Saturday, February 2, 2013

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand - Book Review

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

This is not an action-packed, fast-moving read. With the exception of the last fifty pages or so, events unfold slowly and flowingly, not shockingly or mysteriously. It is a very addictive read, immersive and compulsive, but Unearthly is not fueled by action or over-the-top romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Clara was the rare YA heroine that didn’t make me want to bash my head against a wall, and the romance that doesn’t truly start to take center-stage until the last quarter or so is sweet, light, and healthy. Not abusive or ridiculously cheesy. The last angel novel I read featured the creepy, abusive Patch (Hush, Hush), so I can’t possibly overstate how refreshing this was to read.

I love angel mythology. Actually I love any religion-based mythology, be it ancient Greek or modern Christianity. Though I consider myself agnostic, there is little I like more in a work of fiction than a well-grounded root in existing lore, especially biblical – as long as it’s not preachy, of course. Unfortunately, though, well over half of the angel novels I’ve read seem to be…well, bad, to put it bluntly. I don’t know how, but YA angel books lately seem to exist to reinforce what I call Post-Twilight YA Syndrome. Authors gloss over the actually mythology behind their angels and instead focus on their otherworldly beauty and abilities, turning them into de-fanged, wing-sporting Edward Cullens.

Excuse my language, but this is bullshit.

You cannot have a story about angels without including angel mythology.

The mythology in Unearthly was far from overbearing or in-your-face, but it was there. Clara is what is called a Quartarius – one-quarter angel, three-quarters human. A nephilim, but more preferably called angel-blood, she has a Purpose to fulfill. On the very first page, we’re put inside of a vision of a beautiful boy stuck in the middle of a forest-fire, and Clara there to, presumably, save him. This vision is her Purpose, and the rest of the novel is more or less about her trying to find out exactly what she needs to do, where she needs to do it and, of course, finding this gorgeous boy she needs to save.

The writing isn’t superb, but it is definitely above average. The long-ish chapters are compulsively readable despite the slow pace of the novel. Clara is a great narrator, not annoying or whiny or straight-up stupid like so many in this genre are. (One of my favorite lines from her; “I won’t be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him.”Tell that to your Nora Greys and Bella Swans, please, Clara.) She’s just a fun, relatable character, easy to like and root for.

The ending is…huh. Sooo good and sooo readable and sooo well-written, and sooo unfinished! It leaves so many questions open-ended and so many character-arcs incomplete. This was obviously done on purpose. I’m beginning to feel like authors, YA paranormal authors especially, have had this top-secret meeting and unanimously decided to torture us readers with cliffhanger endings. I’m still trying to decide if I liked the ending or hated it, and either way I answer would be for the same reasons. Thankfully Hallowed is out now, so at least I won’t be waiting too long to read it

I don’t think I’ll be gushing and raving about this one to everyone who will listen like I still do with Laini Taylor’s Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, but if you have any interest in Unearthly, do yourself a favor and read it. It doesn’t disappoint.

Unearthly - 4 out of 5 stars

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