November 22, 2011

The Gathering

by Kelley Armstrong
Doubleday Canada
359 pp.
Ages 12+

When Kelley Armstrong's first book in her Darkest Powers trilogy, The Summoning (HarperCollins Canada, 2008) first came out, I was convinced that our YA readers would have a superior and Canadian alternative to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series.  I was so right.  The Summoning's plot went beyond a romance with supernatural elements. It added layers and layers of storylines with youthful protagonists (with various supernatural abilities) and adults with questionable intentions, and left the reader desperate to read the next in the series (i.e., The Awakening, 2009; The Reckoning, 2010).  Her newest trilogy, Darkness Rising, will similarly find avid readers of fantastical fiction awaiting the sequel to the first book in this series, The Gathering, a current Ontario Library Association White Pine Award nominee.

As important as the characters in The Gathering is the setting of this book: the tiny town of Salmon Creek on Vancouver Island, a remote, wilderness-surrounded community created by the St. Cloud Corporation for its top-secret research facility and its employees' families.  Unlike the majority of the youth in Salmon Creek, Maya Delaney (16, shortly after the book begins), adopted daughter of the park warden (Dad) and architect (Mom), was born outside of the community.  Much mystery surrounds Maya, primarily because of her genesis (definitely Aboriginal, but tribe unknown), a paw-print birthmark, and her strong attachment to the forest and its creatures.

Throw in a few friends (best-friend, Daniel; mayor's daughter, Nicole; Nicole's unusual cousin, Samantha; antagonistic Hayley; newcomer and love-interest, Rafe), a couple of animals (pets Kenji, a German shepherd, and Fitz, a three-legged bobcat; old-timer cougar, Marv; a marten and others being rehabilitated by Maya); and a few parents and concerned adults, and Maya's story could be that of a "regular" teen. (But where would the story be?)  Alas, I didn't mention the bizarre drowning of swim team captain and friend, Serena, the year before.  Or Maya and Rafe finding the cougar-chomped body of visitor reporter, Mina Lee.  Or Rafe's flip-flop persona (bad boy vs. honest, affectionate boy), particularly with regards to Maya. Or the increase in cougar attacks.  Or Rafe's elusive, guardian and sister, Annie.  And what about the older Aboriginal woman at the tattoo parlour treating Maya as a pariah, first telling her she is a witch and then a skin-walker?  Not so normal anymore.

But in the deft writing of Kelley Armstrong, Maya's story seems so plausibly intricate that the reader is compelled to read on, as if to help support Maya through her journey.  Without giving away the ending, I can say that, even as Maya moves on to a new set of circumstances and setting, she still carries her need to know herself fully, heritage and all.

By the way, Book 2 in the series, The Calling, is due out in April, 2012, and the final installment, The Rising, is scheduled for publication in 2013.  Hope you can wait.

Check out the book trailer for The Gathering on my Book Trailers page

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