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Book 48 & 49: Unearthly and Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Book 48: Unearthly (Unearthly Trilogy #1) .
Author: Cynthia Hand, 2011.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance. Angels.
Other Details: Paperback. 435 pages.

On her fourteenth birthday Clara Gardner was told by her mother that she is an angel-blood, a part angel. Her hybrid status endows her with a number of superhuman abilities that she has to keep concealed. It also means that she has a 'purpose', a task or role to fulfil in the grand scheme of things. Now sixteen, Clara begins to receive a series of visionary dreams meant to guide her toward her purpose. Her visions show her a raging forest fire and a dishy bloke trapped by it. Her mother is keen to assist Clare and so once they manage to discover details of the location, she promptly moves Clare and her younger brother Jeffrey from California to Jackson, Wyoming. Jeffrey has only recently learned about being an angel-blood and is finding it hard to adjust.

There is a fairly typical fish-out-of-water scenario as Clara seeks to fit into her new surroundings. The boy of her dreams turns out to be named Christian Prescott. He is polite but distant and very involved with the most popular girl at the school. Clara's situation is also complicated by finding herself in one of those love-to-hate-you relationships with another cute boy, Tucker, the brother of her new best friend. Serious danger also enters the picture when she discovers that not all angels are on the side of the angels. Black Wings are fallen angels who seek to corrupt or destroy angels-bloods as part of their on-going rebellion against Heaven.

As the novel opened with a quote from Genesis about the Nephilim and their dalliances with the daughters of men, it was obvious that this was going to be a more conventional take on angels than L.A. Weatherley's trilogy. However, the religious aspect is presented in a very matter-of-fact fashion and never becomes preachy or cloying. I was impressed by the amount of angel lore Cynthia Hand had integrated into the narrative.

I had sought this out after reading a Goodreads' review of Angel/Angel Burn that had mentioned Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series as being of similar quality. Having read this and loved it, I would agree with that assessment. Clara's conflict over her feelings for Christian and Tucker and how these meshed with her purpose is very compelling. There were some genuine surprises along the way in terms of how both the romantic elements and the ongoing threat from fallen angels developed. I read it quite quickly and moved straight on to Book 2.

Book 49: Hallowed (Unearthly Trilogy #2).
Author: Cynthia Hand, 2012.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance. Angels.
Other Details: Paperback. 403 pages

I can't say too much about the plot without spoilers for events in Unearthly. Hallowed picks up the story after the forest fire and the consequences of Clara's actions that day. The threat from the fallen angels also continues. Again the story takes some unexpected avenues.

Clara is an appealing protagonist and narrator. In both books the pacing is good as is the characterisation. Hand also does an excellent job of capturing the beauty of her setting. I always appreciate a strong sense of place in my contemporary fantasies. There are also issues explored about coming to terms with mortality, our own and that of loved ones. Again, I felt that such themes lifted these novels over many YA paranormal romances where all too often the focus seems only to be on constant angstation over relationships.

The cover art is lovely in the UK editions and I felt the Australian edition for Hallowed was better than UK. There is no publication date for the final book, though I was pleased to read on the author's blog that she had handed in the MS and was waiting on revision notes from her editor. I can hardly wait.

Australian Cover Art


Tags: angels/demons, fantasy, paranormal, romance, young adult
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