Monday, October 31, 2011

Fateful Book Review

Author: Claudia Gray. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Harperteen. ISBN: 9780062006202.
Annotation:  Eighteen-year-old Tess Davies wants to start her life over in the United States, so she is overjoyed when the family she works decides to travel to New York aboard the RMS Titanic. What she doesn’t expect is that her life will change forever before she even sets foot in America after she meets Alec, a handsome man with a dark secret.
Personal thoughts:  I was so excited when I heard about this novel and so disappointed that I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s unusual for me to simply not like a book, but I have to say that’s how I felt after reading Fateful. I found the plot to be over-the-top in terms of “hokey-ness.” The romance between Tess and Alec did nothing for me. I thought the sinking of the ship was incredibly rushed and should have played more of a part in how the story developed. I really wanted to love this novel and I wish I had, but I will continue to look forward to future books by Claudia Gray because I do think she is a talented author.
Plot summary: Eighteen-year-old Tess Davies is a ladies’ maid for Irene Lisle: the daughter of Viscount Lisle and his wife Lady Regina. Although Tess is fond of Irene, she wants nothing more than to be rid of the cruelties that have been inflicted upon her since she began working for the Lisles. Tess sees her chance to start over when the Lisles decide to travel to New York City on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Taking her meager life-savings and all of her possessions, Tess boards the ship full of hope at the possibility of turning her life around in America. Tess doesn’t expect her life to change forever on the Titanic, however, but it does when she meets Alec Marlowe, a handsome young man travelling first class with his steel-tycoon father. Tess is immediately attracted to Alec, even though she knows they could never be together, but soon realizes that there is more to him than meets the eye. Alec appears to be travelling in the company of Mikhail: a dark and cruel man who seems to want nothing more than to devour Tess in one way or another. When Tess learns the truth about Alec’s relationship with Mikhail, she is shocked: Alec was recently transformed into a werewolf while on a hunting trip, and Mikhail has been sent to force him into the Brotherhood, an ancient and powerful pack of vicious werewolves who live amongst humans. Will Tess be able to reconcile her fear of Alec’s violent nightly transformation with her growing feelings for him, or is their relationship doomed to suffer the same fate as the ship they are unknowingly travelling on?
Review:  Full of references to famous passengers and events, Fateful reads as a watered-down version of the Titanic film mixed with varying degrees of paranormal romance, class and gender inequities of the past, and bodice-ripping. The premise of the novel is quite promising: werewolves on the Titanic are, if anything, certain to be entertaining. Unfortunately,   the odd pacing of the story, attempts at tackling more serious subjects, and general unbelievability of the plot serve to “sink” the novel from almost the first chapters. One of the primary issues with Fateful is that it seems to suffer an identity crisis. The author seems unsure if the novel should be a look at the harsh realities of the lower classes in turn of the century society, a paranormal romance, or a retelling of the sinking of the Titanic. For the most part, the focus of the novel seems to be on the former: Tess is almost constantly berated by her employers and reminding herself of the impossibility of forming a relationship with handsome first-class passenger, Alec. The romance between Tess and Alec seems to develop in a matter of hours, which, among other things, was one of the most unbelievable plot points in the novel. The werewolf aspect of the story is also somewhat on the sidelines, and could have definitely been made far more interesting if it had been expanded further. Overall, Fateful is a readable novel, but not one that shines amongst Claudia Gray’s body of works.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Blood series by T. Lynne Tolles and Erin Potter, Silver Moon by Rebecca A. Rogers, Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn.   
Themes:  RMS Titanic, werewolves, romance, class warfare, murder.  
Awards/Reviews:  Written by bestselling author.   
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:
- What do you think were Tess’ primary reasons for wanting to leave the service of the Lisles? Do you think the way she was treated was common at the turn of the century?
- Why do you think that what happened to Daisy was such a disgrace for Tess?
-  Do you think that Alec was truly dangerous as a wolf? Why or why not?
- Research some of the famous Titanic passengers mentioned in the novel. Who were they? What were their fates?

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