Having recently read The Hunger Games I'm more acutely aware of how strange a combination having first-person perspective told in the present-tense in...moreHaving recently read The Hunger Games I'm more acutely aware of how strange a combination having first-person perspective told in the present-tense in a young adult novel is. Ryan manages this rather obscure technique quite adeptly, but I still find it an adjustment to make when reading. Once moving past this, though, I found this sophomore effort quite masterfully written. Ryan's style has an almost antique feel to it that gives her world a rustic quality that is both beautiful and fraught with peril.
While this is not a direct sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, many of the lingering questions raised from the previous book are answered. However, this being the middle of three separate books, there is even more left hanging at the end. That in itself is not a bother to me, but the fact that so much of this book's plot seems recycled from its predecessor did unnerve me a bit. I've long since grown weary of the often used love-triangle angle, and since this is a big plot point of the first book I couldn't help but roll my eyes at its nearly identical usage here. That isn't to say the characters in this book are just recycled elements; Gabry in particular is nothing like Mary which may actually be a weakness in some cases. I'm never more happy to read about strong, empowered female characters . . . and while other characters in the book seem to claim this of Gabry, I'll have to agree with her on this one: she isn't. And even when she starts to seem like she is a few paragraphs later she's back to sniveling and wanting to run away or blaming herself for, well, everything. I give her the grace at least to assume there's an arc planned, but if it was in this book I clearly missed it.
The most refreshing element of this second book is the deeper mythology Ryan has created with her zombie world. Many of the more peculiar elements from the first book are explored in further detail, explanations are given and histories are revealed. Much like the characters, the reader is shown that there is far more than a tiny village lost in the Forest and that there is indeed a vast, and possibly intricate, world beyond. Frankly, the enormity of it all is almost horrifying, which just adds to the thrill of the book. And, lest I forget to mention it, all this is accomplished without relying on being overtly gory as so many other horror writers do. Since I'm easily squicked out, I can't begin to express how much this pleases me.
Yet, I have to admit, I still can't fully determine my feelings on this "companion" novel. In some ways I feel it's lacking in comparison to the first book and in others I feel that it truly surpasses it. And the more I go round-and-round about it, the more confused my thoughts seem to get. I do think Ryan has only grown as a writer and my personal appeal for the book is no doubt due to this. However, I can't quite shake my irritation at the repetition present. So, mostly I'm just focusing on the inevitable third book that wraps all this up.
The one major downfall I found with The Reckoning is that it starts out slowly. It picks up right where The Awakening left off and because of that the...moreThe one major downfall I found with The Reckoning is that it starts out slowly. It picks up right where The Awakening left off and because of that the lack of action does make sense, but I found myself biding my time until something happened.
As usual, Kelley Armstrong does not let down, though, because once things do start happening there is a lot going on and very quickly at that. It's not long before our ragtag group of supernaturals is pitted against the forces of evil . . . or at least justifiable paranoia. That might sound cheesy, but it actually is the wonder of Armstrong's writing that it never seems that way. Through Chloe her narrative just sucks a reader into her world, making the peril she's experiencing quite palpable. I'm especially fond of Chloe's voice -- especially given my recent issues with language abuse in some other young adult novels -- because she is just the right mix of young and mature that keeps the story purely centered in a young adult world but doesn't alienate the reader with excessive slang or juvenile speech.
Of course, the dynamic between Chloe and Derek will always be the major draw for me in this series and they are especially adorable in this installment of the story. Call me a hapless romantic, but the two of them just define first, young love to me. They are such a wonderfully compatible pair for one another and anytime they manage to have a moment alone I can't help but smile at their interaction. Most interesting for me is that they both have truly grown since the first novel and while it's only been a few weeks it's a believable arc.
I also found that I enjoyed the side characters more in this one than before. Tori in particular was actually likable, while still maintaining the mystery element that's been inherent to her character. I wouldn't have minded if her and Simon had a bit more time to evolve into their own, but I was pleased with the end product of their specific journeys as well. It was also pleasing to see all the supernaturals really come into their own regarding accepting their lot in life due to the Edison Group's gene manipulation. And, of course, doing something about all the creeps trying to lock them up and/or kill them! However, I was quite shocked at some of the events in some of these fights. Nothing graphic -- which I appreciate immensely -- but much darker than the first two have been.
For what it's worth, I really don't have any complaints. I greatly enjoyed this conclusion to the series and as a whole I found the entire trilogy incredibly endearing and entertaining. And while I'll miss these characters, I am quite excited for The Gathering and the continuing story that Armstrong has in store in the next three books.