Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Reckoning


Yesterday I received my advanced readers copy of Kelley Armstrong's, The Reckoning. It could not have come at a better time. The husband and I are both sick with a cold that we caught from the baby (go figure, no clue where she got it), who is of course miserable and also teething. Bella is taking her illness like a champ though, we get the occasional tears, but for the most part she just doesn't want to sleep. Her dad and I have been taking turns sitting up with her in the rocking chair, and reading this book made my shift so much better! I needed a treat, and man did this provide it.
So how did I, a lowly blogger in Georgia get ahold of one of the New York Times best selling authors latest installment to her young adult series? I won a contest in which I told the story of my neighbors creepy house. (I'll be posting that later, all true, I swear). Kelley Armstrong is exactly the type of writer I hope to be should I ever get published. She has a great website a myspace page, a face book page (why does blogger acknowledge myspace and not face book in spell check?) a twitter page, and a page for her young adult series here. Technically the myspace page is Chloe's. Anyhow, she interacts with her readers, and has contests, and proofs their work if they request it, and has a message board where you can ask her questions, and actually responds to her emails. She's amazing, and her books are great... and now I'm sounding like a creepy stalker fan, so onto the review.

THE RECKONING
is technically the third book in her young adult series, "The Darkest Powers." Young adult books are different in degree not kind, so grownups like myself are not too good for this series :), its just like her adult books (Bitten, Stolen, and other women of the other world books) only with no sex, which to me isn't a drawback. My husband even likes her books, I read them out loud to him on our many trips to Atlanta (sans the sex scenes cause MAN, would that be awkward to read out loud to my husband as the baby plays with her toys in the backseat). Anyhow, the series stars a young necromancer named Chloe Saunders who is just coming into her powers and gets shipped off to a group home for troubled teens. At this home she discovers other supernaturals like herself, and discover that she is part of an experiment to produce better supernaturals, only problem is it worked too well and the children of the experiment are more powerful than they can handle. You can read the entire first book online for free here along with fairly large excerpts of her next two books. Plot wise, this is pretty much all I can tell you without giving away any details, and that just wouldn't be nice to do when Kelley Armstrong included such a nice note asking me not to divulge any plot details online. So what you see above is less detail than is written on the back of the first two books.

What I thought

Most trilogies follow a formula. The first book is generally the best, it can stand alone, but it does leave you wanting for more, traditionally on an upbeat note as the heroes venture off on their adventure. The second book typically has all the action with a tragic death and ends on a note of hopelessness, and the third book wraps everything up nice a neatly, but typically can't live up to the hype (note that star wars did a reverse of this in episodes 1-3) This doesn't exactly follow that formula. In a good way. The protagonist wants to write screenplays when she grows up, so she's fast to point out how their situation would play out if it was a movie, then explains the more realistic approach they took. I love that, its funny, tongue and cheek, and very accurate.
A striking contrast between this book and its prequels was the steady scenery. The characters stay in one place for awhile, and its a change. The characters suffer cabin fever, and we get to see different sides of them then we have in the past.
I was a little worried about the pacing, it wasn't moving slow, but I shouldn't have, the book read perfectly, it wasn't moving too fast or too slow, and while the grand finale was action packed (as grand finales should be) that wasn't every bit of action for the book.
Three things happened in this book that I cannot disclose.
One I guessed would occur, but thought would be a much bigger deal plot wise. I appreciated that it wasn't, it was one of those "In real life as opposed to movie," moments.
One I knew would occur, and made me smile
And one thing I really really hoped would work out but can completely understand why it didn't but hope to see more of in the future (vague enough for you, lol, sorry, I'll clarify after the release date)
The ending was typical for Kelley Armstrong, and well done. Things wrap up but it has that moment of "well in fiction things would have ended up like a, b, and c. Have I mentioned how much I like that aspect of her books?
A character I'm surprised I like, Tori. I hated her in the first book, she was mean, but she grew on me, and one thing that helped is that no one has forgotten how mean she was. Armstrong doesn't pull a lost and go, "No, Ben has never hurt a fly. Why don't we trust him?" No one has forgotten how Tori acted in book one, and they won't let her forget. The characters inability to move past it helps me move past it because I don't feel like I'm being manipulated into liking this character. There's an element of poor little rich girl there, but it doesn't excuse what she did.
A character I would like to see more of?
Simon. Don't get me wrong, he was in every scene, but with so many strong personalities its kind of easy to forget he's there. Every now and then he'll speak up to agree with Chloe, but mostly it was just supposed to remind the reader he was there. It's not a flaw in the writing, his character is a well developed, easy going, easy to get along with guy in a room full of opinionated people. He's just going to put his two cents in and then remain silent. My husband does the same thing when my brother, cousin, and I argue politics at Thanksgiving dinner. (Maybe that's why I want to see more of Simon, lol, his personality is a lot like my husbands.) He has a large number of solo scenes with chloe, in fact the solo scenes with Chloe were very well balanced between the three main characters, but I wanted more interaction between him and everyone else.
My favorite character?
chloe, I'm jealous, if I had been that level headed and intelligent as a teen... well I wasn't really ever in a situation where it would have made much of a difference, but still, she's smart, and resourceful, and exactly the sort of book protagonist young girls should be reading about. This is not a girl who is going to fall into a deep depression if her vampire lover leaves her randomly in the forest. (I like the twilight books, I just hate Bella Swan, my Bella and I are going to have a long talk about healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships when she's old enough to read them) this is not a girl who would be ok with being stalked, threatened, and belittled. She has her own mind, thoughts and opinions, and they will be heard. It's well balanced though, because she's wrong for every time she's right.

I haven't said much about Derrick. He reminds me of Clay from the Men of the Otherworld stories. He's not a carbon copy by any means, the similarities have a fairly strong reason behind them. He's a great character. He's the sort of guy that I would have thought was amazing when I was actually the target audience for this novel. Back when I thought that if two people argued enough it meant they had strong feelings for each other (well watch any chick flick, tv show, read any book, or heck, watch children's cartoon and tell me there's anything other than a love hate relationship out there) He's protective, and sweet while fierce and smart, and all of that good stuff. Also he has the ability to admit when he's wrong (take notes hubby). I have no complaints or insights regarding his character, just a well done.

Overall a very strong plot, strong characters, and great pacing. I could only hope to write this well.

You know what job I want? I can't find it anywhere, I don't know if it's actually out there. I would love to just read arcs. Reviewers do it, presumably someone in the publishing industry reads the books to see if they are worth publishing. How do you get that job? Heck, I'd do it free. I'd pay to do it. Especially for Kelley Armstrong books, if I could be one of her advanced readers for all of her books... well that would rock.

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