Second disappointing installment in series
After narrowly escaping a suspicious forest fire that threatened to destroy their island home, Maya, Daniel, and their friends find themselves in even more danger as their rescue helicopter crashes and they’re left to survive and outwit their pursuers in a remote wilderness. As their potential captors get closer, Maya must struggle to decide whom to trust and what to believe about herself and her friends. Strange rumblings start to surface as others in the group begin to learn about their own special powers and as Maya learns more about what may have really happened when her best friend drowned a year before.
I went into reading The Calling with some anxiety because I didn’t enjoy the first book in this series, The Gathering. Sadly, my unease was warranted. Unlike Armstrong’s first young adult series (Darkest Powers), I just can't get into this trilogy or feel attached to any of the characters, even now after reading the second book. Most notably, this book (and this trilogy in general) feels like a rehashing of the author’s previous books. With the repetition of the same plot points (run, be captured, escape, then repeat) and the same world of the St. Clouds and the Cabals, I’m just not intrigued anymore. The idea of genetically-modified supernaturals and a conspiracy-laced research firm was exciting in her first few books, but it now feels overused and uninspired.
Because so much of the book is action-focused, little character development also occurs, and when it does, it seems superficial. I was also bothered by the author’s clumsy attempt to include a gay/lesbian character; though it seemed well-intentioned, the characterization only served to reinforce stereotypes. The story doesn’t take any real risks with the plot, the characters, or any of the potential (and likely) bad outcomes that would result in a situation like this. When villains appear, they are too easily foiled or appear from nowhere for the purpose of simply creating another action scene. Finally, as the book closes, it ends on a cliffhanger with little resolution. Armstrong has explained that her trilogies are meant as one plot line across three books, but it still makes each book feel abrupt and unfinished to me.
On the plus side, if you like Armstrong’s formula and her world, then this book will be a good fit. Also, like her other books, this installment is a quick, easy read and very action-based. I also appreciate that the superpowers that these teens possess vary from what’s seen in her previous books.
These things, however, weren’t enough to make this book an enjoyable read for me. I’m sure I’ll read the final installment (The Rising) to see how things end, but I’m already feeling apprehensive about it because I fear it too will be too similar to her other stories. Even with this gloomy outlook, I hope I’m proved wrong and that Armstrong brings unexpected plot twists and well-rounded character development to the final book.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.