Book Review: The Gathering

Title: The GatheringThe Gathering
Series: Darkness Rising #1
(“Otherworld YA” #4)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins USA)
Original publication in: April 2011

This is the U.S. hardcover edition.

Date read, approximately: March 2012

Salmon Creek, Vancouver Island, Canada.
15-year-old Maya Delaney has always felt a bit different from her friends in her small (roughly 200 inhabitants), secluded research town.
It’s not just because she has Native American blood (Maya was adopted as a baby) or because she has a paw print (a birthmark) on her hip, or because her best friend has drowned a year ago. Maya loves animals and they follow her around, even wild ones. She is a remarkably good healer when it comes to wounded animals she tends to and she feels more at home in forests than in any other place.
Now, on the brink of her 16th birthday, more questions will surface before some of them can be answered.

The Gathering is the first book of its series but I’d strongly recommend that you read Darkest Powers trilogy first before reading this one. There are cross-references – Project Genesis and the “failed project in Buffalo” are mentioned, among other things – and in the last book of Darkness Rising, The Rising, you will meet Chloe and the others, who are from Darkest Powers trilogy. The Gathering is also set after The Reckoning.

That being said, you don’t have to read the Otherworld series – Armstrong’s adult series that precedes the two YA trilogies – but it can be helpful when you hear snatches of conversations with words like “Cabal”, “the Nasts” and “the Cortezes” thrown in.

The Gathering is of a completely different nature than The Summoning, the first book in Chloe’s trilogy. First off, Maya and her friends have no idea why living in a town funded and run by the St. Cloud “corporation” might not be the best thing ever, but most of them have grown up in Salmon Creek and they are treated well. The folks of Salmon Creek are a friendly, easy-going bunch.
The atmosphere in The Summoning was dark, edgy and full of simmering, potent danger. In The Gathering, however, the teens have no idea that they are part of Project Phoenix and there are no insiders like Simon or Derek in Salmon Creek. Wait, let me correct myself. There are insiders but one can’t help (not won’t – can’t) and the other’s plate is full already as it is.

The first book of Maya’s trilogy is set in leisurely pace, exploring the ground, the setting and the general feeling for people. Funny, though – even though Kelley Armstrong had 359 pages to introduce key characters and let readers get acquainted with them, I don’t really feel like I know any of them except for Maya, Daniel and Rafe. Then there are Fitz the three-legged bobcat, Kenjii, and the old cougar Marv, who all have interesting personalities, but, you know, I would have liked to get to know the people better.
Maya has a strong personality – she’s not easily intimidated (or at all) and she says what is on her mind. She is still coping with the death of her best friend, Serena, over a year ago. Maya’s sensible, mostly good-natured and is quick to confront her fears or admit her mistakes. Maybe too quick and too hard.

Her parents are pretty open-minded, good-humored and very caring. I love Maya’s parents. They are the best fictional parents I have ever come across to.
I think. Here lies another difference between Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising: the former contained no parents at all as the teens had to run away from them to keep them safe (or just plain run, if you were Tori) while the latter (at least in the first book, we’ll see how it progresses) is full of mundane stuff like parents, school, birthday party and so on.

To go on with the characters, there is Daniel Bianchi, the boyfriend of late Serena and a good friend to Maya. He’s protective and playful towards her like an older brother, but at the same time he and Maya are like confidants to each other. Daniel’s family situation sucks, but he does not show it. He’s very charismatic and a natural leader but he shows this side of his only when needed.
Rafe Martinez is the new guy at school who has the reputation of a bad boy and flirt. I can’t say much about Rafe lest I should spoil anything.

So these are all characters I really got to know. In The Summoning, a quick establishment of main players were made once Chloe landed in the Lyle House: Chloe, Liz, Tori, Simon, Derek and Rae, along with their “races” or “abilities”.
Here, I don’t even know who’s important and who’s not, let alone who’s what (except for three people). Probably Sam, because she’s hiding something. Of course Maya, Daniel and Rafe – and Annie, Rafe’s sister. Nicole, maybe? And Hayley because she’s the bitchy one this time? (I actually like Tori, so no offense to her, but she kinda sucked in The Summoning.) Corey? Ugh, I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out.

All in all, though, I welcomed this change of scenery. The characters will have to deal with tough stuff soon enough, so I quite enjoyed this thorough getting-to-know-the-forests book. Real action comes towards the end of the book. Of course, there are few mysterious elements sprinkled around to keep things interesting.
The ending is an interesting one, making me anxious enough to start The Calling right away.


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