Release Date: September 13, 2011
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Walk into a bookstore and you will see a large portion of the young adult section devoted to paranormal romance. Having a werewolf or a vampire in your book makes it part of the popular trend in young adult literature. Frankly, I have become quite sick of the number of novels revolving around supernatural creatures; every other book seems to deal with some paranormal creature and the books are starting to feel like washed-up versions of the same story.
In a crowd of paranormal romances, Fateful by Claudia Gray stands out from the crowd. Fateful is an atypical werewolf story; instead of having to deal with school or feuds with vampires like in most young adult werewolf novels, the characters in Fateful have to deal with the sinking of the Titanic. That’s right; Fateful is the story of werewolves…on the Titanic. Gray mixes paranormal romance with historical fiction to create a refreshing werewolf tale.
Gray is familiar with the genre of young adult paranormal fiction. Gray has written the Evernight series, a series that centers on the star-crossed love of a vampire and vampire hunter at a high school boarding school, and has a firm grasp on writing paranormal romance for teens. I really enjoy the difference in Fateful from her previous novels; Fateful is fresh and exciting, while at times the Evernightseries was slow and even a little dull. I actually never finished reading the Evernight series because I lost interest; the series started to feel like every star-crossed paranormal romance. In Fateful, Gray tries something different from her previous series that kept me captivated: blending historical and paranormal elements to create a new subgenre of paranormal romance. Very few young adult novels are historical novels, and even fewer historical novels have paranormal elements. Fateful blends the two genres together and plays off certain elements from both paranormal and historical fiction, twisting the reader’s expectations from both genres.
The setting is of the best things about this book. The setting of Fatefulinstantly separates the book from other paranormal novels. Everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable ship that — spoiler alert — hits an iceberg and sinks on its maiden voyage. As an avid fan of anything Titanic related, I was curious to see how werewolves would be incorporated into this famous story. Before reading the book, I wondered if setting the book on the Titanic was more gimmicky than essential to the story; the pitch for a book with were werewolves on the Titanic will definitely make people pause. However, if Fateful were set anywhere else, the book would lose most of its appeal and just would be another werewolf story. Having the story take place on the Titanic adds a whole other level to the book; the setting heightens the tragedy and the obstacles the characters have to face. The readers know what is going to happen to the ship, but the characters do not. Not only does Tess, the main character, have to try to survive the dangers of being attacked by werewolves, she must survive a disaster. As the reader, knowing the story of the Titanic made every action in the plot feel more urgent because we know there are only a couple of days left until the ship sinks, but the characters do not. The happy moments become so much more tragic with the knowledge that the happiness cannot last. Tess and Alec can try to overcome the obstacle of Alec being a werewolf, but the readers do not know if they can survive an event that resulted in the death of over a thousand people. I was both excited for the sinking of the ship, but dreading it at the same time. I wanted to see how Gray incorporated the sinking into the story, but knew that the sinking could only result in tragedy for the characters.
Gray establishes the world Tess lives in beautifully through the writing. The writing, thankfully, is more formal than the writing of a contemporary novel, reflective of the time-period, which helps to establish the setting. Compared to her writing in Evernight, which at times felt clunky and awkward, Gray’s writing in Fatefulis fluid and vivid. Gray’s descriptions of the Titanic capture the grandeur and beauty of the ship, making the reader feel like they are with Tess on this famous ship. The story is told from the first person perspective of Tess; a servant to a wealthy British family who is journeying to America on the great ship Titanic. Tess has been raised to feel inferior to her employers and accept whatever they have to say. Gray demonstrates knowledge of the workings and treatments of servants during the time-period through Tess’s commentaries and descriptions of her life. The contrast between Tess’s life and that of Irene Lisle, the daughter of the family Tess works for, is firmly established. Irene has to be paraded around like a prize in first class, while in third class, Tess works and has little free time. Social status proves to be an obstacle for most of the characters in Fateful; not only is class an obstacle in the main storyline involving Tess and Alec, but it provides interesting conflicts for the secondary storylines. I was fascinated by the class differences and thought it added an interesting element to the story.
