Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Review: The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

So my sister is in Australia right now and my co-worker, on vacation. It's only been a day and it's been so lonely!! Luckily, I came home to a nice new toy... the iPad2! Yes, I finally broke down and went to the dark side LOL. I think it'll take me a couple of days to figure it out, so it should keep me occupied :) The good news is that now, I can buy Crazy People by Jennifer Crusie! Yay!

In the meantime, I finally finished this review! I've started it a few weeks, but didn't want to bombard you with too much YA, so I wanted to space it out with other reviews/mini-reviews... And then, time just slipped away ^_^; Well now, it's finally done and I hope you guys enjoy it!

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
published by Harpercollins Publisher/ DoubleDay Canada in April 2012
Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the sign of what she truly is—a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly anyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home. Plentiful action and romance in this second installment in the Darkness Rising series will keep readers enthralled to the last page.
Genre: YA, UF
Series: Darkness Rising trilogy, Book #2

The Story: The Calling picks up right where The Gathering ended, as the town of Salmon Creek is burning and the kids are being evacuated according to plans in helicopters. So Maya and her dog, Kenji, find themselves in the same helicopter as her best friend Daniel, Mayor Tilson and his daughter, Nicole, and niece, Sam, as well as Hayley, Corey and Rafe. Quickly, they realize something is not right with the mayor being inert and the pilot, suspicious. One thing leads to another and the helicopter crashes...

Now, the group of teenagers find themselves stranded on a little island, east of Vancouver Island - their island. If they stay and wait to be rescued, there's no telling who will come for them. As a result, they decide to return home on their own... and thus their journey begins. As they make their way home, they start figuring things about, putting all their information together. They also must avoid the Cabals who are after them and other obstacles... and when they finally reach their destination, a big surprise is waiting for them.

My Opinion: It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Ms Armstrong :) However, it feels like I haven't been as excited for her new releases as I used to and I'm pretty sad this anticipation/excitement feeling is absent :( I know part of the reason is because I haven't read Savannah's books in the Women of the Otherworld series yet since I'm waiting for all three books of the trilogy to be out so I don't go crazy with the cliffhangers... and another is I was a bit disappointed by The Gathering. I think deep down, I'm just wondering where Ms Armstrong is going with all these series... I hope they will interconnect and it'll go back to how it used to be, but it seems like wishful thinking ^_^;

Okay, enough of the depressing stuff. Let's discuss The Calling! I admit I had some doubts going into it, but in the end, I'm happy that I read The Calling. No matter how I feel about the upcoming releases, I still love Ms Armstrong's writing and voice and reading this book reminded me of that. Really, it was like reuniting with a long-time friend :) Her writing is just smooth and familiar and her voice, comforting. And for added bonus, it turned out I enjoyed The Calling more than The Gathering! Yay!

Aside from the writing, one of reasons why I enjoyed The Calling more is because the story finally picked up and the kids started to figure things out - who and what they were, the project and who was after them. I remember when I read The Gathering, I was waiting for things to happen and it was so frustrating to see the characters being so clueless. At least in The Darkest Powers trilogy, Chloe, quickly figured out something was wrong... whereas in The Gathering, they have grown into that environment and so, it took forever. And in the end, the anticipation feeling just killed the book for me. In The Calling, it's different because pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place. It's actually even more exciting for readers who are familiar with Ms Armstrong's world, because it feels as if you have the upper hand on the characters! You pick up on things that are significant while the characters have no idea... Seriously, while reading, I was eagerly looking for any hints and clues and every time there was a mention of the Edison Group, the Cabals, the supernatural, I couldn't help but smiling and get excited LOL. So that definitively worked for me. Something else that I found interesting was the Project Phoenix itself which consists in reviving supernaturals which are extinct like skinwalkers, etc. Seriously, I'm really curious to find out what Corey is... At first, I thought he was a clairvoyant... but since we've met some throughout the series, it can't be. I definitively can't wait to find out. Finally, as usual, I find the in-fighting between the Cabals really interesting and it's good to get to know them more.

I haven't spoken too much of the characters so far and that's because I cannot make up my mind about them. Quite frankly, I have to say that as a heroine, Maya isn't really doing it for me. I just don't connect with her and I don't find her particular likable or easy to relate to. She gives off a superior vibe, although I'm not sure she does it consciously. It's simply that she is quick to judge sometimes and stubborn in her convictions. So I was happy to see that she realized in this book that her assessments of people could be faulty... and hopefully, she'll work on it. Still, it wouldn't be bad in her situation at the moment to keep an open mind ^_^; One thing about her that I'm really looking forward to is her background. I really hope we'll find out more in the last book, The Rising... My favorite character in the series is definitively Daniel. He is just a genuinely nice guy, considerate and caring. Seriously, Ms Armstrong knows how to write dreamy guys :P And overall, I did enjoy Maya and Daniel's friendship. The two of them have chemistry and they have each other's back. I also liked their interactions with Corey especially, and the other characters. Deep down, I wish Maya would choose Daniel - I really don't care for Rafe. I know the heart wants what it wants, but seriously, between Rafe and Daniel? Is there even a choice. But it seems Maya is really attracted towards Rafe, sigh... And if in the end, she chooses Daniel, it would feel a bit like it was by default. Unless something drastic would happen in The Rising. So I'm going to be crossing my fingers :) As for the other characters, they were likable to a point... but not developed enough to be sure.

Finally, here are the things I really didn't care about. First, I was really not fond of them all keeping secrets from each other ^_^; How do you expect to be ready, to prepare for what's coming if you don't have all the information? I know that at times, it was to avoid panic... but it really didn't sit well with me. It seemed to me as they were all involved, they all had a right to know. It would also explain so much of what was going on. Also, as a whole, the story was so-so. The beginning was really exciting and as I said above, I really liked that they were figuring things out. However, the whole trek from the crash site back to their town... while avoiding the Cabals? It didn't seem realistic to me. Yes, I know these teenagers are more skilled than the everyday teen you'll meet, but they're still just teenagers and most of them have not come into their powers yet. Sure, they haven't come out all scoff-free, but enough to wonder if the Cabals employees are competent ^_^; Also, the fact that everyone they ran into was either a Cabal or someone with bad intentions... It just didn't work for me ^_^;

My Grade: B-. As I said, I enjoyed The Calling better than The Gathering... but I still had some issues and unfortunately, they weighted heavy when it came to grading this book. Also, one thing that's not helping is that you can't help but comparing this trilogy to The Darkest Powers trilogy and unfortunately, I think that Chloe's story was more interesting. Still, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be picking up The Rising. I'm really curious to see what happens next.

Also, I was thinking of the book and the grade while writing this review... and I figured this is a trilogy which would work so much better if I read the three books at the same time, instead of one each year. So if you have not yet read these books and are patient, I advice you to wait till The Rising is out to embark in this trilogy :)