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Brunch Book Club Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand


unearthlyIn the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .
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?

While I will attempt to avoid obvious spoilers, certain plot points will be discussed in this review. If you wish to avoid any and all spoilers, then do not pass go, do not read ahead and come back after you have read the book! You have been warned!

I’m going to make a confession right off the bat – I’m not an “angel book” kind of reader. I don’t hate them, but they have never really intrigued me enough to pick one up. One of our first selections for Brunch Book Club was “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”, involving angels and Chimera, and I was in. When we decided to select Unearthly for this month’s pick, I had some reservations because I loved DSM so much….

When trying to write this review, I found myself making lists of things I did and did not enjoy about the book, so I’m going to borrow a page from my dear friend, The Misbehavin’ Librarian, and use her format for this review (thanks, Jen, you know I love you!!).

What I Liked About this Book:

I really liked the relationship between Clara and her mother and brother. Their scenes were probably some of my favourites in the book, and I loved that their relationship had ups and downs like any other teen/parent connection, even with the angel element. I thought the Mom’s appearance during Clara’s attack was completely awesome, and I was dying for more back story about Meg and the Black Wing Sam.

Clara was actually a very strong character. I liked that the book started with her already accepting her destiny as being part angel, and coming to terms with her Purpose, but that she was far from perfect. Her struggles while learning to fly were actually pretty funny, and I liked that she wasn’t “perfect” all the time. I also liked that she went out there and  was the one saving everyone at the end — no passive screaming in the corner for this girl! I felt that she was a realistic character, trying to come to terms with the different parts of her nature while having normal human feelings and emotions.

Tucker was awesome. Can you tell I’m Team Tucker all the way? Genuine, honest, funny and caring – he’s the perfect book boyfriend for Clara. He’s also snarky and more than a titch sarcastic, and that’s probably why I like him best.  Pah – Christian doesn’t need you, Clara – choose Tucker!

Angela is a great secondary character. I like that she’s flawed, that she has her own back story and that she’s interesting and challenges Clara in so many ways. Even their falling out makes perfect sense – girls do that all the time. I also think that her family situation is really intriguing, and that it will play a huge role in the way the series develops.

The villains are deliciously evil sounding, and have the potential to be seriously bad news in future books. I really enjoyed that fallen angel struggle between good and evil themselves, and think that it was one of the best written scenes in the book. Angela’s connection to the Black Wings is obviously going to be a major plot point, and I think she’s already heading down a dark path with the secret boy in Rome.

What I Liked Less About this Book:

Okay, I’ll put it out there. I got a very strong “Twilight” vibe from this book, especially with the perfection that was Christian versus the rough and tumble nature of Tucker. Add in the “new girl in town” with a parent who is largely absent except for some ‘at t home’ scenes, the two girl friends – one snarky, one dorky but loyal – and it was eerie. Thankfully Clara was stronger and better written than any Bella Swan, so that pulled things away for me. Still, it was unsettling, and a feeling I couldn’t shake at times.

Christian is not my favourite character. I pretty much guessed his identity after the first few chapters of meeting him, and kept waiting for his secret to be revealed. He’s extremely bland in this book, and while I know that it’s the first book in the series, and he’s likely fleshed out in more detail in future books, I’m not engaged in him enough to care what happens to him.

The same can be said for Clara’s brother, Jeffrey. I didn’t realize until mid-way through the book that he knew about his angel background and his purpose as well, and I wish we had been given more about his feelings. Clara was pretty open about her dreams, and she and her mother talked about them, but Jeffrey was a closed book. I understand that he’s a teenager, but their relationship is very different, and he could have had more interactions with his sister and/or mother to make him a more complex character. Still, I foresee great challenges for young Jeffrey in future novels…

Overall thoughts:

The Twilight vibe was disconcerting, but overall, I did like this book. I think that the characters of Clara, Meg (her mom), Tucker and Angela are extremely well-developed, and the conversations are totally fitting to the tone and age of the characters.

Some of the plot details were a little too obviously telegraphed … Jeffrey’s obviously made friends with some bad dudes (I’m thinking he’s being seduced by the Black Wings, especially with that guilty look about the fire), and Angela’s secret boyfriend in Rome is not good either. Having said that, I think that the intrigue of that, if written well in the next two books and not drawn out to the point where you’re yelling at Clara to wake up and smell the coffee, will make for a very strong storyline.

Will I continue the series? Most likely. I enjoyed the way that Hand developed her angels, and I’m intrigued to see where she will take the full, half and quarter angel strengths as well as the development of the Black Wings as villains.

I purchased Unearthly as part of our Brunch Book Club selections. It is available from Indigo, Amazon and your friendly indie bookseller!  ISBN:  9780061996160, 435 pages. 

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2 Responses »

  1. Great review! I TOTALLY didn’t see the Christian angle coming at all! Looking forward to our BBC for further discussions 🙂


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