The Gathering (Book One of the Darkness Rising Series)
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Category: Young Adult (YA) Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 359 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: February 7, 2012 (Trade Paperback)
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong is the first of the Darkness Rising series, a supernatural young adult (YA) trilogy about 16-year-old Maya who lives in a small medical-research town called Salmon Creek on Vancouver Island.
The small populated and isolated town not only has less than 200 people, but also a slew of secrets that slowly unravel as the novel progresses.
Since I prefer reading literary fiction, I tend not to read a large amount of YA fiction in comparison. And of those that I have read in the past, most have been a tad disappointing in their narrative and character development, which would most often, more than not, be filled with cliché and superficial and self-indulgent characters who made it difficult for me to empathize with.
But with The Gathering, this is not the case. The Gathering is one of the best YA fiction reads I’ve read in a long time, which explains why Kelley Armstrong is one of the number one bestselling authors according to the New York Times!
The main character, Maya, a 16-year-old popular and athletic teenager is not only likeable by her peers, but will be most likely be “liked” by the readers of this book. I did. She has a strong relationship with her parents without losing herself in identity or rebellion; she’s fiercely loyal to her friends without being dependent; she has a natural agility that gives her grace and strength, and a wit that is refreshing, entertaining, and endearing without being abrasive. Above all, she’s a natural animal lover, comfortable in their midst and gifted in sensing their needs.
Hers friends, too, as secondary characters are likeable:
Daniel, also a popular teen in the school, is loyal, strong, and protective, gifted in sensing negativity and danger in others.
Rafe as in Rafael, the new boy, is sensual and attractive with an outward rebellious streak, but an inner sensitivity that leaves most girls in the book swooning.
The characters in themselves and their entangled relationships are interesting enough on their own for the book to be a success, but surprisingly, it’s the book’s plot-centred speed, tension, and mystery that will draw readers in to continually turn its pages.
I finished the book in a few days (and only because I stopped to pick up something else that needed to be finished). If I had read it straight through, it probably would have taken me only a day to read—it’s that enjoyable!
Though you are left to guess the true nature of characters in the story, you are bound by unanswered questions that will certainly make you yearn for further explanation. But, that’s not because it’s not well written. It’s because Armstrong gives you just enough information to nibble on until the very end, where you are left wishing you could open, The Calling, the next book in this exotic paranormal YA series and then The Rising, the finale in the trilogy.
(I know. I just visited the library and found not much to my surprise a list of 54 patrons in line ahead of me to reserve the book. Oy! Looks like I’ll be spending some money again on The Book Depository.)
The Gathering is a light read, but not insignificant. It explores Native spirituality and folklore, paranormal mysticism, and lightly touches upon issues affecting teenage character development such as date rape, peer pressure, exclusivity, even assumptions about gender.
And at most, it’s a paranormal, entertaining read. And transformative, exploring the boundaries of folklore and fantasy. I pawed the book with affection and look forward to reading book two of the Darkness Rising series. If you’re an avid YA fiction fan of paranormal power, I doubt you’ll disagree with me.
I read this book as part of my participation in the 2012 Random Reader Challenge for YA Fiction from March to April.