Slow and underdeveloped start to new trilogy, 2.5 stars
In Kelley Armstrong's THE GATHERING, Maya Delaney lives in a small medical research town on Vancouver Island. A year after her best friend's death, Maya and her friend Daniel still don't have answers about how Serena died. When other people start to show up dead in the woods and Maya begins to have strange moments of connection with animals, she decides to start looking for answers. All the while, things are heating up between Maya and bad boy Rafe who may have secrets of his own. Maya and her friends soon start to discover that things may not be as safe on the island as they once thought.
After really enjoying Kelley Armstrong's first YA trilogy (Darkest Powers), I was excited to delve into this new series. Similar to her prior books, Armstrong's easy writing style and engaging setting kept me reading. Likable characters such as Daniel, Rafe, Annie, and Maya's parents drew me into the story as did the gripping prologue that set up the mystery. Armstrong's descriptions and use of Canadian slang created a firm sense of place, and her respectful representation of Native people and the weaving of myth and culture into the plot also made the setting feel real.
Even with these strong points, this novel fell short for me because of its limited plot development and obvious similarities to her previous trilogy. While parts of the mythology were new, prior readers of her Darkest Powers series will know immediately what's happening to Maya and who the villains will be. Even such, readers learn very little in this book about the possible powers or identities of the different teens except for Maya and Rafe. The plot itself did not move forward much at all, and the book finished with a cliffhanger that didn't even feel like one. Though I can't stand cliffhangers, the one that's provided didn't even make me eager to read the next installment. The book overall feels like an extended prologue leading up to action we haven't seen yet. As the narrator, Maya was likable for her assertive personality and quick wit but it seemed hard to believe that she was so well-liked by most everyone despite being somewhat abrasive. I was also disappointed that the romance looks destined to fall into the requisite pattern of a love triangle.
I'm left feeling cautious about this new series and where it will go. In future books, I hope Armstrong provides a more substantial plot, some unexpected twists about the villains, and a greater sense of self-containment to each novel.