Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

9 May

Series: Unearthly, book #1

Published: January 4th 2011 by HarperTeen

Details:  Hardcover, 435 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About Clara, an angel-blood who receives her purpose on earth, which involves a boy in her school. All though a somewhat slow plot, I loved reading this one! The well-drawn characters and witty writing won me over. The only tiny issue I had was the non-ending that left too many open threads. Sequel Hallowed to be released next year and cannot wait!

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A few chapters in:

I’m so loving my new poll where you readers can vote what book I should read next. I mean, what better way than that to get great book recommendations?

The last book that you voted for me to read was Nightshade, which earned a stunning 4.5. In other words, I loved it!

Now the time has come to pick up the next book of the poll with the most votes: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Thanks again to all of you who voted!!

This book created a buzz in the blogosphere when it was released a few months back. It tells the story about an angel, or a part-angel living on the earth. But that’s all I know.

So far, and for some reason, angel stories haven’t made a huge impression on me. I think it has something to do with that angel personality.You know, they’re supposed to be “perfect, flawless, divine, beautiful, all-knowingly, reassuring” and what not else. Which in my book only equals: boring! I’m hoping Unearthly will prove to be different.

Ok, so I’m now a few chapters in. Clara our 16-year old heroine is a part-angel. She lives with her mom and brother (also part angels) in California. Apart from that supernatural fact, they live fairly ordinary lives, like any other people.

Then one night Clara has a very vivid dream about a forest fire and a boy. It turns out that the dream is a message to her of what her purpose will be on this earth. As her mom explains to her, all angels have a purpose which will be revealed to them around that age. Now it’s up to Clara to fulfill her purpose. Which means, she needs to find that boy.

In the vision, she catches the license plate of the car of the boy. Not long after, her mom arranges for the whole family to move to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as the little town of the license plate is called. All for the sake of Clara’s purpose.

Already, on the first day in her new school, Clara encounters the boy from her vision. And she reacts.. by fainting in front of him, so that he ends up carrying her to the school nurse. Here, I almost rolled my eyes, as I envisioned that whole “we saw each other and now we’re in love” – scenario unfold in the next couple of pages.

That doesn’t happen though. And thank god for that. Instead, after that incident, Clara is experiencing some problems getting his attention again. Christian, as the boy is called, has a girlfriend, and he seems pretty content with keeping it that way.

In other words, apart from Clara receiving her purpose and their big move to Wyoming, nothing much has happened. Yet, I am loving it already!

Why?

Well, the writing and the characters are exceptional, that’s why. Clara is another one of these really cool heroines, with a voice that really strikes a chord within me. She’s real, with good and bad traits, and she’s smart and witty.

The writing reminds me a bit of Richelle Mead, need I say more? Suffice to say that Hand describes everything with just the right amount of quirkiness and irony, so that it makes a really enjoyable read.

Let’s hope the rest of the book stays that way!

  

 

After finishing the book:

So I finished Unearthly , and what can I say? You’ve probably already guessed that I loved it. Yet, the ending left me feeling slightly disappointed, which is why this book doesn’t reach a stunning top grade.

But more on that later. First on what I liked:

Two things: The characters and the writing. Wow! Just wow! I could literally picture them all in front of me, that’s how well portrayed the characters were. Especially Clara who has now moved in among my greatest heroines of all times (yep I see another top 5 list emerging). She was just so real! Worrying about the right things , thoughtful but never whiny, with a healthy relationship to her family, insecure as well as strong, tough, vulnerable and with a great sense of humour. The other secondary characters followed suit,  Clara’s mom, Angela, Wendy, Tucker and Jeffrey. Christian (the guy Clara is supposed to save in her purpose), is probably the character I felt the least for, only because he is portrayed as too perfect. And you know what I feel about those ones..yawn!

Yet, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. Which brings me to the next item, the writing. Wow! I loved the wittiness of the descriptions. It didn’t feel forced, as is so often the case when authors try to write witty, rather it felt natural, as if that’s how Clara would have described her story.

I need to include a few paragraphs so that you’ll understand:

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1)  The paragraph below is taken from Clara’s first time alone in a ski lift:

I decide to go for it. I get in line. When I near the front, an employee punches a hole in my ticket.
“You alone?” he asks.
“Yeah.”
“Single!” he shouts toward the back of the line. “We have a single here!”
So embarrassing. I suddenly wish I had goggles.

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2)  And this is from one of Clara’s first meetings with her goth class mate Angela:

I’ve been waiting for maybe five minutes, completely creeped out by this point, when Angela comes bursting through a side door.
“Wow, sorry,” she says. “Orchestra went late.”
“What do you play?”
“Violin.”
It’s easy to imagine her with a violin tucked under her chin, sawing away on some mournful Romanian tune.

