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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)
by Cynthia Hand

from Goodreads:
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

I was so, so dubious going into this book.  In fact, because of other angel books, I had no intention of reading it at all, until someone who feels similar convinced me to read this because she liked it.  And though there were a few drawbacks for me, I'm really glad I read it.  This puts the other angel books -- and some paranormal YA in general -- to shame.

"I won't be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him." <--- Aaaand we have a winner!  I'm sold from this line alone...

I've got to give it to Cynthia Hand -- she didn't write a fill in the blanks novel.  It would have been very easy to follow the expected pattern, and to make everything really angsty and melodramatic, with a lot of Romeo and Juliet-esque vows of lovetothedeathbecauseweweremadeforeachotherandnothingcancomebetweennussohelpmegod.
The romance that was there felt natural and not over the top.  It flowed and grew in a realistic manner, and was more charming because of it.  I think the relationship itself demonstrates one of the best aspects of the book: Clara and most of the characters in the novel are *gasp* well-adjusted.  I know, it's a novel concept, but it was so refreshing to read from the POV of a character who has a brain that she actually uses, and who considers her decisions and the impacts they will make.

I liked, too, that even though Clara is an angel-blood and thus sort of powerful and good at most things, she still struggles to figure things out, and she has to work at some things, as well as still trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, in spite of her angel "Purpose".  It made her so much more relatable and likable.  The characters may have been a little too easy and perfect at times, but they were more authentic-feeling than a lot of the unrelatable caricatures that generally populate these books.

The few drawbacks I had, big as they are, wouldn't keep me from recommending this, sometimes even enthusiastically.  I already mentioned that things were a little too easy and perfect at times, and it can leave you with a slightly saccharine taste if you let it.  Some key things are far too convenient (and far too recognizable for the plot devices they are), and I always respect an author more when they're willing to make some tough choices in the name of reality; I don't think this book would have suffered with a little more of that.  But I think there are hints of darker stuff, and it is almost balanced by it.

The biggest issue, though, is that, as good as the book was, in the end I was left wondering what really happened.  Vampires and Tofu pegged it when she said "Nothing was really resolved and that left me feeling like I had read an extended prologue instead of a complete story. I think perhaps not every story is meant to be a trilogy."  It did leave me wondering if it was originally meant to be a trilogy, or if that was forced on Cynthia Hand.  It was like the difference between a TV series and a movie: a movie cuts right to the heart of everything because there's a limited amount of time to make things happen.  A TV series, though, can bring you in slowly and let you get to know everything and everyone in bits and pieces, and begin figuring things out yourself.  This is fine, but if the first season was just a "getting to know you" season that ended before any of the real drama happened -- well, I'm not sure it would be renewed for a second season...

That being said, it wasn't like I felt I had wasted my time reading it.  Yes, everything that was built up was sort of undone by the end, and I feel like going into book 2 will feel like just starting the series.  But in spite of that, it was still very enjoyable, and I will absolutely be reading book 2, as well as recommending this one.

 No teaser from me on this one, since I read an e-copy.  But here's the book trailer:

*Please note: I read an ARC, so the final version may (and probably will) change in some ways. Review copy provided by NetGalley.


  1. Great review Misty! While not a perfect story, this has most definitely been my favorite angel story so far!

  2. "I won't be that girl who lets the guy treat her like crap and still fawns all over him." okay, wow, I need to read this book asap. That girl sounds very different! :)

  3. "I've got to give it to Cynthia Hand -- she didn't write a fill in the blanks novel.

    WOOO!!!! Thank God. I have this one on my review shelf, but I've been reeeeaaaallly hesitant to pick it up after books like Halo and Fallen Angel. Glad to hear it's worth reading!

  4. This review makes me glad that I went out and bought this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!


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