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I Belong

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Gathering

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: The Darkness Rising (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 12, 2011

Format: Hardcover, 359 Pages

ISBN-10: 0061797022 (Harper Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0061797026 (Harper Teen)

Reviewed by: Emmy


Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn’t know much about her background – the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip – but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.
Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town – from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend’s hidden talent for “feeling” out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya’s biological parents and it’s easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

Quick & Dirty: While the novel lacks its own plot arc (Armstrong writes her trilogies as a single story) the characters are strong and memorable, and the Native Canadian mythology the series is based on is awesome.

Opening Sentence: Serena stood on the rock ledge twenty feet above the lake, singing in a voice known to bring tears to the eyes of everyone who heard it.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Set in an isolated research community, called Salmon Creek, inside a national park on Vancouver Island, The Gathering has a setting that immediately comes to life. At the beginning of the story, Maya’s recovering from the questionable death of a friend and begins to investigate with the help of her dead friend’s boyfriend Daniel. As they dig deeper they begin to find less answers and more questions about their tiny, classified town. When Maya, whose affinity for animals has led her to helping the injured in the park, learns that there’s more to her birthmark than she could’ve imagined, the story takes off fast.

I love the fact that this series is based off of Native Canadian (First Nation) mythology. It added more depth to the paranormal side of the story, knotting the shapeshifters in with folk lore. The concepts Armstrong explores had a lot of potential and she does a great job of planting intriguing seeds in this first installment. Unfortunately, she didn’t stop there. Bringing in an Italian sect of secret hunters was a plot blunder, in my opinion, because they completely pulled me from the story. What were they doing in Vancouver Island? What did they have to do with native legends? But so far the Benandanti haven’t been instrumentally involved and I’ve been able to let them slide. She uses the myth of Skin-walkers to add atmosphere to the already wild setting of Salmon Creek, building a community and characters that I loved to read about.

I’m a big fan of Rafe, Maya’s sexy love-interest, because he isn’t a stalker or some broody, over-protective hero. Maya’s a strong woman who deals with her own problems — she doesn’t need Rafe to save her. They have a close, but healthy, relationship. And Rafe’s younger, metally-disabled sister Annie helped deepen the way readers will perceive him. There were a lot of characters beyond Maya and Rafe that I grew attached to.  Her parent’s had some great, banter-filled scenes and I loved that Armstrong included them in the story. (Not enough parents in YA, in my honest opinion. They always get left out or stereotyped somehow.) Daniel is her protective best friend and Sam, characterized by her quick temper, is a lot more than meets the eye.

The ending was rough. While I appreciate cliffhangers as much as the next bibliophile, The Gathering doesn’t have a complete plot arc. If you’ve read any of Kelley Armstrong’s other series, you’ll see this is something of a pattern. Her stories tend to be cut into three books, with one big, long plot between them. She has a great, image-evoking writing style that’s fun to read, but it didn’t stop me from being frustrated at the end of this novel. Upside, the sequel’s out! So you won’t have hang off a cliff for long.

Notable Scene:

“Pop goes the weasel!” a boy yelled.

Another guy laughed. Footsteps pounded the dry earth so loud they sounded like an oncoming locomotive. A single thought filled my head. Escape. I pulled myself along, dragging my injured leg over a carpet of dead needles—

“Maya!” A warm hand grabbed my chin. “Come on, Maya.”

I gasped and blinked. I was sitting on the floor. In Daniel’s lap. I bolted to my feel so fast, I elbows him in the stomach.

“Thanks,” he wheezed. “Next time I’ll let you hit the floor.”

“What happened?”

“You fainted.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “I believe swooned is the correct term. It’s not nearly as romantic as it sounds, you know. More like a deadweight collapse. With drool.”

Darkness Rising Series:

1. The Gathering

2. The Calling

3. The Rising (April 9, 2013)

FTC Advisory: Harper Teen provided me with a copy of The Gathering. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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