Friday, September 25, 2009
In Which Trai Reviews 'The Awakening'
Second review I meant to post... This book not to be confused with Kate Chopin's The Awakening (also a very good book).
The Book: The Awakening (Book #2 in the DARKEST POWERS series)
The Author: Kelley Armstrong, author of the dark fantasy series WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD
How I Found It: Read the first novel, The Summoning, to which this is a sequel. Before that, I've been a fan of her work since I was fourteen (eighteen now).
The Review: As mentioned above, I started reading Kelley Armstrong's books when I was fourteen years old-- perhaps a little young for the content, but in my defense, I started with Haunted, the least sexually explicit of the Otherworld books. (Yes, my mother knew what I was reading and gave me permission... she apparently read worse at that age.)
Since around 2007, I became a lapsed fan of the Otherworld series; with the advent of the seventh book, No Humans Involved, the series went hardcover. Besides my adversity to hardcovers (I just don't like them), they're very expensive, so I waited for the paperbacks. I got NHI when it came out in paperback, but didn't get around to reading it. On the eve of my departure for college, I noticed Kelley's first YA effort, The Summoning, on a Border's display table and bought it on impulse, bringing that and NHI with me to college.
Earlier this month, I pulled a NHI/Summoning double feature, reading them back-to-back. I wasn't sure how Armstrong's universe would translate to YA, but I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know how many people who read her YA are familiar with the Otherworld books, but for me, it was slightly suspense-killing since I knew the "surprise" of what each person was.
Regardless, I got pretty sucked into the story, and I was very glad to read The Awakening to see where it went. Armstrong writes YA just as convincingly as she writes adult books, and Chloe is a very likeable narrator.
Chloe is also a budding filmmaker, meaning she is what TV Tropes would call genre savvy. That is, she knows all the pitfalls of the normal heroine in movies and books, lampshades them, and avoids them as much as she can. This makes her a smart and fun narrator to stick with-- since she avoids the normal conventions, it's great to see what she'll do next.
Granted, the plot and characters of the first two books of the trilogy aren't too original. I figured out a good many things before the characters did; certain tropes are pretty old hat. But at the same time, cliche as some characters may have been, they were characterized very well, and I enjoyed spending time with them. I thought Armstrong's use of Simon's drawings as coded messages was particularly original-- a ghost, a Terminator, and a lightning bolt translates to "Chloe, I'll be back, Simon." It was a cute touch I really enjoyed.
The first book was about the secrets of Lyle House, what the characters were, and how to get out. This second book was mostly about the search for Simon and Derek's dad and the setbacks along the way. Again, not terribly original, but it is Armstrong's gift that she can make even the most unoriginal plot great fun to read about.
Otherworld fans might miss the familiar faces-- I'm waiting for Jaime to pop up and mentor Chloe-- but once you get past that, these are quick, engaging YA reads that are much, much better than the Twilight junk floating around. Want your kid/friend/partner to read good fantasy? Tell them to read this.