Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Type: Hardback, bought
For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.
Middle books are infamous for being the worst part of a trilogy; they're almost always a good deal slower, with a far less prominent and individual plot. Oftentimes, they're mostly a link between the first book and the third.
That said, this is one of the best middle books I've ever read.
Things are slower. Don't go into this expecting a crazy, never-ending ride full of nonstop action and drama. There is action, there is drama, but there's far more focus on understanding relationships between the characters, uncovering the secrets that were barely touched upon in Unearthly, and, to a certain extent, Clara discovering who she is along with it all.
I am going to say this upfront: I typically loathe love triangles. To me, they often feel so painfully forced, an obvious plot device to add "drama" and "tension," etc. etc. It's as if most authors think it's now expected of them, that there book wouldn't be whole without one. There are many reasons that these bother me a good deal:
- I have literally never seen multiple guys chasing after one girl
- Oftentimes, the girl in question is unremarkable in every way, so the idea that several boys are interested in her is laughable, to put it mildly
- It is used as an opportunity for angst throughout the entire book/series
- It is often painfully obvious who the girl will choose, to the point that it's almost insulting the reader's intelligence to pretend they don't realize
- Typically, love triangle leads to shenanigans that result in me despising the main character
So, as you can see, I'm not a fan. But the thing is?
This love triangle is possibly the best I've ever seen.
I could detail all the reasons it defies the numerous problems I've listed above, but all I'm going to say is this: I can understand perfectly how Clara could love them both, because I love them both. I can understand perfectly how difficult it is for her to choose, because I couldn't choose. I adore both of the boys, in all their loveliness and idiocy, all their macho acts and genuine sensitivity. I truly love them both, and she truly loves them too.
Aside from beautifully tackling the dreaded love triangle, Hand also deals expertly with themes of family, rocky friendship, rebellion, and grief. I think my favorite part of the novel was simply the emotions. I can't really express their brilliance any better than this: Cynthia Hand gets it. She gets people. Sometimes, when I read about joy, indecision, wonder, crippling grief, I feel like they are pretty words on paper, a description of how these things are supposed to feel. When I read through Clara, I thought, This is it. This girl, in this situation, that is exactly how she would think, how she would feel, what she would say. And that, above all else, is what really made this book for me.
It wasn't flawless. There was a reveal that seemed almost like a repeat of the last book, a bit contrived. There were some genuinely fascinating backstories that I think more time should've been devoted to, though I suspect at least some will be embellished in the final installment. Occasionally, the descriptions would earn a raised brow.
But in the end, this is a book that made me laugh, and almost made me cry, and I really, really loved it. 4.5 again. If Mrs. Hand keeps this up, I suspect the conclusion will earn a glowing 5.