So this week's review is The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong. Joining me is Li from Me and My Books who is quickly becoming my favorite buddy reviewer for urban fantasy and fantasy novels :) Big thanks for accepting my invitation each time! :) Here are our thoughts on the second book of Ms Armstrong's YA The Darkest Power trilogy.
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
published by DoubleDay Canada in April 2009 (Trade-size)
If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl – someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I’m as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment – not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a group of people who call themselves The Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I’m a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control: I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.
I’m running for my life with three of my supernatural friends – a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch – and we have to find someone who can help us gain our freedom back before The Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.
Genre: Urban fantasy, YA
Series: The Darkest Power, book #2
Li: Right, The Awakening... my initial take is that I liked it, but it didn't wow me. And while I will get the final book, I don't feel the need to know what happens next.
Nath: LOL, isn’t that because this time, Ms Armstrong does not end the book with a cliffhanger? Me, I really enjoyed The Awakening. It was not a wowzer, but close. It definitively was a good, solid read and I’m curious to know how it’s going to end.
Li: I think I said previously that it was a quick and easy read. As with all her writing, very clean and precise prose. It strikes me as more plot-driven, rather than character-driven. I like the fact we are beginning to see the bigger picture - there is quite a bit revealed about the institute and the reasons why the teenagers were brought together. It feels a lot less claustrophobic than the previous book, when they were all in Lyle House.
Nath: It was definitively a quick and easy read. If I remember correctly, I finished it in a couple of hours… of course, I had to stay up till 1.30am LOL. I actually was totally engrossed in the storyline - the rhythm and pacing were very good and I just wanted to finish the book as quickly as possible. I really like Ms Armstrong’s writing style. The bonus here is that her writing is not different because she's addressing a younger audience. The characters, their ways of thinking, their action do feel younger of course, but not the writing...
Li: Agree, it is YA in the sense the characters are teenagers, but she hasn't dumbed down her writing. Obviously the heat level is now very subtle as opposed to sizzling - do you remember the Jaime/Jeremy balcony scene in No Humans Involved? ;-)
Nath: LOL, seriously, who can forget that scene?!?! It was awesome, especially since readers were waiting for Jaime and Jeremy to get together for so long!! :D but yes, she turned down the heat level to appropriate :)
You mentioned earlier that you think The Awakening is more plot-driven than character-driven. I think one of the reasons for this is the time frame. The story spans on what, 3 or 4 days? Hard to make your characters grow so much in such a short period of time. It could happen, but it wouldn't be as believable. Although I think that Chloe did mature a lot at the end, accepting the reality of her powers.
I have to admit, I had my doubts in the first book about the plot. I mean, there you go again: some teenagers with special powers that are put together to be studied and tested – it’s been done before, no? However, I was pleasantly surprised with the events that happened. There were many twists in The Awakening and none that I really expected. Tori – didn’t see that one coming. Even the purposes of the study! As a result, I was totally okay with the story being more plot-driven :) The only thing now is that I'm not sure how Ms Armstrong is going to wrap the whole storyline in one single last book ^_^;
Li: Oh, I have faith! I generally get the feeling with an Armstrong book that Ms Armstrong knows exactly what happens at the end and how she is going to get there, and The Awakening is no different. I think the way that this book ended - even though there was no cliffhanger - was very much setting things up for the plot climax in the third book.
Nath: Oh, I do have faith too :) I’m just curious to see how she’s going to wrap this up. I guess I want more than another book :P By the way, aren’t you glad this does not end with a cliffhanger? :P
Li: LOL. I think you so know my feelings on cliffhangers. I've even stopped reading some authors because of the way they include cliffhangers in their books. So yes, I'm glad this concluded in a ummm tidier manner. It definitely felt like a middle book in a trilogy though. You know, she's started filling in the blanks but it's not quite there yet.
Nath: But close though, because she has to keep something up her sleeve for the last book. In my opinion, you don’t want the middle book to be too packed and be incredible, because then, you have a let-down with the final book… like the Study trilogy by Maria V. Snyder.
All right, enough of the plot, what did you think of the characters and their relationship?
Li: On relationships, she is so setting the scene for a relationship between Chloe and Derek. However, I felt the chemistry was somewhat missing between the two. Good friends, 100% yes, something more than friends, I don't know. Maybe. I normally love romance in YA books because the build up tends to be quite intense (maybe because they don't go beyond the bedroom door so there is more focus on the relationship), but I didn't really get that here.
Nath: LOVE TRIANGLE! There is a definite love triangle going on between Derek, Chloe and Simon! Although, I have to agree with you, Ms Armstrong seems to lean more towards Chloe and Derek - Chloe just hasn't realized it yet :P
As a reader though, who do you prefer though, Simon or Derek? I'm biased and have been rooting for Derek from the beginning. He reminds me so much of Clay LOL. Of course, he’s not as anti-social, kind of hard to beat Clay in that department :P Also, don't you find it funny, Jeremy and Jaime and now Derek and Chloe? What are the odds that you'd have another werewolf-necromancer couple?
