The Awakening, by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong’s 2008 novel The Summoning was her first attempt at writing teen fiction, and a rousing success. Set in the same world as her Women of the Underworld series, The Summoning introduced 15-year-old Chloe Saunders, an aspiring film student with an unfortunate habit of falling into conversations with ghosts. Worried about schizophrenia, Chloe ends up at Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens, where she discovers that her powers aren’t the result of mental illness. They’re real, and the seemingly benevolent staff of Lyle House wants to control them.

The Summoning ends with an escape attempt by Chloe and three of her housemates: Simon, Derek, and Rae. By the opening chapters of The Awakening, the second book in the series, Chloe and Rae have been recaptured. Chloe manages to escape again, this time accompanied by sharp-tongued, bratty Tori, who has never forgiven Chloe for attracting Simon’s notice. When the girls reconnect with Simon and Derek, the foursome set off on a quest to find the boys’ family friend, who might—if they’re a lot luckier than they’ve been thus far—be willing to help them.

The Awakening is such fast-paced, page-turning fun that it took me nearly 35 chapters to realize that nothing much actually happens in it. Sure, relationships deepen, we learn more about the characters, and Armstrong tosses in a few action sequences, but the lion’s share of the story is devoted to tense scenes between Chloe and Derek as they skulk around New York State—and even their relationship goes nowhere! It’s entertaining enough, but it reads like a well written but ultimately unfulfilling romantic fanfic, not a full-blown series installment.

Not that I object to romantic fanfics, mind you. It’s just that this series is a trilogy, and Armstrong has just fobbed her readers off with 300+ pages of half-answered questions and an unconsummated romantic frission between her two leads. This wouldn’t be so bad in an open-ended series, but the Darkest Powers books are now two-thirds complete, and we’re not much better off than we were at the end of The Summoning. The third book in this series (The Reckoning, due out in 2010) better knock this trilogy out of the park, because I’d hate to think of such a promising beginning dissolving into the G-rated equivalent of a Laurell K. Hamilton book: lots of horror and romantic angst, but very little actual plot.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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