Confession time: I read this book at the start of January (during a 5-hour layover at Istanbul airport) so my impressions are not the freshest. Let’s see if I can dispel some cobwebs now.
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?
I don’t read many angel books and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I appreciated that it began with Clara already knowing what she is so that we could get right along with figuring out her ‘purpose.’ Obviously this is quite a metaphorical story as many of us, perhaps beginning around the age that this book is aimed at, will wonder ourselves just what our own purpose is. Well for Clara there is a specific answer and ignoring it is not an option.
Unearthly is essentially a coming of age story and a pretty simple one at that. There’s good and evil (literally black and white) and a girl torn between the boy in her visions and the one in her life. Clara is an unusually fortunate protagonist (or maybe I just need a break from dystopia!) with a small but supportive family and a normal school life. Her obstacles develop slowly and are partly a product of her own heart. I saw the love triangle coming a mile off but the balance and execution of it was a little different and for once I can understand why the female is torn between the two. (Which is not to say that I don’t know exactly whose team I’m on!)
I loved Clara’s mother in the beginning but as the secrets she’s keeping became more obvious and damaging to her relationship with Clara, it felt like unnecessary and self-inflicted conflict. It was probably just a feeble ploy to destabilize our otherwise quite comfortable heroin under the guise of maternal protection, but in the end I felt that her mother’s caginess put Clara in more danger, not less.
Tucker was my favourite character by far with his sister, Wendy, being another. I loved watching him antagonize Clara and try to figure her out when she proves to be good at everything she tries, except fly fishing and, ironically, flying. Christian didn’t interest me much but I felt like Cynthia Hand was withholding him a little after convincing the reader this was going to be an open and shut case of insta-love.
The ending annoyed me since there were ultimately no consequences for Clara’s ‘choice’ – unless it plays a part in the next book. The whole story led up to the forest fire and in the end it felt less important than the Black Wing (fallen angel) threatening Clara. Lots of questions are left unanswered and there’s going to be a lot to cover in the sequel, Hallowed. Considering how things begun, the atmosphere at the end was much more unsettled and precarious so I’m hoping this trilogy will gain more teeth over time.
There’s nothing particularly unique about Unearthly but it was still a nice, well-written read with likable characters in our own time and world for a change. I may not be in a rush but I do plan to read the rest of this trilogy to see if my predictions pan out.