Why did I read it: The cover is shiny (literally), and the book contains werewolves on the Titantic. I couldn’t resist.
How I would rate it: 3 out of 5 stars.
In Fateful, eighteen-year-old maid Tess Davies is determined to escape the wealthy, overbearing family she works for. Once the ship they’re sailing on reaches the United States, she’ll strike out on her own. Then she meets Alec, a handsome first-class passenger who captivates her instantly. But Alec has secrets….
Soon Tess will learn just how dark Alec’s past truly is. The danger they face is no ordinary enemy: werewolves are real and they’re stalking him—and now Tess, too. Her growing love for Alec will put Tess in mortal peril, and fate will do the same before their journey on the Titanic is over.
Review: This is a hard book to review because I enjoyed reading it, and yet I had a lot of issues with aspects of its plot and premise, particularly those revolving around werewolves. Which is weird because I went into this expecting to have more concerned about how I would feel about the use of the Titanic.
In terms of writing, I was throughly engaged. I finished this book very quickly and I got pretty much what I expected which was a fun, decent historical paranormal romance. The main characters themselves weren’t bad. Tess suffered from being too special, and it took me awhile to accept that she was the most well-read, educated, influential, and best servant of all time. It could have been much worse though. At least Tess had a bit of energy to her and there were a lot of things she couldn’t actually do so it did balance out on some level. She cared about people other than herself, and I liked her first person point of view. Similarly, Alec could had used a bit more personality, but at least he has issues worth having. The romance here really interested me though since it seemed to be a result of proximity and profound loneliness on the part of both Tess and Alec. It helped that they were on the older side too, and I really liked watching them form a connection that had the potential to turn into something more real, complicated, and worthwhile over time.
The secondary characters were all right too, but they never seemed entirely believable. Yes, they were historically accurate in some ways, but they also really weren’t in others. And I still don’t know how much I liked that extremely modern sensibilities were only given to the characters the reader is meant to view in a positive light. The only character that stood out in any real way was the villain, but then not only was he an evil Russian Count, he was also a sinister Vaudeville werewolf villain. And a member of the most generic of secret societies called the Brotherhood. And incapable of getting anything done in terms of killing off a meddling teenager.
Initially, I picked this book up because I was really expecting the werewolves to lend some air of originality and they really didn’t. The whole take on werewolves seemed to be a hodge-podge of generic supernatural characteristics and also fairly distasteful. But then I have never enjoyed books where the romantic lead is about as likely to eat the female main character as fall in love with her. Or where a male werewolf’s well-being hinges on his not forming any sort of bond with males of his own supernatural species.* There is very little mystery to werewolves either since the second Tess found out, Alec offered up a four page lecture on werewolves, telling Tess of every werewolf-related secret he could think of just because he could.
My irritation grew exponentially as Alec continued to just confide in her the way only a fictional character would if said character only had about four days max to fall madly in love and possibly to live. Meanwhile Tess hardly seemed that phased by Alec’s big reveal, moving rapidly from dread to pity to love presumably because of the time crunch. I understand that this is a romance and not a horror novel, but I sort of expected werewolves to be a bigger deal. And it is still bizarre to me that, more often than not, Tess’ relationship angst stemmed from Alec being upper class son of a steel manufacturer and her being a lower class maidservant.
Anyway, while the werewolves were a major disappointment, I felt like a healthy level of respect was maintained towards the Titanic. I am a recovering Titanic-obssesser and the fact that the romance did not involve too much of a focus on the real people aboard is something that my teenager self would have been really relieved about. Some of that was tarnished by what happened as and after the ship went down and the book continued, but it has got to be all kinds of awkward and daunting to have a romance that needs to be more important than anything else when anything else includes the Titanic so I think Gray did a good job trying to strike a balance.
In conclusion, not bad but not very original, Fateful is basically James Cameron’s Titanic if Kate and Leo traded places with a smattering of Twilight and a handful of werewolves thrown in. And I think couldn’t help but picture the villain as Billy Zane wearing a really bad disguise. It certainly made for an entertaining book and a fun read, but for those looking for something distinctly different, I would advise looking elsewhere.
- Early Review: Fateful by Claudia Gray (All Things Urban Fantasy)
* Siderant in summary: I think the hating on and devaluing of same-sex friendship and manly warrior bonds that occurs in certain works of fiction is a crime against humanity. And creating weird supernatural biological imperatives to prevent characters from making friends is positively heinous. Nothing weirds me out more than an allegedly well-adjusted character who has no friends.