Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelly Armstrong

The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1)
The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1) by Kelly Armstrong

Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.
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.

I found myself checking how many pages were left as I was reading "The Gathering," not because I was bored and wanted it to end (I wasn't...I was enjoying the book!), but because I couldn't imagine how Armstrong was going to wrap up everything in the number of pages she had left. The short answer was: She didn't.
I know some people are really hacked off about having so many questions left unanswered. I wasn't surprised, considering the first book in her previous YA series, (Darkest Powers) ended with the Mother of All Cliffhangers. Even though I'm usually Ok with mysteries being left unsolved if I know the answers are coming eventually, I found myself thinking the lack of closure here was a little much.
The Gathering is about sixteen year old Maya Delaney, a girl with supernatural powers she knows nothing about. We follow her as she learns what she is capable of and of course there's a bit of romance and danger thrown in. Sure, it's been done before, but I found Maya an interesting and realistically flawed character who I enjoyed getting to know. Her best guy friend, Daniel, was a sweetheart and although the resident "bad boy" Rafe wasn't my favorite, he did grow on me. The pacing didn't seem slow to me, and it wasn't until the book ended that I realized just how many mysteries were left unsolved;
1. The book opened with Maya witnessing the drowning of her best friend, Serena, under strange circumstances. Maya spends a lot of time thinking about what happened, concludes it wasn't an accident, and finally decides to investigate...but nothing is resolved beyond Maya forming some suspicions about what really happened.
2. An outsider comes to Maya's tiny Vancouver Island community ostensibly to write a newspaper story about local teens. Everyone suspects she is really after info on the all-powerful St. Cloud drug research group that owns and operates the town. When the faux reporter is found dead (in an effectively gruesome scene), it's never cleared up if she was murdered or not.
3. What was the deal with Sam and is she connected to the two deaths? Why is she so prone to violence? Does she have a superpower too??
4. Speaking of which...does Daniel? It's hinted at, but left unexplained.
5. What happened to Rafe's sister Annie? (Her, Rafe, and Maya's powers are pretty much the only thing we get the full story on in this book.)
6. We know Maya was adopted. (I appreciated the great relationship she had with her parents, since I am adopting a daughter myself. It was nice to see an adopted person who had a healthy relationship with her family.) We learn that her biological mother is key to Maya's powers and her being placed for adoption was a result of the evil scheming of a genetic engineering project created to reactivate magical races. *This info came from other reviews. It's not made entirely clear in the book* So what happened to her birth mom?
7. And what about her twin brother she never knew existed until now? Where is he? Is he someone we've already met in this book?
8. It's obvious the St. Cloud corporation isn't the benevolent entity Maya and the other townspeople at first believe it to be. So what is really going on with the St. Cloud group? How are they connected to the genetic modification project that created Maya and other teens like her?
See, that's a LOT of stuff left unexplained for one novel. I felt like half the book was missing. Also, I wasn't thrilled with the lackadaisical attitude toward underage drinking and the random cursing, although it wasn't pervasive by any means. I guess I'd call this a "cleanish" book rather than a clean one, if that makes sense.
I preferred Armstrong's previous YA series, Darkest Powers, although I believe the characters from those books are going to meet up with the Gathering folks in future installments of the series. I'll post my Darkest Powers series reviews soon in case anyone wants to start there with a series that's already finished and won't leave you feeling like this...

Rating: ThreeStars


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