Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
Published 2011, 358 pages, Library copy. First in the Darkness Rising trilogy.
Maya lives on Vancouver Island in an isolated town called Salmon Creek. The St. Clouds own a medical research facility there and there's a very small group of people who live there working at the facility. Maya's father is the park warden, and Maya helps him with wounded animals. She has a way with most of the animals, even the old cougar Marv.
Her life is mostly normal, but strange, unanswered questions surround Maya and her town. Her best friend Serena died a mysterious death a year before the story. An old woman calls her a witch when she sees Maya's birthmark tattoo. A reporter starts sneaking around town and no one believes she's really there to write an article about being a teen in a small town.
It's interesting trying to write a short blurb for this because honestly, not that much happens in the first half of the book, and yet I couldn't put it down! Kelley Armstrong's characters are so likable and well-characterized. The main ones all have a distinct personality, and I found myself liking all of them. Her writing flows really well. I could see this small town perfectly--the forests, the kids, everything.
Okay, I say nothing happened, but that's not really true. It's just that the author brings up a lot of questions and doesn't answer them until the second half. . .or not at all. Maya starts to get to know this new guy named Rafe. At first she brushes him off, but they really start to hit it off after a few talks. She and her friend Daniel investigate the reporter. She has strange encounters with animals--seeing what they feel, telling them what to do. The second half is more fast-paced as things start to be revealed. You can predict some of it, and other parts come out of left field, which is cool.
I really liked this story! Like I said, the characters were great. I really liked Maya. I liked the romance between her and Rafe, although I'm still wondering if there's anything at all between her and Daniel. Maybe next book she'll explore that a bit more.
One of the things I really appreciated was the morals of the story. And I don't mean it had a message, I just mean people were decent and there wasn't anything that made me question Kelley Armstrong's belief in gender roles. Maya was a strong female, and although Daniel was completely chivalrous, he wasn't condescending to any of the women in the book. He's a perfect gentlemen, actually, as is Rafe, without treating the females in the book like they're inferior. When Maya suspects she was drugged at her birthday party, she was ready to drop the suspecting male in a second.
Armstrong was conscious about issues that teens face and her characters were totally sensible, even honorable, about it. This is probably a book conservative parents wouldn't mind their kids reading--she'll use "Rafe cursed" instead of actual words and the book is light on violence and sex while still being realistic and still being a really strong story.
Long story short: READ IT. I cannot WAIT for the sequel. I keep starting these series' even though I know I'll have to wait forever for the next one. I'm going to do read her Darkest Powers series so I can just read one right after another!