Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Unearthly - Cynthia Hand

Released: January 4th, 2011
Borrowed from library

Description from Goodreads:

In 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?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

Review after the break.
Unearthly was another YA novel that surprised me. I have to constantly remind myself that the cover image/model is the publishers doing and doesn't usually have much to do with the story, so when I see a female model with a dress on - and the character doesn't wear a dress once in the story? Gah. But I do like how there are trees/forest scenery in the background on the cover. THAT at least happens. The feather near the title also works for me, because it's not screaming ANGELS in your face. 

Unearthly is the second YA novel I've read that is about angels. The first was Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and I vaguely remember what happens. I know there was a hot fallen angel named Patch, but that's about it. It's not that I was turned off my angel stories, I just never got into them. Thinking about the trends in YA fiction over the past 10 years, in my opinion, angels haven't been at the top or even one of the top 5 subjects for YA novels. Usually it's vampires, dystopians, super-humans, science fiction, or contemporary, to name a few. But I applaud Cynthia Hand for making her way in the YA novel world with her series about angels. While I don't know much about angel literature (at least in YA novels), I felt her rendition was refreshing and intriguing. It also helps that she knows how to whip up a slow building and exciting romance! 

The main character has visions. She is an angel-in-training. Her mother and her brother are angels as well, her brother is pre-angel as well, not having received his "mission". Each angel in Hand's fictional world is given a task that they have to work to carry out, whatever the powers that be deem important. There's a lot of angel history and lore weaved throughout the narrative and it was enjoyable to hear about the rules and some of the experiences angels have being angels. 

There is a love triangle, but it is complicated (when is it not?). No matter how I word it, it's going to sound like a typical love story, but I can't explain it fully without ruining the ending or spoiling anything, so you'll just have to believe me and read it for yourself. ;) Although I will admit it was a very enjoyable slow building romance between Clara and one of the love interests. I do develop crushes on YA novel boys, but Hand really drove her point home with this one and I was swooning. 

It wasn't hard at all to become immersed in Hand's world. I read this in one sitting over about 5 hours and I didn't get any sleep that night because I was too wired and buzzing about the ending and what it would mean for the sequel, Hallowed. I was also relieved to know it had already been released, and the final in the series, Boundless, was released recently as well. I'm more likely to read a series if the sequels are out or about to come out. I'm sure I speak for a lot of readers that I hate waiting in between books for the sequel. For me, sometimes I lose interest in the series and I move on and it's harder for me to get back into it.

I really enjoyed the interactions between characters. Whether it was between mother and daughter, sister and brother, friend and friend, girl to boy 1 or girl to boy 2, you see character development as the story unfolds and while descriptions of setting and the scenes help you imagine a lot of what's going on, I found a lot of information in the characters dialogue that I haven't noticed before in other novels. It's interesting to think about novels as being informative through dialogue or through descriptions and how each method reveals different aspects of the story and the writing, but I felt Hand did a fantastic job of keeping balance between the two. 

This story does not have a lot of action-adventure. Yes, we're talking about angels, but besides the flying and some of the really cool and fun scenes where we get to experience it was Clara, this was practically a contemporary novel with a little bit of magic thrown in, which I happened to like very much. I like to compare YA novels to contemporary stories because like almost anyone, we need it to have a little bit of reality to actually connect with a story (this is at least true for me). If the story, even if it's labels paranormal or science fiction, has that essence of realism, I'm game and I'm confident I can sell it to friends and other book lovers if I have that thread of connection to what we all live day to day. 

Have you read any of the Unearthly books in Cynthia Hand's series? How do you think she handled this rarely written about subject of angels?

Only 10 days left until the Pitch Dark Dark Days tour! I need to get back to reading - 5 more books to go! 
Happy Reading! 


  1. I love Unearthly, for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned. The characters are so three-dimensional. And the love triangle is done right. I know everyone is Team Tucker, but I really can't decide. I like both of the guys for different reasons. So glad you liked this one!!!

    1. I'm Team Tucker all the way! I just didn't feel as much of a click with Christian, and he's absent a lot in the book in my opinion, emotionally and physically, so I hope some of the gaps are filled in in Hallowed. But this is only the first book and with the cliffhanger, it could lead anywhere!

      Thanks for checking out my review, Becca! Less than a week until you get to meet Hand and the other 3 authors!! I hope you guys do a recap on the blog, I wanna know everything!!

  2. There is definitely great character development in this series. And the triangle was the kind I enjoyed but also killed me because I loved both boys so much. Hush, Hush was also my first angel series and I have loved them ever since, though it can be hard to find really good ones. This is a really good one. Can't wait to hear what you think of the next two!

    1. I'm slowwwlly working through Hallowed. I need to finish it and Boundless for the Pitch Dark Dark Days tour... I'm going to do my best! I've already got some sneaking suspicions about Hallowed and I'm NOT happy about them! Also - Clara needs to grow a pair, I like her as a main character, but she seems like such a push over sometimes. I guess I'd react the same way if I was in her shoes. JUST KIDDING, I'D BE AN ANGEL AND I'D NEVER STOP FLYING AND BEING GLORIOUS.

      Thanks for stopping by, Sara!


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