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3)  Or this part below is taken from the first time Clara flies:

Of course, I’m not flying so much as coasting over the treetops like a hang glider or a freakishly large flying squirrel. I think the birds in the area are dying laughing watching me try not to crash.


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Do you see what I mean? The book was filled with these kind of  detailed and witty descriptions, that had me chuckling out loud. It was just such a pleasure to read!

As for the plot, I know other reviewers have complained that it was too slow-going. And I can see what they mean, because not that much happened in terms of plot. We get to follow Clara as she adjusts to her new life in Wyoming, finding friends, falling in love, and trying to find out what her purpose is. That’s really all. I suppose this is the downside when you, as Hand did in this case, develop your characters slowly and take the time to describe the setting. Consequently, the plot suffers.

Yet, because of the joy of reading all these fun bits and pieces of Clara’s life, I didn’t care too much that the build-up was rather slow. I suppose another reason why I didn’t care too much was the romance, which was just Wow! Heart-pounding! I loved their chemistry which just sizzled off the pages! And I loved the fact that it took time for them to get to know each other, before they fell in love. It made it all so much more believable. The moments they had together were just adorable! Having finished the book, I even went back and read through those pages again, because I could not get enough of the two of them. Like I said, adorable! And let me tell you, the guy Clara falls in love with is SO swoon-worthy, I was voting for him big time!

Yeah, that’s right, I was voting for this guy, because this book features another one of those love triangles. All though, like in so many others, there is really no question of who Clara will choose. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Finally, I believe this book would have gotten a 5/5, had it not been for the ending. Because I was expecting more. No, scratch that, I was expecting something. Some explanation, some kind of wrap-up or some resolution. What we got was not so much an ending but a cessation of words. Given the long and slow build-up I was expecting something to be revealed, not only, “oh get the next book and you’ll find out”. I feel about as clueless as I was when I started reading, which doesn’t go down too well with me.

Nevertheless, like I said before, I loved the ride up until the end. And let me tell you, I have very high hopes for the sequel now. Considering the great setting provided in this first novel, my guess is that the sequel will be extraordinary. There is so much potential now! A great premise has been set, with great characters that I truly care about and intriguing clues that have me thinking that there is so much more to the story than we know now. Did I say I had high hopes?

Sequel Hallowed to be published (oh man, that’s a long wait!) sometime next year.

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8 Responses to “Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand”

  1. Saundra April 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    I voted in your poll for what next to read, but I am anxious to see your City of Fallen Angels review! Thanks to your Nightshade review I may very well be picking that up after I read Matched. Glad to see you are back in full force!

    • tess April 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

      Hey Saundra,
      Thanks so much for voting!! And I’m glad you might pick up Nightshade, it’s definitely worth while reading , would love to hear what you think afterwards! Also, I am definitely planning to pick up City of Fallen Angels soon, in fact don’t know why I haven’t already! But will let you know as soon as I do! Have you read it yet? If so, what did you think?

      • Saundra April 29, 2011 at 12:52 am #

        I have read City of Fallen Angels, it was really good. A definate must read. I do not feel like this book was forced “just” to keep the series going. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I am “newby” reader and your reviews have been vital to my next reads. Thanks for giving me the joy of reading The Hunger Games, never would have picked it up without your review! Saundra

      • tess April 29, 2011 at 8:58 am #

        Hi Saundra,
        That’s great to hear! I was actually worrying a bit that it was going to feel forced, seeing as everything was wrapped up so beautifully in City of Glass. Very relieved to hear that’s not the case, I really have to get that book now!
        And thanks, that means a lot to hear, since really what I want to achieve with this blog is to help other readers like yourself discover great books! Also, it makes me really happy to hear that you picked up The Hunger Games, it’s such an amazing book, I remember struggling for words to convey just how wonderful it was in my review, so it’s really nice to hear my review made you to read it!
        Tess

  2. Samita @ Book Purring April 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    I really enjoyed Unearthly, and I feel the same way about angel stories as you do! I thought it was pretty fun, I laughed a lot, I like books that make me laugh. Happy reading 🙂

    • tess April 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      Hi Samita!
      That’s great to hear! And I completely agree, it’s really funny! I’m finding myself laughing out loud all the time. Like really laughing! I can’t remember when that happened the last time with a book. So yeah definitely enjoying reading this one! I’m glad you did too 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis « After Twilight… - May 31, 2011

    […] mind slow-going, as long as it is enjoyable to read, usually due to great characters (see Unearthly). The problem here though was that it was slow-going AND lacked great main […]

  2. Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire « After Twilight… - September 13, 2011

    […] friends with. I’d like all my heroines to be like that. She reminded me a bit of Clara in Unearthly, the same snarky humour, ability to fend for herself, depth, great relationship with her family, […]

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