Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Finished: January 17, 2012
Pages: 403 (Hardcover)
Add It: Goodreads
Series: Unearthly (#2)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Purchased

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.

Quote: “Before I moved here, I never got the whole love-triangle thing. You know, in movies or romance novels or whatnot, where there’s one chick that all the guys are drooling over, even though you can’t see anything particularly special about her. But oh, no, they both must have her. And she’s like, oh dear, however will I choose? William is so sensitive, he understands me, he swept me off my feet, oh misery, blubber, blubber, but how can I go on living without Rafe and his devil-may-care ways and his dark and only-a-little-abusive love? Upchuck.”

Cover Love: I still think that the girl on the cover doesn't really look like how I imagine Clara. However, I do like the swirls/feathers and the coloring, particularly how the feather/swirl theme continues at the top of each chapter.

Thoughts: There will be spoilers for the first book in the series: Unearthly. If you haven't read the first book yet and would like to read my review of Unearthly instead you can find it here.

I'm going to be very vague in my review because I don't want to spoil anyone. If I were to write what I really wanted to about this book it would probably look something like this:

#$(#($(LIKE(#$(@#)@WHAT@(#(STOP IT CHRISTIAN@#(@TUCKERRRRRRR@((@#$(#NOOO JEFFREYYYYY@#*!*! and end with me riding off into the sunset with Tucker on the back of Midas in a blaze of Glory.

...thankfully for you, I'm going to write something else and try to make it somewhat composed.

Hallowed is Cynthia Hand's middle child and I liked it even more than her first. Sure, it's got classic middle child syndrome. It doesn't really further the plot along (though there are several new developments) and it ends as a very clear set up for the next book. The story still isn't the most original or groundbreaking thing in the world. There's still a love triangle with a heroine at the middle who is just special and shiny enough to make two men fall desperately in love with her. Yet, I loved this book. I laughed. I cried. I got angry. I worried. I stayed up all night with these characters. What kind of book deserves five stars if one that can make me do all of those things does not? I'm not here to be a professional judge of literary merit. Even so, it's like Cynthia Hand said to other authors "Look, you want to include the cliche high-school experience in your story and have a heroine who is being forced to choose between an attractive supernatural being and the boy next door? You can write that story but THIS is how you do it."

As stated in my review of Unearthly I was a little fearful of where book two was going to go. At the start of the book (and random moments throughout) I was worried that the story was going to be taken somewhere very cliche with the love triangle and fall in on itself. It's like I was standing at the edge of a cliff with Cynthia Hand behind me just begging me to trust her and I was saying "But Cynthia, those rocks down there look awfully sharp and I think I see Christian down there trying to give himself Edward Cullen hair..." and she was like "Shut up. I've got this all under control. And you've got to admit his wings are pretty." and guess what? Cynthia Hand never pushed me off that cliff. Although I'm pretty sure I saw her nudge Tucker a few times.

I don't like love triangles. There's usually a very clear winner and the girl ends up with the slightly abusive bad boy, while both boys stand around salivating over her like she's prime rib, and it's sickening. That is not so here. Well, for the most part. Cynthia Hand develops her characters so well that even if you came away from the first book solidly on the Team Tucker side (not that I would, um, ever, ya know, be on a team or anything... cough) that you will likely come to empathize with Clara and the reasons she is drawn to Christian as well. The thing is, Clara never casts Tucker aside. She doesn't look at Christian and say "Oh, but I cannot fight his charms! Look at his dark and smoky features!" and turn into mush in his presence. Though the boys have their cave man moments, they come out of it and apologize and they treat Clara with respect. They treat her as a person who can make her own decisions and don't try to force her hand. As a result, you feel something for everyone involved in the situation. It doesn't feel like a plot device. The love triangle makes sense as part of Clara's story. Clara is a creature with a destiny but she is also a creature with free will and the love triangle was a great way to explore that and help Clara grow.

It also isn't the focus of the whole book. I absolutely loved that Clara's relationship with her family is so developed. I like that the mother gets to have her own story. Too often in YA the adults aren't fleshed out at all and it's often a missed opportunity. Maggie is just as developed as Clara and I love Cynthia Hand for that. I would love to see Hand expand on Maggie's past even further. I also really enjoyed watching Jeffrey's story unfold.

I mentioned in my review of Unearthly that I really appreciate Cynthia Hand's sense of humor. That continues here. Which is good, because without Clara's voice, this book would have been very dark indeed. Clara pokes fun at her life and herself and the situations she finds herself in and it adds a necessary lightness to the story.

I'm glad I stood at that cliff with Cynthia Hand. Though, based on the ending I'm even more concerned for book three. I don't know why, because it's become clear that I should trust her. She has proven herself to be a great storyteller who treats her characters with respect.

Recommendation: If you liked Unearthly I think you should move right on to Hallowed. The same humor and suspense can be found in this second installment. Just don't come here looking for the plot to move forward a hell of a lot. This book focuses a great deal of its time on relationships (not just romantic ones) and character development. I wish there had been a little bit more resolved (particularly with Angela - you know something is going on there!) but I don't think fans of book one will be very disappointed.


Five out of Five Coffees

Hallowed is on sale now in hardcover. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other retailers.

Extras: Looking for other books similar to this one? You might also like Angelfall. It's a lot darker and dystopian instead of paranormal romance, but the angel mythology is top notch. These two series are the only angel books I've loved... so far. Have any suggestions for other great series I should check out that are focused on angels? Suggest away!


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