6 November 2011

Review: Destined

Destined, by Alison Kraft
Genre: YA, Sci-fi, Romance, Fantasy, Supernatural
Published: August 2011
Pages: 290
My Rating: 

The idea of this book spoke to me enormously. It’s told from the perspective of modern day vampire slayer Apolline Greer (who comes from a long line of female, single vampire slayers and is rather obsessed with the ‘Titanic’) who suddenly finds herself aboard this famous sinking ship, in the body of her ancestor. Also on board are: Cristof-the vampire who killed her mother, another vampire hunter named Alexander Walker (Appoline never knew there existed others like her, let alone they were so cute) and a female vampire named Sasha whom she and Alexander were both sent to kill. Since we all know what happens to the ‘Titanic’ it’s an understatement to say Apolline is acting under a lot of time pressure. She has 4 days left ‘till the ship sinks.

Unlike slayers we already know (such as ‘Buffy’, which Alison Kraft refers to herself) the slayers in this book don’t walk around and slay every vampire they encounter because not all vampires are considered bloodthirsty and dangerous. They’re assigned to kill specific ones because they’ve turned bad. Which is why Apolline is not allowed to kill Cristof, even though he’s responsible for her mother’s death, has tormented her family before that and torments Apolline still. Yet now temptation is very strong: she has a chance to stop him before he has a chance to kill her mother.

Even though Apolline is a strong character, having lost her mother at a young age and being trained to be a vampire slayer, I find her personality a bit lacking. She’s cool and in control and doesn’t allow herself to break down and cry for quite some time. It took some time before she finally grew on me, but towards the end I could really sympathize with her.
Alexander Walker is truly an old fashioned gentleman, charming in a way. Despite the proper distance which social etiquette requires, you feel the romance between Noelle/Apolline and Alex grow, in a subtle way.
Logan seems like a good (and cute) guy too. Very slowly (for obvious reasons, as we find out later) he finds a way into Apolline’s life, because he genuinely cares for her.

As far as writing goes, this books reads away easily. Since it’s written from 21st Century Apolline’s view (in the first person), the style/language is modern, apart from the moments Apolline has to converse to her fellow travellers in 1912 of course.
Clearly Alison Kraft has done much research on the ‘Titanic’, I am pretty sure her descriptions of the ship, decks, rooms, sleeping quarters, dining rooms, floor plans, etc. are most accurate. But during the first half of the book the story is just being told without much extra flavour. Everything is a bit ‘flat’ and I miss a spark with the book.
Just like in the movie blockbuster, until the ship starts to sink, hardly anything happens. Alison Kraft takes a bit too much time writing about everything. Instead of chasing after Cristof and Sasha, Noelle and Alexander wander around the ship and talk, have breakfast, lunch or dinner and in between take their sweet time to change outfits. Admittedly, it’s nice to read how ‘crazy’ people were back then: taking hours to change into different attires for every meal, whilst the outfits they wore (especially women) were no easy task to change into. The tight and uncomfortable corsets, the hundreds of buttons on the gowns, the hair and make-up. No wonder every woman (who had some means) needed a maid!

I’m a big fan of detailed writing and descriptions, but it dragged on a bit too long. Almost every breath Apolline/Noelle takes (shallow breaths, due to her confining corset), every move she makes, is being described. The story drabbles on a bit too long. That does make you feel what Apolline feels: it’s actually rather boring to be aboard a big ship during the 1900’s.
Because of those elaborate descriptions the vampire-action gets snowed under a bit. It's almost like Alison Kraft thought about adding a supernatural theme to the story later to make it more interesting, instead of just writing another story about what it must have been like to be on the 'Titanic'.

However, as the story finally unfolded I really felt for Apolline. The love she and Alexander felt for one another was going to end either way, by death or Apolline’s return to the future. Alison Kraft described the chaos during those panicked last moments excellently. I won’t tell whether or not Alexander, Noelle and Apolline survived, but boy, did I feel some pain... All those innocent people who died that night, some of them being Apolline's new-found friends after her always solitairy life. Heartbreaking.

You should allow this book to take you on a voyage with it. The story may evolve slowly, the plot evident after some time, but it’s worth it in the end. Indulge yourself in the life style of the 1900’s for a while, take your time, and feel the romance wash over you. Don’t expect too much (vampire) action, then you’ll be fine.

Despite the collision course the Titanic was heading for, this book -as well as Apolline Greer’s life- is not. History can’t be changed, but the future can still have a happy ending.

Especially in the ‘now’ I feel for Apolline, once she has returned safely (alas, Noelle does not survive) and gets to know Logan- the neighbour she has been secretly lusting after for some years already. Being confronted with things 'Titanic' hurts too much, understandably, and Apolline questions her sanity. Was it just a dream, or not? And did she manage to kill Cristof or not, because her mother is still dead.
Once it turns out Logan is Alexander’s great-great-great grandson, possesing a letter addressed to Apolline (proving Alexander did survive the ‘Titanic’, despite the fact that Apolline saw him fall into the freezing water together with Sasha) both Apolline’s and my tears were flowing freely.

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