by Lauren Kate
After witnessing the horrific death of one of her classmates, Luce Price is forced to leave her old life behind and attend a prison-like boarding school in Savannah, Georgia. Called the Sword & Cross, the school is home to a student body of troubled teens. Cell phones are forbidden. Students are restricted to the same classroom for the entire school day. The dorms may be clean and modernized, but other aspects of the campus are just plain weird. The school's Olympic-size swimming pool, for example, is built in the middle of an old church that still retains its religious decorations and art on the walls. But Luce seems to settle quite comfortably into her new home; within the first few days she has made several friends and attracted the attentions of the two best-looking guys in the class; Daniel of the smoldering violet eyes and Cam of the rock star sensuality. Cam is friendly and sweet, always ready with a gift or a kind word; Daniel is the sort of boy who takes a girl to a lake in the middle of the woods, flirts with her, and then suddenly ditch her. Guess which boy Luce falls for? Both of these mysterious boys are clearly hiding something from her, but Luce has no idea that the supernatural can be found behind every corner at Sword & Cross...
This book? She sucks!
My first rant...Luce Price is supposed to be one smart li'l cookie. At one point she rattles off to Daniel a laundry list of her accomplishments:
“I spent three years on a full academic scholarship at the best college-prep school in the country...I had to petition – petition! - to keep them from wiping out my four-point-oh transcript...I know Latin and French, and in middle school, I won the science fair three years in a row...I also do the Sunday crossword puzzle, sometimes in under an hour.”
But Luce can't figure out that Daniel and Cam and, it turns out, half the school are supernatural creatures – specifically, angels and demons – until it is patiently explained to her by Daniel over three-quarters into the book! I mean the author clubs the reader over the head with so much SYMBOLISM and FORESHADOWING that I think Luce must be walking around blindfolded and ears stuffed with cotton to miss the clues. Even after Daniel explains things, Luce can't/won't believe him. In normal circumstances, that'd be understandable. But all her life Luce has seen black shadows that are invisible to others. From the moment she first met Daniel, she felt a strong connection. She has even had prophetic dreams about Daniel and his angel wings. His explanation – which, admittedly, is very poorly explained in some of the most awkward, painful dialogue I've read in years – makes perfect sense! But she refuses to believe him.
Backing up a little bit, the fact that the Big Reveal doesn't take place until the book's nearly over really kills it. I think the author was trying to build up suspense by delaying this, but it's SO obvious that Daniel's an angel that it just aggravates. Also, with these supernatural/paranormal romances most of the entertainment comes in trying to reconcile the 'new world' that the existence of the vampire/angel/werewolf/whatever reveals with the dullness of regular life. But we don't really get to explore this because there's no time left. After the Big Reveal, we move to the Big Fight, Anti-climatic Surprise, and straight through to Blatant Sequel Foreshadowing.
Ugh. Sorry to harp on this again, but it really bugs me that Luce couldn't figure out that Daniel was an angel on her own. She makes Bella Swan look like a friggin' member of MENSA.
The dialogue. It is AWFUL. Conversations are stiff, stilted. The characters themselves are so flat and lacking nuance that I guess their interactions would naturally be dull.
When we finally learn about the angels and demons...we don't learn about them. NOTHING is really explained. I mean, Daniel says again and again that he's 'damned' for his love of Luce...but we don't know why this is. Why are the angels are on earth? Why do these immortal beings disguise themselves as troubled high school students? Why does Luce constantly reincarnate every seventeen years? How does this fit into the Christian mythology – or should I say, mythology of Paradise Lost – that seems to provide the reference material for the story? Why do the angels care that Daniel loves a mortal? Hell, why does Daniel love this mortal? Why does Luce see shadows? What are the shadows? I mean, I've heard of leaving questions unanswered so that you have a lead-in for sequels but this is just bad world-building!
This is a poorly written, badly edited, unoriginal novel. Given that it's a paranormal teen romance, a field currently overpopulated with Twilight-ripoffs and mediocre, rushed stories, that's saying something. DON'T. READ. IT.