Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: 4/12/11
Publisher: Harper Collins
Blurb (GR): Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can't find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students — for every grade from kindergarten to twelve. Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya's determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya's home, and they won't go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts getting negative vibes from certain people and things. 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.
What a pleasant surprise this novel was! I did not expect to like The Gathering after being very underwhelmed by Kelley Armstrong's first YA trilogy - Darkest Powers.
While I think nothing changed in terms of the structure Armstrong chose for her trilogies (the whole story is simply separated into three parts instead of presenting three separate story arcs), this book was a much better experience for me. I attribute this to the following:
1) Setting - loved, loved that the book is set in Canada, in an isolated tiny medical research town (population: 200) located in a national park. A huge portion of the story takes place outdoors. It made me want to live in a cabin with bobcats and cougars roaming around too.
2) New type of supernatural beings - Maya is something Armstrong has never written before. I am quite curious about Maya's powers which are not very clear at the moment. I surely prefer them to Chloe's dead-raising skills.
3) No hiding in warehouses! Was very sick of them in all three Darkest Powers books.
4) Teen characters and romances - Kelley Armstrong is one of a very few YA authors who refuse to promote stalker/doormat relationships based on ANGST. The narrator of this novel - Maya - is a strong young woman and her relationship with her hot love interest is well-balanced, even when complicated.
The biggest flaw of The Gathering comes from the author's choice of the trilogy's plot structure. Again, like in Darkest Powers, there is almost no climax in the story, just some mildly exciting action sequence in the last 50 pages or so. Based on the reviews I have read, this flaw can really spoil the experience for some readers.
I, however, managed to enjoy the novel anyway. It left me with the same feeling Unearthly did. I know there are more questions raised than answered, I know it is a very incomplete story and the whole novel does nothing much besides setting up the stage for the future installments, but the process of reading the book was so enjoyable that I was able to overlook its shortcomings and now am looking forward to the sequel with anticipation.