkly skeletal figures with dark wings. The Elders are all old people (and evil). Lucifer is beautiful, but when he’s angry he shows he is actually ugly and grotesque looking.

+Miles and Shelby, the fun Nephilhim friends Luce made in book 2, are not really in this book. Miles was a semi love interest in book 2, but is not really addressed again. He and Shelby are in book 3 as part of the time travel, but again really just in one scene. Here, they are holding hands under the table at the start of the book, conveniently paired off, and in the epilogue they are watching new-Luce and new-Daniel meet as older, married adults. Shelby is pregnant now. Uh, okay? We haven’t heard from them in ages. They otherwise aren’t involved in the plot at all.

+I think this book has the plot of a Dan Brown novel.

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