Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Spotlight: The Gathering (Darkness Rising #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Salutations, Beardies!

Summer! That means summer vacation, right? Oh, if only I lived in a perfect world where summer vacation existed after elementary school…As it is, I’m only taking one summer class, which means that I do have some extra time to read.

I read Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers Trilogy a couple years ago, and then she published The Gathering, the first in another supernatural trilogy (squee!!). Therefore, it must be read. Then came the dreaded School period. Mistress Time decided to dance across my brain and sucked me into Distraction. A lovely place, Distraction. Lots of sparkly lights and food fit for the gods (think chocolate, Nutella, and anything flavored with chocolate). Now that Mistress Time has released me from Distraction, I find that I have the opportunity to read with a purpose other than for class. Thanks to a good book friend of mine and Elizabeth’s, Anna, the Mighty and Magnificent Merchant of Materials and Knower of All Book Worlds, I have possession of the following fantastic trip:



Premise:
Sixteen year-old Maya lives on Vancouver Island in a community of medical researchers. She does not know much about her origins, being adopted, but she does have her odd paw print birthmark on her hip and Native looks. However, her lack of knowledge on this subject has never bothered her. Life on a secluded Island full of wildlife sits well with Maya.

When her best friend and captain of the swim team, Serena, drowns in their favorite lake, Maya takes a back seat in life. A year later, strange things begin to happen. Mountain lions keep approaching Maya and her best friend, Daniel, has a knack for “feeling” out people and situations. Not to mention the new resident bad boy, Rafe, has taken a particular interest in Maya. A reporter snooping around about Serena’s death probably will not help matters, either.

Watch the Book Trailer



Gems for Writers:
Characterization. I want Maya on my team. Daniel, too. Not just because they’re great athletes. Maya runs like the wind (insert Colors of the Wind theme here) and can climb faster than her peers (which mostly consist of dudes). Daniel is the regionally ranked high school boxer and wrestler. I want them on my team! What game are we playing, again?

Maya is confident and she has the whole “I know what I want and now I’m going to go get it” attitude down. Sure, she’s affected by her best friend’s untimely death, but once she resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery, she’s pretty hard core. She’s there for her friends (even if there aren’t many because it’s a small isolated island community). She respects her parents and the local officials. This may seem like a trait of a dull protagonist but the author gives enough body to the authority figures like her parents, doctors, and the mayor, that her respect for them reveals Maya’s maturity. Investigating behind authority’s back is well-meaning, not an act of rebellion. Also, her flaws give Maya a realistic and likeable edge. She can be completely judgmental, especially against characters that wrong her (or that she thinks have wronged her). This plays out in her relationship with oh-so-bad-boy Rafe and a couple of minor characters.

Daniel is another character that has earned my respect. A classic popular, good looking high school guy—minus the football jersey, C average, Jerk Badge, and inflated ego—Daniel is just trying to get through and get out of Vancouver Island. It is not hard to understand why, considering his father drinks and runs his mouth about Daniel’s mom who walked out recently. He has it rough at home, but he’s just an all-around stand-up guy. He’s close with Maya and her parents. The fierce protectiveness toward Maya may be brotherly, but it certainly makes for good relationship speculation.

Kissy Kissy. In the beginning I thought, “Oh, she’s going to get together with Daniel, her best friend since childhood.” That makes sense, right? Then we see her pushing him to get together with her friend, Nicole, and that goes out the window. It’s the iconic bad boy that wins the love interest trophy here. Even though Maya thinks she has Rafe all figured out, he surprises her with some truths about his past. They open up to each other and suddenly flames begin. The dynamic between them is interesting and heated. There is satisfaction where romance is concerned. Yet, thankfully, it is not the main plot of the story.

Subtle Supernatural. As The Gathering is the first book in a trilogy, the supernatural element is subtle, just building up for the following books. Maya lives within the wildlife park of Vancouver Island, where her dad works as park ranger. She nurses injured animals to health, and she notices that they heal faster than normal when in her presence. She starts having visions of experiences of the animals she touches, and there are frequent cougar sightings around her. Even more strange is when one cougar in particular seems smarter than average.

Daniel also seems to be exhibiting supernatural abilities. He can “feel” out a person and their intentions. It helps him decide whether to like or avoid a person. He even seems to sense some events before they occur.

The supernatural element is masterfully done and allows the reader to focus more on character and plot building rather than being shocked and awed by powers galore (or epic/borderline cheesy fight scenes for that matter). It creates a balance and eases the characters and reader into the world of the supernatural.

Rating:

Conclusion:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has the perfect balance of mystery, romance, drama, and supernatural abilities that I prefer. As the first book in a trilogy, it was supposed to get me to read the following books and it has done its job well. There is a tiny cliffhanger and a thirst to know more about the bombshell that is delivered near the end. Take that, Mistress Time and Distraction! You won’t be stopping me now!

Scribe Away and Read a Book Today, Beardies!



***The Gathering (2011) by Kelley Armstrong is published and copyright HarperCollins, New York. It is available in stores, online (see above), and at your local public library.
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