Friday, April 5, 2013

Seeker of Fate (Fate Series #2) by L.J. Kentowski

Cassandra has recovered from the grand revelations of the first book, but the shadows still haunt her. Particularly, they haunt her dreams –dreams about Hell and it being a home to her, calling to her demonic blood.

But she has her own reason for going to Hell – her father is still trapped. A demon, but one her mother loved and one she desperately needs back to help her mother deal with the major changes in her life. A demon who turned his back on Hell – especially since Cassie’s blood contains the power to change a demon back to a Guardian.

But the one person who can help her get to Hell is Caleb, the ex-demon she is not sure she can trust, is constantly trying to seduced her and has his own ultimatum – she can rescue her father but Hunter, the man, the demon, she loves must remain in Hell, no matter what tortures he is suffering.

This book, this world has such a gem of potential. The battle to save souls between the tempting and devious demons and the Guardians who, driven by prophetic dreams and visions, try to twist fate back the other way. The grand battle between the angels and the demons to save or recruit souls to fill their armies. It’s both epic and, because the battles are about personal visions, also deeply personal. It’s about a war on a grand scale and

What saddens me is we don’t really see any of the wider world, or this epic struggle or even the daily dealing with the struggle. Instead we focus on Cassandra and her personal aims – which entirely focuses on men. Either a man she loves, a man she’s attracted to, or her father.

I would quite like a story about her rescuing her father for her mother’s sake – but even then I’d appreciate more backstory than we got in the first or this book. Who is her father? Is he important in a grander scale? Is there a reason why we can be sure that he, as a demon, is going to be trustworthy? He is, after all, a demon. It could be more of a driving quest if we had seen more of Cassie’s mother, of how the missing father had affected them both, if we could get a little more of a sense of how important or resonant a mission this is for Cassie

I’m not sold on either Caleb or Hunter – Cassie hasn’t known either of them very long but finds both compelling, attractive and, on some level, trustworthy. But they’re demons and a relatively short acquaintance of good behaviour doesn’t deserve the level of trust she shows, I think. I especially don’t like that we’re expected to see the suspicions of Cassie’s friends – and a particularly stubborn angel – as perhaps a little unreasonable when it’s really quite natural.

While I’m much happier with Cassie taking charge of her own life and choices in this book, even adamantly refusing to accept the dictates and ultimatums of the men around her.

But… her choices aren’t great. They’re not awful to the point of spunkiness, but they’re unfinished. She wants to get to hell to rescue her father – that’s fine. But that’s a statement of intent, not a plan. But so much of Cassie’s planning follows that same path – she wants something, she intends to act to achieve it – but there’s no detail and it eventually falls apart. Ultimately her plans collapse because they’re not plans – she arrives in Hell and hopes that the rest will become clear – or that Caleb or Hunter will be able to take it from there. She makes deals with demons because she hopes they will work out – or she thinks she has no choice. And sometimes she doesn’t have a choice, but she’s only in the position of having no choice because of her previous shoddy decision making.

Her poor plan in the beginning leaves her and Hunter with few choices and none of them good, ending up being more of who can sacrifice dramatically for who. We end up being in the unpleasant place of Cassie making a poorly thought out decision and hoping that Caleb, then Hunter, can finish it off or work it out for her. It doesn’t help that the book ends with a quite literal Deus Ex Machinae – which is unfortunate because that’s pretty much how the first book ended as well. Flailing around with ill thought out plots until the divine one rescues you is not decision making.

I’m afraid I can’t really get behind the evil either. The big big bad who, given who he is, should be so very bad indeed just felt a little cartoon villainy and just so overdramatic without anything to really back that up. I’m also a little non-plussed that the worst torture Hell can offer is watching your ex make out with someone else. I mean, really? Because I think of 83 things you can do with a pair of pliers alone that strikes me as far worse. In fact, perhaps due to my unpleasant imagination and broad reading selection, I can think of literally thousands of things that would be far far far worse than watching Beloved go at it with an entire football team.

This is one of the reviews that’s hard for me to write and not just because I like the author but, sadly, am not a big fan of this book. It’s hard to write because the book didn’t do a lot that was overtly objectionable to me – but nor did it do anything to really engage, excite or enthral me. I didn’t enjoy reading this book, I didn’t hate reading this book. I don’t like the characters, I don’t hate them.  I don’t like the story, I don’t hate it. There are elements that annoy me, but don’t outrage me. There are elements that intrigue me, but don’t fascinate.

There’s just a lot that isn’t quite to my taste but not enough for me to say anything truly bad about it. I think this series could really go somewhere – if Cassie started coming into herself more, realising her own power, making good, informed decisions and the focus was broader than the men Cassie loves.

A copy of this book was provided by the author for a review