Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.
It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy—her paw-print birthmark.
I’ve been waiting anxiously for the next instalment in Kelley Armstrong’s YA series since the end of The Reckoning, where there were still plenty of tantalizing loose ends left to tie up. The second trilogy (Darkest Powers was the first, and The Gathering is the first instalment of Darkness Rising) follows a whole new set of characters in the remote Canadian medical research town of Salmon Creek.
Maya Delaney is the adopted daughter of Salmon Creek’s park warden, and has always had a close bond with nature. Between spending time in the woods with her German Shepherd, Kenjii, and helping rehabilitate injured animals, she’s pretty comfortable with the local wildlife—until the cougars start becoming a little too friendly. Add that to her best friend’s inexplicable drowning and the sudden interest in her shown by resident player Rafael Martinez, and Maya’s got more than a little trouble on her hands. Together with her best friend (and Serena’s old boyfriend) Daniel, she tries to figure out what’s going on before the body count starts to rise.
I have to say right out that Kelley Armstrong is a master of suspense. Just when you think that things are getting a bit slow, she’ll slam you with a spine-chilling event and keep you gripped until the very last page. My adrenalin was definitely running high with The Gathering, just like it was throughout the Darkest Powers trilogy, and didn’t stop until I’d madly researched everything I could about when book #2 is coming out. (Spring 2012, people—I understand that the publishing industry is complex and all, but this is just torture.)
As much as I loved Chloe in the first trilogy, Maya is definitely vying with her for the title of my ‘favourite’. She’s tough, a ‘good girl’ without being a goodie two-shoes, and definitely not without her flaws. The way she’s constantly sassing her parents had me in stitches. I quote:
‘We have Kenjii. We have my cell phone. Since we aren’t yet officially dating, I’m sure you’ll agree that’s all the protection we need.’
Dad choked on his coffee.
I also really liked that Maya was neither the cheerleader popular girl nor the outcast, two tropes we tend to see far too often! She had a good group of friends, and for the right reasons: she’s loyal and fun to be around. Her race was a point that was dealt with convincingly, without being turned into an ‘issue’—she’s Native American, but doesn’t know the details.
Of course, I adored Rafe—he’s the quintessential bad boy with a vulnerable side, which should be cliché by now, but is still irresistible. Mind you, he’s not once of these psycho vampy I-want-to-kill-you ‘bad boys’; just the regular sort, with his own fair share of problems. I loved that the sparks seriously flew between these two in book one, with a huge twist for them nearer the end; I have a feeling that this is one relationship I’m going to really enjoy seeing through. If Daniel doesn’t get in the way, that is! I do like him, and Maya and him have great friend-chemistry, but the friend-to-boyfriend thing is definitely overdone. I’m intensely curious about how he fits in to the paranormal element, though—there’s definitely something going on beneath the surface.
The supporting cast was also well developed and purposeful, especially Rafe’s sister Annie, who’s even more trussed up in secrets than he is. I do wish there had been more of the sci-fi/paranormal element revealed (Darkest Powers readers will know exactly what I’m talking about!) as we definitely found out more about the characters in The Summoning than we do here. However, it’s probably a trade-off; romance fans might be much more satisfied with the balance in The Gathering. My inner bio-geek is going to have to wait all the way until early 2012, and it can’t wait to get there!
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