SPFBO Status: Cut
Who would enjoy this read: YA (I would say upper- or adults that enjoy YA reads as some of the topics are mature)
Overview (No Spoilers):
Set in a world much like our own with the crucial addition of individuals either exhibiting powers (gifted) or those without (serfs), The Fae and the Fallen takes place at Gifted Fae Academy, a school for the gifted. This story alternates narration between the two main characters, Reina and Kaito, whose complex history provides ample fodder. The audiobook was great for this style of writing as their voices brought more depth to the characters. These two were friends as young kids, but they later grew apart when Kaito gained his powers and became one of the most gifted students at their school while Reina still remained a serf. Gifted students often practiced their touch magic on serfs, and Reina was often the bullied target of Kaito. The paths of Reina and Kaito are further intertwined when they are both admitted to the Gifted Fae Academy as a result of Reina’s incessant belief she belongs there, even though her powers don’t seem to exist. At the academy, students train in hopes of ultimately becoming Fae, the protectors of their world; the celebrity status that often accompanies the position helps with motivation, too. This angsty story (seriously, so much angst) follows the two leads through their ups and downs at the academy, which heightens as it is hinted that there is something deeper going on. Chenelle subtly weaves parallels in the magic realm of the story to our current underlying issues of class, justice, and what it means to ‘do right’ by society. This culminates in an exciting end scene that definitely leaves the reader wanting more.
The novel was enjoyable overall, though not something that I would normally pick up. The characters are well developed, even though there is a slow burn to find out some of the heavy secrets of the characters, like Reina’s traumatic past. As characters, Reina is persistent, kind, and not easily ruffled, and it was enjoyable to see her cool and collected self shine in the story, especially when it irritates Kaito. Kaito on the other hand, is an ass. He is egotistical, manipulative, and selfish. Their yin and yang was interesting but also at times very frustrating as Kaito’s toxic behavior often flirts with, and in some cases, crosses the line of being abusive. The alternating point of view in the novel will sometimes have you sympathizing with his character flaws, but at the end of the day, he is still a toxic person who Reina keeps getting pulled back to and who I genuinely had a hard time rooting for.
I was disappointed that the novel spends more time on the angst and love triangle than it does on building relationships between Reina and others or on the magical or political aspects. It seems that there was a missed opportunity to add further dimension and depth to the world that has been well laid out. The plot was interesting, though it seemed to build very rapidly at the end. I was worried that this was ‘another magic school’ novel, but it kept my interest and felt fresh. There was good foreshadowing that something was afoot, and I am definitely interested in what happens in the next book.
Additional Insights and Questions (Spoilers Abound):
- This was oh-so-angsty. Lots of sexual tension and sometimes actual (not descriptive) sex makes me a bit uncomfortable as these are, in my mind, high-school-aged kids. I am not a prude, but the ick factor would have been less if they had been presented as being older.
- I was often angry at the blatant bullying of the Serfs by the Gifted.
- Kaito’s character. I know that he had issues, but man, he was a manipulative ass. I didn’t like that Reina didn’t see this as abusive and continually was ‘okay’ with it, and still pined for him.
- How convenient it was that Reina had taken something to suppress the feelings of losing her parents but it never occurred to anyone that it may also be suppressing her gift?
- I am really interested in the background of Yemoja Roux. Is she having second thoughts about the role of the Fae?
- Due to some of the foreshadowing, it was pretty apparent that there was going to be some kind of uprising. I wonder how much of Kaito’s involvement was omitted in his general narration? Will we find that out in the next book?
- To my above point, Kaito is surely a Fallen? Right?!
- Is this more than just a good versus evil battle? As in, are the Fallen more like vigilantes or anarchists?
- With the uprising, and me assuming Kaito is part of the Fallen, I wonder if Kaito will be able to steal Reina from becoming what is clearly the Fae track for her.
- Who will Reina choose? (Gah, the angst!)