May 01, 2012
Maya Delaney, the protagonist from Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2011), first book in the Darkness Rising trilogy, thought she knew all there was to know about herself: she'd been adopted; she had some Native blood in her; she lived in Salmon Creek, a town built around the St. Cloud Corporation's research facility on Vancouver Island; she had a gift for healing injured animals; and she had a paw-print birthmark. But as The Gathering unraveled, so did Maya's perceptions of herself and her community. She was still dealing with the suspicious death of her best friend, Serena, while Serena's boyfriend, Daniel, who had always been there for Maya, was acting antagonistically to newcomer, Rafe, whose "bad boy" facade had turned many people against him. Unfortunately, Maya was strangely attracted to Rafe, who revealed to her that she was a shape-shifter, like he and his older sister, Annie. But, after a forest fire is set by armed men, one of whom looks like Maya and who attempts to capture her, everyone is evacuated from Salmon Creek and Maya has more questions than ever.
The Calling begins with Maya and Daniel, and teens Nicole, Samantha, Corey and Hayley, with Maya's dog Kenji, Nicole's dad the mayor, and an unconscious Rafe, being whisked away from the fire by helicopter. But, too soon, Maya and Daniel realize that things are not as they appear. In the ensuing chaos, the Mayor dies, the pilot is knocked out by the force of Daniel's words, the now-conscious Rafe falls out of the chopper, and Sam must take the controls and crash land it. The teens and Kenji survive the crash but are left looking for safety while evading those sent to capture them.
While searching for safety, the teens' efforts are complicated by a series of circumstances that reveal more about their own supernatural attributes and motives. Maya is almost drowned like Serena, Nicole is shot and captured, Daniel begins to recognize that he is able to sway others' thinking and to intuit danger, and Maya shape-shifts into a cougar for the first time, all while being pursued by the Nasts, a corporate rival of the St. Clouds, claiming to want to help them. From snatches of information, Maya and Daniel learn that the kids are part of the St. Clouds' Project Phoenix, and that another project by the Edison Group, Project Genesis, has gone awry and those kids are on the run too. Ultimately, a subset of the Salmon Creek kids must head out in search of these young people to get answers to their own growing bank of questions.
Readers are advised to read The Gathering first as it clarifies many circumstances in The Calling. Although Kelley Armstrong attempts to cover details from the first book in the teens' recollections or statements made by their pursuers, I still had to reread portions of The Gathering to ensure that I had synthesized the details correctly. Of course, this may just be my own weakness.
With the plot revealing possible answers to Serena's death and the biochemical manipulation by the St. Clouds on the teens, Maya and her friends carry their troubles with them now, anticipating physical changes and emotional revelations with which they are unfamiliar to deal. Of course, their pursuers are still a concern, thwarting the kids' attempts to learn more about themselves, but the secrets that their bodies carry within may be the most devastating and dangerous of all. I hope that when more details are revealed, however, that much of it is not just announced by their pursuers or in found memos but through the thoughtful reasoning already demonstrated by Maya and Daniel.
Surprisingly, Kelley Armstrong's characters become ever more real to the reader. Their attempts to understand and deal with the strangeness of their situation are very reasonable, even if a character such as Sam is seen as more caustic. I found myself more sympathetic to Corey and Hayley than after reading the first book as they became multidimensional characters who expose their fears and weaknesses, as well as strengths, knowing the importance of revealing their true selves. For that reason, I am delighted to anticipate the next book in the series, knowing who will be leading the journey, and the inevitability of the Darkness Rising series connecting with Kelley Armstrong's other trilogy, Darkest Powers.
The book trailer for The Calling, uploaded by harperteen to YouTube on March 9, 2012, can be viewed at my Book Trailers page here.