My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it w4.5 stars
My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it with trepidation. The second book syndrome is a widely acknowledged and well studied phenomenon. Admittedly, I didn't have to trepidate that long. I finished Unearthly at like 3am, got up at 7 the next day and started reading Hallowed on the train on my way to work. I finished it within a day, at about 2 am last night. I thought I would pass out from exhaustion after the first one. But no. It's official. This book is better than caffeine at keeping me awake.
And guess what. IT WAS BETTER THAN THE FIRST ONE.
Although, I must warn you, this book is all about:
Where the first book was sweet and gentle and oh so romantic, this one was gloomy, emotional and, in some respects, gruelling. Hallowed continues with the coming of age, self-discovery, free will vs. destiny themes but it is also about death and grief and making difficult choices. I felt emotionally drained in the end and yet Ms Hand has managed to make me like all the angst.
At the start of the book Clara is blissfully in love with her boyfriend Tucker as she returns to school for the new academic year. She is worried about failing to fulfil her purpose at the end of the first book and about being found by the Black Wings but, generally, she is happy. The idyll is broken when she starts having visions again and realises that soon someone she cares deeply about will die.
Ms Hand appears to have settled into her writing very well with some wonderful flashes of humour shining through (I didn't notice those so much in the first book). Like here:
"This isn't going to become one of those creepy situations where you show up at all hours of the night to watch me sleep, is it?" he asks playfully. "Every moment I am away from you, I die a little," I say in return. "So that's yes, then."
It's like my own special form of birth control. The full body glow."
Ms Hand continues to make all the smart choices with this series and where her characters do things that appear like genre tropes, she has the grace to laugh at them, like in this little exchange which happens when Tucker catches Clara nearly falling asleep outside his window:
"Hi there," Tucker says brightly, like we're bumping into each other on the street. "Uh, hi". "Nice night for stalking," he observes. "No. I was-" "Get your butt in here, Carrots." I climb awkwardly into his room. He puts on a T-shirt and sits cross-legged on the bed, looking at me. "It's not stalking if you are happy to see me?" I suggest tremulously.
There are so many things I loved about this instalment. I loved the character development. Clara grows up so much in this. We get to know Christian a lot better and, almost despite myself, I grew to like him. Maggie is fabulous in this book. Where she was just a presence and a vehicle in many respects in the first instalment, here we learn her backstory and it is fantastic that she finally becomes a person, a complex character, rather than just a mother. I love the way she busts Clara's butt when the latter sneaks out for the night. The story arch progresses significantly and a lot of new information gradually emerges. Tucker is still the charming irresistible rogue we and Clara fell in love with. Hell, I even loved that the ending turned me inside out.
If I had any criticism, it was that the baddie continues to be somewhat less than terrifying (but I am sure we will learn a lot more about Black Wings in the next book and I will tremble in my boots), the father thing was quite predictable and I wish we saw more of Tucker. We got quite a lot of him in the last book, I know, and it was Christian's turn in the spotlight. But I am biased.
I am definitely buying the next book the minute it comes out. This is going to be a trilogy right? For some reason, I have this tendency to assume everything is a trilogy recently, mistakenly on a few occasions. I am so psyched for January but I don't think I'm worried any more. I am sure now that Cynthia Hand has enough smarts to take this story where it needs to go and make me like it, however she chooses to tie it up.