I was swept away by the plot of this book. Even though the majority of the events take places over six days, the plot did not feel rushed. When dealing with such a short time span, other young adult novels’ plots seem to be rushed and characters tend to be left underdeveloped, but Gray had no issues with the short time span. Instead, Gray immediately dives into the story, wasting no time introducing us to main players of the novel in the first chapter. From there, the plot slowly builds and gains momentum until the very end of the novel. The reader follows Tess’s life and unravels the secrets surrounding her as she does. Gray has a perfect balance between the romance and the action; there is not too much of either. The twists and turns in the plot were perfectly executed, leaving me surprised and not confused with each twist. Fatefulis an emotional rollercoaster as well: sometimes, I would be ecstatic, other times I would be on the brink of tears and at the end I was a bundle of emotions. The plot is addicting, so much so that I was wishing that the Titanic did not have to sink so I could keep reading. Sadly, no matter how much I wished Gray could alter the course of history, the ship did have to sink, but the story did not end there. I was grateful that Gray continued Tess’s story after the Titanic sunk to wrap up loose story lines caused by the sinking that interrupted the main plot. The ending is thoroughly satisfying and wraps up all the lose ends perfectly; I could not have wished for a better ending.
Tess is a strong heroine, particularly in a time when women were viewed as weak things that needed protection. Constantly, Tess is being thrown in danger and having her life threatened, but she does not waiver from trying to protect those she loves and cares about. Tess is no weak damsel in distress stress that is all too common in young adult novels; Tess can take care of herself. I admired Tess’s strength and motivation. With a lot more courage then most, Tess is determined to leave her employment and try to start a new life when the Titanic ports even if she has no way to support herself. As a 17-year-old girl in 1912, that takes guts. Many obstacles threaten Tess’s goal, but still she holds onto to dream of starting fresh in America.
Tess’s compassion and kindness is admirable. Tess is willing to risk her life to protect those she holds dear to her heart. This brings us to Alec. Alec is the son of an American millionaire steel tycoon who is troubled by his past and the fact that he is a werewolf. While reading, I could not help but think Tess and Alec’s relationship was comparable to Rose and Jack’s relationship from James Cameron’s Titanic, well, except for the fact that in Fateful the classes of the characters were reversed and one of them is a werewolf, but otherwise, Tess and Alec’s relationship is on par with Rose and Jack’s. Tess and Alec’s relationship is intense yet sweet, exactly what I hoped it would be. Unlike so many paranormal romances, Tess and Alec’s romance does not revolve around the fact that Alec is a werewolf; instead, their relationship has substance and is not defined by Alec being a werewolf. If anything, Alec being a werewolf is one of the least important aspects of their relationship. Their relationship did not suffer from “instant-love” either; there was no “BAM! They’re in love.” Even though they have only known each other a short time, Gray took time to establish their relationship so that over the course of a few days Alec and Tess’s genuinely come to care for each other.
One of the best characters in Fateful has to be Mikhail. Gray creates a purely evil villain. He just exudes evil and is meant to be hated. Mikhail, the main antagonist in the book, is part of a secret society of werewolves after Alec and something in the possession of Tess’s employers. Mikhail does not care if he hurts anyone to get what he wants; in fact, he is willing to try to kill Tess for satisfaction it would bring him. Killing and violence is pure fun for Mikhail. He brings on the shudders for creepiness and evilness. Mikhail would always be popping up at times when you would least expect it and causing trouble. He is pure evil and is constantly scheming; he should be the archetype of villains for all other books of this genre.
Fatefulcombines a familiar genre with a familiar event to make a refreshing new story. At no point did Fateful feel like a wash-up or recycled version of some other werewolf story. I am head over heels in love with this story. I am not the biggest fan of werewolves, yet I still love Fateful. Fateful is unlike any other young adult paranormal romance I have read. Personally, I would love if more authors took a page out of Gray’s book and would set their books in the past to give a story more life. In addition, not every book needs to be a series and Fateful is a prime example of a paranormal novel that functions best as a standalone, a rarity in young adult paranormal fiction. As paranormal romance, Fateful brings new life to a genre that has become bland and has the ability to stand apart from its peers.