Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Series: Darkness Rising (#1)
Pages: 359
Publisher: Atom Books
Published: April 12th, 2011
IBSN: 9781907410178

Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can’t find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students—for every grade from kindergarten to twelve.

Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya's determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya's home, and they won’t go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts getting negative vibes from certain people and things. It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret—and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy: Her paw-print birthmark.

The Gathering is the first in Kelley Armstrong's new YA series, Darkness Rising, set in the same world as her previous one. The links between them are apparent to readers of the first, though not confusing for new readers. I would even say this book is better read without any prior knowledge, because understanding what's going on when the main characters don't takes away from the suspense.

The new cast of characters consists of Maya, our adopted main character with an affinity to animals she never thought strange until recently; Daniel, her protective best friend; and Rafe, the mysterious new boy who understands parts of her that even she doesn't.

They were all likable, and their roles not nearly as cliched as they feel in summary. The dynamics between characters were intriguing, given the setting of a small, isolated and vaguely eerie town. Maya especially was a great character, a strong and caring protagonist with an engaging voice.

The plot was slow in the beginning, though I can't say I was at all bored there. For the first hundred or so pages, it read like a contemporary novel, and once the paranormal themes took root, they didn't feel awkward or misplaced because they were completely expected.

Written in Kelley Armstrong's typically engaging and intense style, even as the events were not-so-intense. The words had a distinct flow that gave way to fast reading and a smooth ride.

This new series promises to explore a side to the world that the Darkest Powers books only brushed over, with the focus on Weres and characters less aware of their power and with less guidance. It has a lot of potential, but not much of that translated into this beginning.

The Gathering was slow introduction to the series, where much of the novel read like an extended prologue or excerpt. By the end, however, the pace picks up significantly, and the ending leaves us in a good place to rest between installments.

I give The Gathering a 3 out of 5.