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.
I am generally pretty healthy. I have stayed in hospitals twice in my life, once when my daughter was born and once last summer when I had some flukeI am generally pretty healthy. I have stayed in hospitals twice in my life, once when my daughter was born and once last summer when I had some fluke viral infection which unfortunately had some complications and required a 5 night sojourn in the day patient department of a local hospital. Well, that was THE least fun I have ever had and I didn't even have anything life threatening.
I'd like to tell you, I analysed the situation as a reasonable adult and faught my infection hard and appreaciated how lucky I was to never have been seriously ill before. But that would be a BIG FAT LIE. I was tired and scared and in pain and frustrated and emotional and faint because I hadn't eaten for like a week before I even got to the hospital and couldn't eat the whole time there because the massive amounts of antibiotics I was on were making me sick and the hospital smells made me gag and I couldn't sleep because of the fluorescent lighting from 8 am until 10 pm so you feel like a lab rat under observation and the constant activity with the other patients in the ward at night and I couldn't even get up to go to the toilet this one time, so the nurse had to help me to do it in a bed pan which was just the most humiliating thing ever and the needles they constantly kept poking into me (my veins are freakishly small, don't you know) and then there was this one time I went into the toilet at night with my IV and accidentally pulled the catheter out and the blood was everywhere... well you get the gist. I did crack some feeble joke about feeling like Alice tumbling down the rabbit whole and even having the costume to match (the gingham blue hospital robe + the white anti-varicose tights they make you wear) while being wheeled into my op but overall I felt miserable and sorry for myself and cried and when I was released (while still unable to stand straight or keep food down) the sunshine on my face was just the most heavenly feeling imaginable.
But generally, like I said, I am disgustingly healthy. And I have never even had to try. I don't exercise overly much, I eat a lot of crap, I smoke, I have taken drugs etc etc. More than that, none of my friends or relatives has ever suffered from any really serious illness. So there you go, I know nothing about being ill. Really ill. You know you are going to die kind of ill.
I could easily, therefore, come up with some platitude about how lucky this book made me feel about being alive and healthy (generally) and how it opened my eyes to what it's really like to live with a terminal illness. But, that would, again, be bullshit. Because I honestly think this is one of those things that you can't really know until you know. You know? It makes me sick to my stomach to even think that my child could become seriously ill (I am crossing fingers and touching wood and biting tongue here) but I don't believe any amount of imagining could really make me understand what it is like.
All that aside, I loved the book. I cried. I cared about Hazel and Augustus and Isaac and their parents. Even despite their unnatural dialogue and far above average intelligence, they felt real and fragile and beautiful. Except Van Houten. He was a douche. I'm not even sure I want to believe people like that exist....more
I am the first to admit I am not the target audience for this book. A YA romance set in a boarding school in Paris with that cover and that title. ReaI am the first to admit I am not the target audience for this book. A YA romance set in a boarding school in Paris with that cover and that title. Really, what did I expect? I guess, I was feeling charitable. Great books do get stuck with hideous covers sometimes (and vice versa). But it turns out, in this case, the cover is a pretty accurate indication of the contents. It was dull, dull, fluffy, sugary and did I mention dull?
This could have made a good cover for this book:
except that I would have probably enjoyed the pictured items (I know I enjoyed looking for the pictures more than I did reading this book).
I didn't make it past the first hundred pages and I am giving up. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, but c'est la vie. I very rarely give up on books, however, the story of Anna's banishment to (or abandonment at, even) a posh Paris boarding school and her budding romance with a short American boy with an English accent and crooked teeth has failed so spectacularly to capture my imagination or evoke any sort of response in me (I was sent to a boarding school in a foreign land at 17 so, really, it should have, despite my being long out of the teenage years) apart from bouts of yawning, that there really was no choice about it. I was becoming worried I might dislocate my jaw. ...more