Vampires are everywhere in teen fiction, but recently some authors have ventured outside fangland and explored a more diverse assortment of supernatural beings. And so we have Fates by Lanie Bross, a novel about, well, Fates. I was a little sad when I realized Bross’s Fates didn’t bear much resemblance to the Greek Fates, just because I’m a sucker for classical mythology, but nonetheless I was eager to see what Bross did with the concept. The gorgeous cover art didn’t hurt a bit either.
The two central characters are fine, in and of themselves. The heroine, Corinthe, was once a Fate and lived in the ethereal world of Pyralis, where she and her sister Fates were responsible for making sure people’s destines played out like they were supposed to. But Corinthe made a mistake, and for that was banished from Pyralis and is now living in Humana (Earth). She looks like a human teenager but still has a job in the Fate bureaucracy and is called an Executor. The hero, Lucas, is a boy whose soccer talent has catapulted him into the in-crowd. Lucas is trying to juggle the social demands of his new friends and girlfriend with the older, more painful problems and responsibilities he doesn’t like to talk about: alcoholic father, little sister in trouble. Corinthe’s character, at first, is somewhat distant and cold, intentionally so. She doesn’t think like a human and fears developing human emotions. Lucas, by contrast, is immediately relatable and bubbling over with emotion. Both characterizations essentially work, and I felt I had a good grasp of what made each of them tick.
The plot gets rolling when Corinthe learns from her mentor that, in order to go home to Pyralis and be with her sisters again, she must kill Lucas. Meanwhile, Lucas’s sister Jasmine goes missing.
One of the issues I ran into while reading Fates was the building of the Fate mythology. Most of what we learn about Fates comes from an internal monologue by Corinthe. This exposition is rather confusing, and made even more so by the fact that Corinthe herself is confused about it. There’s a lot she hasn’t been told, as Fates are expected to simply obey. It piques the reader’s interest in the sense that you wonder what is yet to be revealed, but it does bog down the story just when it’s really starting to pick up.
Then, there are the YA tropes. It’s not fair to blame Fates for the existence of these tropes; YA paranormal lit is rife with them. Still, they’re starting to get on my nerves. One is insta-love, in which characters fall madly in love when they really don’t know anything about each other. This is compounded by the trope of one of the lovers trying to kill the other. I don’t know about you, but if I were to write a list of my turn-offs, someone trying to murder me in cold blood would have to be near the top of the list. I don’t like it when the guy is trying to kill the girl while they’re simultaneously falling in love, and I don’t like it here with the genders reversed either. It’s creepy, and it’s also overdone; I Have to Kill You for Some Metaphysical Reason is about as worn-out as its cousin, We Can’t Make Out for Some Metaphysical Reason.
Additionally, the villain is revealed much too early through internal monologue. I was already beginning to feel a frisson of suspicion regarding this character, but it was much more fun suspecting them than being sure, that early in the book.
However, I will say that much of this insta-loving was taking place in an unexpected and intriguing high fantasy setting. I had no idea we’d be spending so much time in non-Earth realms in this novel, but Bross clearly has a vivid imagination full of places both lovely and frightening.
Overall, Fates was a little too full of the usual YA tropes for my taste. Bross’s imaginative take on Fates and her secondary worlds have a lot of potential, though, and I might well read book two — in part, to resolve an intellectual curiosity. See, I think I know whose fate Corinthe messed up in the past…