Rapture by Lauren Kate
Back in February I reviewed Passion, third in the Fallen series. The Fallen series is about Daniel, a fallen angel, and Luce, the frequently-reincarnated human girl who has fallen in love with him many times over the centuries. I wasn’t thrilled with Passion, but thought it had potential, so I picked up the fourth and last book, Rapture.
This book takes the series in a different direction. Here, it becomes an adventure-quest that reminded me of The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones. There are relics they need to use in an elaborate ritual to help them find the location where the angels first fell to earth so they can get there first to stop Lucifer from re-booting history. The characters travel to exotic locations in Europe and the Middle East to find the relics: Venice, Vienna, Jerusalem, Troy. They’re angels, so they’re flying between these places, and the perfection of Daniel’s wings is described many, many times.
The hyperbolic descriptions and poor prose were as bad in this book as in the previous ones. In some way this aspect was improved because the book was more action-packed and less romance-focused. The attention of the plot was on the things that the characters had to achieve in order to stop Lucifer’s scheme, not on Daniel and Luce’s feelings for each other, which were pretty much established by this point.
In previous books, Luce’s mind was so clouded with infatuation with Daniel that she did some pretty stupid things. She annihilates herself for Daniel repeatedly because she prefers dying to not kissing him, and I wasn’t thrilled with that as a message for teens or a portrayal of healthy love. In this book, I was glad to be done with that. I appreciated that Luce is shown here with a mind of her own and knowledge of her own that helps her group to solve the puzzle and find out where they need to go to stop the world from ending. There were several moments when she put the pieces together and made the difference in the group’s progress. I liked that so much depended on her self-knowlege, and that even Daniel insisted that she was more than just a girl who he fell in love with. I was looking to see them establish a relationship of equals, and I think they mostly did, by the end.
I became wary early on in the book when I noticed references to the Fall happening 7,000 years ago. As small an allusion as that is, it marks an allegiance, even a fictional one, to young-earth creationism. It would have made no difference in the narrative for this number to be quite larger, so the choice to cite a number used by fundamentalists to “disprove” archeology and biology sure seems like a deliberate ideological decision with dangerous anti-science implications.
I really exhausted myself trying to puzzle out the deeper meaning of the metaphysical and theological aspects of this book: Are the Scale analogous to judgemental fundamentalists, calling God’s wrath down on others, but not really doing God’s true work? Why are some angels “worth” more than others when it comes to the balance between heaven and hell? Why don’t angels have an afterlife? Why was a blood sacrifice necessary? Finally I had to conclude that I was overthinking it. As much as I wanted this series to be His Dark Materials, it just isn’t. Though the titles have double meanings that imply both romance and religion (Fallen, Torment, Passion, Rapture), this story isn’t deep enough for two levels of significance and is really just about love. I don’t think Kate intends to make any kind of statement about the universe or sin or God. I think they were just plot elements she was using to make her love story as epic as possible.
However, in using God, heaven, and religion as plot elements, she ended up saying some really questionable things about them. I disagree with Kate’s portrayal of God in this book. God, called “the Throne” for some reason, perhaps to distance the character from readers’ religious sentiments, is kind of an asshole. The scene of the heavenly “roll call” when the angels chose sides between God and Lucifer, is replayed several times in this book and the previous one, Passion. Daniel refuses to choose, saying, “I choose love,” thus opening the series’ biggest plot hole. Hasn’t Lauren Kate ever read the gospel of John? “God is love” is one of the most frequently quoted verses. It’s one of the few teachings of Christianity I’ve consistently believed my entire life. So, by choosing love, Daniel is actually choosing God. He should get to stay in heaven. It makes no sense for God to kick Daniel out of heaven for choosing love. Unless God is an asshole.
Kate’s explanation is that angels were created for the purpose of adoring God. For Daniel to put his love for Luce ahead of God was to go against that purpose. However, humans were created to love God, and it’s totally fine with Him if they love each other too. This is an Old Testament God, one who rains down retribution and plays favorites among His children. The problem is that the angels’ job of adoring God sounds really boring. It sounds like all the reasons Huck Finn thought heaven would suck, and all the reasons Milton’s Lucifer is more interesting than his God or Adam. In the end Daniel and Luce’s punishment fits their “crime” and isn’t much of a punishment at all, but a happily ever after. In this series, Kate did accomplish something vaguely interesting, in a guilty pleasure way, but nothing especially progressive or revolutionary, especially not where religion is concerned.