First, a request: Liz and Megha submitted questions for me to answer (on worldbuilding and planning respectively) but now the TweetDeck page where I'd saved Liz's question is unavailable, and I can't find Megha's question in the comment trail. So if you guys would still like me to talk about this after waiting for so long (sorry!) then can you comment here or email me and ask me again, so that I know exactly what to answer? *Smooches*
Onwards now, to a review of HALLOWED by Cynthia hand.
For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.
I read the first book in Ms Hand's angel-lore based trilogy last October (you can see my review here) and I really, really liked it. I was surprised how much I liked it, since the set-up, on the face of it, seemed to be that basic paranormal romance staple of a new girl coming to town and then getting involved with two boys, and various supernatural shenanigans.
The difference with UNEARTHLY was that the author had an unexpected knack for characterisation which immediately drew me into the story. With a cast of such endearing, human (even if not actually human) people on the pages, the outcome truly mattered to me. And once she'd drawn me in, the author set about creating a really convincing (and in places quite dark) mythology for her angels and angelbloods. I gave the book four stars because I felt it ended on an unsatisfying cliff-hanger, but I was desperate to get my hands on the next one.
I'm very happy to say that HALLOWED lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I loved it. The problem is...I can't say all that much about it! Pretty much anything I tell you is going to be a huge spoiler. Let me borrow a phrase from Mark (of Mark Reads Harry Potter fame) and say: You are not prepared.
|Australian Edition - my favourite!|
The author takes the hints of darkness she embedded in the previous installment and runs with them, creating a world for Clara which is much less certain and far more frightening. There's still the trademark humour which I enjoyed so much in the first story, but now there's a more bittersweet flavour to everything, because Clara, at the end of UNEARTHLY, chose to ignore her 'Purpose' (that is, the task that was set before her by way of celestial visions) and to save the 'wrong' person. She did it for all the right reasons. She did it for love. But in the wake of that choice, the world goes from black and white to shades of grey for Clara, and her mother and brother. Quite literally.
When you read HALLOWED you're going to find that a lot of the things you were absolutely, positively certain of in the first book will dissolve. Certain facts you took for granted turn out to be major plot twists in disguise. Your suspicions will turn out to be cleverly planted red herrings (although I still have some ideas which I think will play out in the final book). Characters change, or come to see the world in such a transformed way that their motivations flip - or maybe it's your understanding of them that flips. I don't even know how to describe it, except to say that it rocked.
If the first book made me tear up a few times, this one made me flat-out weep on at least two occasions. It's brutal. But it's also beautiful. I felt as if Ms Hand's confidence and skill were literally unfolding before my eyes here. All the promise that gleamed in UNEARTHLY burst into blazing life.
Despite these niggling qualms, I can honestly say that HALLOWED is a moving, well-written, gorgeous follow-up to UNEARTHLY. As soon as it becomes available in hard copy, I'll be snapping up a copy for my own. Recommended.