This is the first book in a second YA trilogy. There are links between the two and some information pertaining to the first trilogy (Darkest Powers) will appear in this review.
Author: Kelley Armstrong is a well known Canadian author. She started out writing for adults (Women of the Other World) before releasing her first YA book in 2008. She is a Candian author and uses some Canadian slang in this book.
Presentation: Quite a large paperback with good quality paper. There are 359 pages broken down into 37 chapters.The type is quite large and well spaced.
Story: Maya lives with her adoptive parents in a small (200 people small) town on Vancouver Island in Canada. When her best friend, captain of the swim team, mysteriously drowns, Maya vows to find out the cause of her death. But strange things are starting to happen around town. An outsider, pretending to be a reporter, is asking questions; there are more cougar sightings than should be normal; and Rafe, the new bad boy, has taken a sudden interest in Maya. Add to that that a crazy old woman insists that she in a witch, and Maya's got enough to deal with.
Thoughts and impressions: As with in Armstrong's first YA trilogy, this book is just laying the ground work. It reads more like an extended prologue than anything else. There's no real conflict, there is no antagonist, there's really not very much happening at all. Maya figures out that she's not "normal", sure, and we get hints that some of the other kids have powers too, but we have no idea what they really are. It's not even really clear what Maya's are. They're certainly more attuned to nature than Chloe's necromancy in DP. However, I felt that The Summoning was a better stepping stone than The Gathering simply because of the fact that in The Summoning things actually happen: there is an antagonist and the kids try to escape. In The Gathering they just wander around town or the woods a lot and do a lot of snooping about. It was a different sort of introduction to the trilogy but I feel that I need to have at least the second book to read back to back with it due to the lack of action.
I really liked the setting, middle of nowhere, forest all around, a town where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows what everyone else has done within a day of their doing it. The isolation of the town fairly oozed from the pages so I felt that that was very well written.
As for the characters, they're all intriguing, though I am as of yet unsure about how I feel about some of them.
- Maya is headstrong and her narrative voice draws you in. She is assertive in her thoughts and decisions, which leaves the reader no room to question them. She's also funny and I loved how she would joke about with her father.
- I liked the parents being there and being such supportive figures. In YA these days the parents are usually either absent or don't fulfill their parental role. It was refreshing to see parents who acted like concerned parents for once. I also liked their interactions with Maya.
- Rafe, the romantic interest in this book. I'm not sure how I feel about him. He never really grabbed my attention. It's not because he's bland or boring - he isn't. But he just isn't a character that I can feel strongly about either way. I know he was honest with Maya and he did a lot to introduce her to who he is. I know he mucked up along the way. I know he's a very human character. But he just wasn't relateable for me.
- Daniel, Maya's best friend, was one of my favourite characters. He's living with his father and their family relations have more or less broken down. He's very in control of himself and he fights to be the stronger one. He's taken on a parental role before his time. He's always very protective of Maya and maybe a little controlling at times, but he was obviously worried about her safety. I could sense some subtle hints that he was interested in her that she didn't pick up on and I hope these get explored in the other two books. I found him to be a much more interesting character than Rafe.
- The other kids. A handful of other children, some of whom seem to be exhibiting the first hints of paranormal powers. I'm looking forward to seeing where Armstrong will take them all the next book.
Style: I have nothing in particular to say about the style. It is well written, the characters are engaging. Maya's is a strong voice, different from and yet similar to Chloe's.
Final verdict: I'm a bit torn with this one. On its own it'd only be 3 stars and I feel a bit frustrated that there wasn't a better story arc in this novel and I have to wait till next year to even get a real arc. However, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that once paired with the other two books in the trilogy it'll be considered a great read. 4 stars.
Extra notes: There is some kissing in this book, no sex. There may have been some mild language, it didn't stand out to me. The protagonist is a 15 - 16 year old girl so I would recommend this book as of about 14.