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Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

the gathering kelley armstrong Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is a name Ive heard mentioned around the traps, but until The Gathering'I was otherwise unacquainted with her work. And while the cynic in me tends to win out when the phrases first in a trilogy and best-selling author come into close collocation, all in all this novel was a pleasant surprise.

Having been created from scratch by the St Cloud medical research company,'the town of Salmon Creek is an urban planners dream. Deliberately secluded in the verdant lushness of Vancouver Island, its the perfect environment for its crack team of scientists and researchers to engage in the medical research arms race without interference from Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline or what have you. For Maya, whos known for her affinity with the natural world, Salmon Creek is a haven, giving her an opportunity to engage with the wilderness around her. But perfect worlds never are, and when a recently arrived reporter winds up dead, Maya cant shake the feeling that something odd is going on. But the mystery doesnt just involve Salmon Creek. Theres also Maya herself, who through her relationship with bad boy Rafe is beginning to realise that her kinship with nature runs far deeper than she could possibly have imagined. Just who is she really, and why is her world starting to change so dramatically?

Im the first to admit that Im a sucker for a rural setting, and Armstrongs rendering of Vancouver Island brings to mind Stephen Kings well-worn portraits of his native Maine. Given that so many YA paranormals rely on a down-and-out urban setting to give them their grit and hardness, its a pleasant treat to read one that has a de Lint-esque milieu. Yes, its all a bit quixotic, and there are more oh-so-cute 'animals than you can shake a stick at, but the setting alone helps to set this series well apart from a lot of the other stuff Ive reviewed of late. Salmon Creek is drawn with painstaking care, and its hard not to appreciate the authors efforts here, even if there is a tendency, particularly early on in the novel, to get a little bit geography textbook on usI had the occasional sense that what I was reading was intended more for a social studies textbook than for general readerly consumption. I know that geography has gone the way of the dodo (you know, wherever they live), but surely the largely American audience of this novel would have some basic comprehension of the rather large island were dealing with here? (And surely, surely, we dont need paragraphs of exposition about the ten or so different regionally specific names given to the mountain lion?)

But things do pick up once this info dumpery has been waded through, and its hard not to enjoy the ride on which Armstrong takes us. The plot is terribly thinessentially it can be summed up as Maya learns more about her past, and then shes chased by people whose identity youll probably learn in book threebut Armstrong does enough with mood and setting to add a good deal of substance and enjoyment to the reading experience.'Protagonist Maya is strong and feisty, although perhaps a little ridiculously so at some points: this girl has a come-back repertoire to rival Oscar Wildes, and occasionally it feels as though the dialogue is set up purely to facilitate her witty repartee (or perhaps soliloquy is a more appropriate term). 'But its a relief to see that she doesnt succumb to the whole damsel in distress routine. Though lifes not a picnic for Maya, she does what she can to solve her own problems, and even takes some time to reflect on her own personal shortcomingsone of which is her intransigent, rather judgemental nature.

A little less glowingly, this element of Mayas personality seems to be attributed in part to her abandonment issuesMaya, like just about every YA protag in history, is adopted, and despite her tough exterior struggles with issues of identity and self-worth. But while were told about her adopted status from the outset, the whole set-up becomes a bit cringeworthy and forced when we learn about (potentially) the truth about her natural parents and why she was given us. It all gets a little bit Island of Dr Moreau (see my review), and I have to admit that my interest began to wane at this point. Changelings and skinwalkers? Sure, I can handle that. But lycanthropism due to gene manipulation at the hands of some evil mad scientists? Hmm. To be honest, this sort of thing puts me in an entirely different readerly mindset, and that grain of salt becomes increasingly hard to take.

In addition to this, I struggled a little with the unevenness of the characterisation found in The Gathering. Some charactersRafe, Daniel, and Mayas parentsare mostly solid and well-drawn, but others are bizarre caricatures. Daniels abusive drunk of a father and quick-with-her-fists Sam come to mind, and of course theres the old crone who makes a B movie-esque cameo to call Maya a witch. '(Although no doubt these grumpy types will all end up being supernatural beings of some sort. And while as an Aussie Im shamefully ill-informed about the present-day sensitivities regarding Native American peoples and their cultures, I couldnt help but feel a little uneasy regarding the sort of noble savage approach taken throughout the novel.

But although I was generally able to turn a blind eye to these characterisation quirks and the thin plotting, I admit to being absolutely bewildered by the end of this novelor the utter lack thereof: I turned the page only to find a chapter teaser for the sequel staring at me. Admittedly, it wasnt as bad as the Red Riding Hood'situation (see my review), but its a cruel trick to play on your poor reader.'I find trilogies enough of an undertaking to begin withthey require significant investment on behalf of the readerand I tend to feel as though Im entitled to some sort of payoff for my efforts. A blank page does not an ending make. Given that things were beginning to pick up after a fairly slow-burning beginning, its a shame that things ended (or didnt) as they did.

In all, The Gathering'is a promising start to what I dont doubt will be a gripping trilogy, but I have a feeling Ill be waiting until the next two books are done and dusted before dipping my toe into this world again.

Rating: star Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongstar Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongstar Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongblankstar Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongblankstar Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (good)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy.

Purchase The Gathering from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

Other books by Kelley Armstrong:

awakening kelley armstrong Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongsummoning kelley armstrong Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrongreckoning kelley armstrong Book Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong


  1. Oh damn, I thought The Summoning was the first book in the series when I bought it recently. Ill have to go find The Gathering now. Glad to hear this one is good. I really loved Armstrongs story in The New Dead.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for visiting, Rhiannon! Id definitely recommend having the second book at hand, as the Gathering has quite the cliffhanger ending. Its a solid read, and Id definitely pick up more of Armstrongs work in future.

  2. The Summoning is the first book for the first series, The Gathering is the first of the sequel series.

    As a native of Vancouver Island I have to say that the setting was the weakest part of the work. Far too many mentions of the mainland city Vancouver, and the author being from the other side of the country didnt help..

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for the clarification, Amy!

      Im from the other side of the world, so my knowledge of Vancouver Island definitely isnt the strongest. Its a shame to hear that it didnt ring true to a local. Perhaps the authors lack of familiarity with it was what caused it to feel like a geography lesson to me?