Friday, 25 November 2011

REVIEW: HALLOWED BY CYNTHIA HAND

Hi everyone! Happy Friday to you all - and I hope you've had a good week. If not, I next week will be better. Positive Thinking No-Jutsu!

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.

US Hardcover
THE BLURB:

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.

THE REVIEW:  

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!
This story carries on almost directly from the first one and the developments within are exciting and shocking and, despite being pretty much the opposite of what I expected, the book grabbed me by the heart and didn't let go.

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.

UK paperback
That's not to say, however, that this book was perfect. I felt certain plot threads and certain characters got short shrift (Jeffrey, for example - at the end of the book he seemed to just disappear, and this hardly had any impact on Clara's life and decisions, which seemed odd given how close they once were). And I also wonder...if the first book's message was about free will...what was the theme of this story? That fighting against destiny/fate/God's plan causes only suffering and pain? While I can see how that sort of of underlying assumption would be of comfort to a religious person who puts their faith in a higher power, I found it a little bit discomforting at times because I believe that we all have an absolute right to make our own choices and the responsibility to do so, rather than expecting anyone (or anything) else to guide us or fix our mistakes.

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.

6 comments:

Book Angel Emma said...

Arghhh I NEED this book even more now

Zoë Marriott said...

Emma: Sign up to NetGalley, my ducks! You'd be a shoe-in to get accepted. That place is the only reason I get to read any ARCs at all!

Isabel said...

Oh my goodness! I really need to read this now! D:

Megha said...

Sounds really, really good!

I actually can't even remember what my question was! I'll try and find it.

FOUND IT. Although I'm not sure if I want it answered still, but it would be great for future writers because I know this is a question everyone ponders on once in a while.

I'm not much of a person to plan - it's horribly hard. I know I need to do it, and I do plan before I start a story, but I feel like I don't plan enough. I know what will happen, but I don't know my characters as well as any other writer. Is this because I am young, because I am a sort of beginner writer, or because I'm one of the people who can work finely without planning? Is it okay to be one of those people who don't plan as much and like to improvise as they go along, or is that a bad thing? I can't control this urge of plunging into my book. You know when you have a special beginning scene in your head? I just need to write it straight away, and hence I start my story. Is there any way I can plan enough? I really think I need to plan more, I'm just horrible at it.

I know, it's horribly long.

Isabel said...

Zoe, my mom just read Shadows on the Moon and she thought it was great!

Zoë Marriott said...

Megha: Comment received, thank you very much for searching that out for me.

Isabel: Hurray! I'm so glad :)

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