Li: Maybe there is something between werewolf and necromancers ;-) I don't think Simon's going to get a romance in this book. Unless it's Tori. Which would be amusing. I don't actually think Simon has been as well fleshed-out as Derek in the series so far. Derek is definitely the more interesting of the two - more secrets, more angst...
I was thinking Derek = Clay as well! Though I haven't yet finished Men of the Otherworld so I can't really recall if Clay's adolescent years were similar to Derek's.
Nath: You haven’t finished Men of the Otherworld yet?!?! Why not?!?! LOL.
LOL, Simon and Tori :) Well seems like the adults in the book want them to pair up, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.
As for the chemistry between Chloe and Derek, I think there was more in The Summoning; however, the book was more character-driven. In The Awakening, the story goes so fast and there is a lot of action, Chole and Derek seem to have less time to be together for the chemistry to be present. I do think that Chloe is attracted to Derek, but at the same time, I think she’s scared. Between Derek and Simon, Simon is much safer and that’s why I think she tends to gravitate towards him. I mean, for someone who is new to the Otherworld, when presented the choice of a sorcerer or a werewolf going through his first Change… but Chloe is handling it well :)
Also, you’re right. Chloe and Derek are definitively good friends, and that’s a good start no? See, what I’m worried about is that we’re not going to get a clear answer on the love triangle in the next book, because Ms Armstrong has the possibility to explore this love triangle again in the future in The Women of the Otherworld series. It sure would be fun to have a book about their grown-up version or a huge cross-over between this series and the Women of the Otherworld series.
Li: I like that we get to see a bit more of the Otherworld universe she's created, with mention of the Cabals etc, in The Awakening. Not sure how that would go down with readers new to this series though. I would love to see Clay meet Derek! And maybe Jaime and Chloe. That would be interesting.
Nath: I agree with you. I think that Ms Armstrong is doing well linking this series to the other… and I would love Jaime to become Chloe’s mentor! And I sure hope that Derek is going to become part of the Pack.
What scene stands out in this book for you?
Li: The scene where she accidentally raised the dead homeless man was a bit eewwww for me. If I were Chloe, I wouldn't dare go to sleep after that!
Nath: See, that's the part of The Awakening that I liked the least - that Chloe is summoning dead bodies right and left. Can you imagine how strong that makes her?!?! I'd say, that makes Chloe even stronger than Jaime in raw power ^_^; which makes sense with the explanations given in The Awakening… but still. The girl definitively needs a mentor... LOL :) As for the scene itself, I have to agree with you - well actually every scene where she summons something – ewwww.
Li: I remember Kelley Armstrong books used to be shelved in Horror in my local bookstore, and I can see why!
Nath: LOL, although her adult books never seemed to be this horrific! Gory, yes, but horrific? No.
By the way, what did you think of Tori and the events involving Rachelle? It’s fun to find out that Tori has some hidden depths. It'll really be interesting to see how her character develops...
Li: Tori is the most interesting character in the series to me. She has potential for redemption, and I think you start to understand why she is the way she is. Rachelle - the twist made sense. But I didn't really feel the betrayal too much. Because the plot was quite fast-moving, there probably wasn't much time to show Chloe's reaction to the reveal.
And I'm glad Aunt Lauren redeemed herself.
Nath: I’m glad as well about Aunt Lauren… and I hope Chloe will be able to reunite with her father! Poor man…
Li: I think there's lot of potential for this series to end on a feel-good note! Don't forget Simon and Derek's dad as well.
Nath: Not forgetting him. I wonder who he is…
Overall, I thought The Awakening was a solid and enjoyable read. At first, in The Summoning, I was a bit skeptical at Chloe's power. I mean, she just recovered them and she is already able to raise the death - involuntary! Raising the death was a very big step for Jaime, so to see Chloe do it so easily... However, now, it all makes sense. I'm glad that Ms Armstrong has such a tight plot.
Although, what I don't understand is Tori's mom. She clearly wants a powerful child - so why would she adhere to this program... hmmm, another mystery?
I'm giving The Awakening a B+. I have to admit, I would have liked a bit more chemistry between Chloe and Derek. However, for such a fast-paced storyline, there was plenty of action and the plot was very interesting :) Looking forward to The Reckoning! :) What about you, Li?
Li: I went for a B. I thought the suspense side was good, but I'm still lacking a proper connection with the characters. I will get The Reckoning. Hmmm... part of me is wondering if I'd have enjoyed these books more if I could read all three in one sitting!
Nath: Perhaps, but then to wait three years? I wouldn’t be able to do it LOL :P