Book Reviews

Review: “The Gathering,” Kelley Armstrong

July 30, 2011
Review: “The Gathering,” Kelley ArmstrongThe Gatheringby Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkness Rising #1
Published by Atom on April, 2011
Genres: Werewolves / Shifters
Pages: 359
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

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.

I was hesitant to go into another werewolf/shifter-based story after just finishing one, but for some reason I decided to pick up The Gathering and give it a shot. I was really impressed with what I found within the pages. A refreshing female lead, interesting premise and beautiful setting. Kelley Armstrong has really set the stage for a great series.

 “I want you to have big dreams, big goals. I want you to strive to achieve them. But I don’t want to see you beating yourself up every time you make a mistake.”

I tried to read Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising novels a few months ago and didn’t get further than a few chapters. Not sure why I didn’t like them, but something just didn’t sit well with me. I guess I was over the whole ‘boarding school/retreat’ kind of vibe for gifted people and it wasn’t the story I needed at the time. I still might try them in the future, though. So you can understand why I was hesitant about delving into her latest series.

I’m glad it’s not Kelley’s writing that puts me off. She writes in such a way that everything flows smoothly. I picked this book up this morning and was able to finish it during the day. Where a lot of things could have been repetitive and mirrors of other YA fiction, they weren’t. Kelley Armstrong managed to weave them in a new and interesting way, and the lead character of Maya was a great one.

I always have to gush when a female lead character doesn’t grate on my nerves, because, well, that’s quite rare for me. Maya wasn’t one of those ‘typical’, whiney YA girls and I really warmed up to her quickly. I also really admired her best friend, Daniel, and the supporting cast of characters were likeable enough. I’m not too sure about Rafe yet, but there are still two books to come for me to make my mind up about him. I suppose it’s a good sign that I don’t hate him, right?

I have to talk about the setting of The Gathering, too. It’s really interesting and something I haven’t come across before in another book. It’s a medical research-based town, one that injects the plot with an interesting mix of skin-walker and natural lore. On the one hand we have the nature reserve Maya and her family live on, and on the other we have a town crafted specifically for the medical researchers and her family. It’s an interesting dynamic and I enjoyed learning about it and exploring its handful of areas. The Gathering has a very unique atmosphere and I’m sure every other reader will agree.

 “I just stayed there, my face so close to his I could feel his breath, see those incredible amber eyes, and that was all I could see, all I wanted to see.”

Though this is primarily a book about skin-walkers or I guess, Shifters, there’s a lot more to it. We don’t get lumped with a heap of lore straight away. By the end of the book we’re still trying to get a grip on (as well as Maya) the basics of what she is and the history behind her family and her abilities. This is definitely a change of pace for me, especially since the first novel in the series seems to usually lay out these foundations beforehand. I think I really like this approach. We’re able to warm up to the characters before being swamped with a heavy dose of explanation.

It also adds an air of mystery. There’s also the fact that the skin-walkers aren’t the only mysteries in Salmon Creek. We’re also trying to figure out the death of Maya’s friend, Serena, the mysterious past of Sam and also Daniel’s uncanny ability to sense danger and protect those he cares about.

I’m sure previous fans of Kelley Armstrong will love this book, but I also want to push it toward people who haven’t read any of her work yet. There’s a great mix of character development and mystery, which makes it more than just another ‘supernatural’ YA book.

About Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay. Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.


  • Reply Cindy July 31, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I have only read one of her books, but I loved it and this one sounds like its a great start to a good series. Great review :)

  • Reply Rie Conley July 31, 2011 at 1:35 am

    I read this the other day. So good right?

    Btw, I love this cover.

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