Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 435
Received: Library book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Looking for something to read for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge? This would be a great pick!


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.


Assumptions, assumptions

So, here’s the deal: I wasn’t expecting to like this book all that much. I totally had it pegged insta-love with angels and not much else. I was prepared for a moping and mooning weak main character. Plus, with the massive amount of pages, I was bracing for some major Twilight Pacing Syndrome.

You know what they say about assuming…

I was so wrong! The book is told in the first person and narrated by Clara. Her voice is so easy to like and flows really well. I have the attention span of a goldfish, so big books don’t usually work well for me, but I didn’t feel the length of this book at all. I was sucked in completely, mostly because I felt like I was hanging out with a girl I would totally be friends with.

There were a few points where I surfaced for air and realized that not much was actually happening. Despite the fact that’s she’s part angel and the whole book revolves around her fulfilling her purpose, she’s a completely normal girl and does completely normal things. Which, you know, can be sort of boring to read about. Like following her for a few chapters as she works on an English project or learns how to ski. The thing is, Clara was such an appealing narrator that I was too busy enjoying myself to realize I should be bored.

Slowly uncovering information about the angel lore helped balance out the more mundane events. Though an angel-blood, Clara is pretty much in the dark about many things (particularly surrounding fallen angels) and so we get to piggy-back along with her as she discovers new bits of information and begins to piece them together. Cynthia Hand has done a wonderful job creating an intriguing and well-crafted mythology.

More than meets the eye

For a while I thought this book was hit with a huge dose of Twilight Pacing Syndrome because the first ¾ were more ho-hum and then the final ¼ picked up in action a lot. But by the end of the book I realized that a ton of those little events I thought were just filler and overwriting (even if they were fun) were actually significant clues. This first book was all about the maneuvering of the pieces, and the movements are subtly enacted across the whole book. Still, I wish this had been more apparent and that the first 3/4 didn't feel so meandering.

My head is spinning trying to put all of the clues together and make sense of what I read. Not because it was confusing or poorly written though. Oh no, Cynthia Hand did an excellent job of giving just enough hints to give me something to play with, but leaving enough things open that I’m impatiently counting down the days for the release of the sequel, Hallowed (with the infuriatingly vague date of “Sometime in 2012” maybe January).

Let’s be BFF 4 EVA

One final note about the characters because, you know, I have to talk about the characters. I loved them! Clara is the perfect type of teenager to read about: imperfect and unsure but never angsty or whiny. She felt real and genuinely nice.

Then there’s her love interests. Ah, can I please make Tucker real and keep him? There’s a love triangle but it isn’t annoying at all. It’s very different from the usual triangle, so if you normally hate love triangles, don’t feel like you’ll automatically hate this book. There is a twist to it that makes it a lot more palatable than the typical indecisive and borderline cheating main character.

Teeny, tiny spoiler:
But she’d better do what I want her to do and I don't care what happens! He called her Carrots for crying out loud! Can he possibly be any better than that? That’s a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously no, it’s impossible to do better than channeling Gilbert Blythe and one of the best scenes in literary history ever. Yes, I’m stomping my little foot on this point.

This is also one of those books where all of the characters commanded my attention, not just the main characters. They all felt real to me with fully developed personalities. Though I’m not sure yet on where they all stand with the Big Bad brewing in the background (woah alliteration!). There’s one cookie in particular I don’t trust at all.

When happily ever after ends

If you’ve read Unearthly already, please stop by Gina’s blog My Precious for an incredible  discussion about this book. It has a ton of spoilers though, so don’t read it if you haven’t read the book already. I totally clogged up Gina’s comment section with my scattered attempts at putting together all of Cynthia Hand’s clues (sorry!). I’m dying to talk about all this with someone!

Because of all of these hidden clues and maneuverings, a part of me does wish I had waited until all of the books in the series had been published. This book does end on a cliffhanger, though it is an appropriate point to end book one. I have a terrible memory, and I have a feeling that as difficult as it will be to remember all of the clues I recognized, it will be near impossible for me to remember all of the clues I missed that will play a major role later on. I think I will have to re-read Unearthly before I read Hallowed.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 

Looking for another paranormal that stands out from the crowd? 
You might like: 
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White


  1. I had so many questions after finishing this book; hopefully Hand will reveal more in the next book. I will also check out the discussion at My Precious-thanks for the link.

  2. Awesome review as always. :) All these reviews just make me want to read it soon. First I'll have to buy it though. :) I guess this will be next on my amazon to buy list.

  3. I haven't read this one yet. It sounds amazing and I wish I could get to it soon. I still have a ton of review books to get through first though. One day :D

  4. Unearthly is one of my favourite books of 2011. I almost didn't get around to reading it before it expired on Netgalley, but I'm so glad I did! I can't wait for the next book. I loved the unique angel mythology in this one, and of course, the romance! :)

  5. I have the same assumptions you did. Maybe I should check it out now, though. Thanks for the review!

  6. Sounds like a really good read.
    I'm kind of like you when it comes to attention span so usually I don't deal well with super long books (unless they are Harry Potter), but it does sound great.

    I like that you said it's not insta-love and that she's a very normal girl aside from the angel thing.

    Thanks for the review

  7. I love the cover, but I'm afraid of the angel story. It's like the new vampire trend. >_> BUT I have read good things about it, and I am curious. As usual, great review. =D

  8. I had the same reaction-I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did! And I agree with your spoiler-she better do what you want-I want the same thing!:)

  9. Sounds like a cool read. I wasn't really convinced by the Goodreads summary but your fun review changed my mind haha!

    And lemme just say how much I appreciate you making your spoiler invisible. I got a major spoiler about the last in the Hunger Games Trilogy without warning or anything and it's making if hard for me to read Mockingjay right now because I keep thinking about it! Bummer!

  10. Bookworm1858, Me too! I just hope I remember everything for when the sequel comes out.

    AngelicNytmare, Thank you :) I hope you enjoy it!

    The Slowest Bookworm, I wouldn’t worry too much. I definitely recommend it, but there is a big cliffhanger so it’s probably better if you read it closer to the publication of the sequel (at least, if your memory is anywhere near as bad as mine!)

    Leanna, I know! I just read your review again today while I was putting together the review comparison :) I wonder how different the Net Galley version is. I heard it had significantly fewer pages, but I read the printed version so I’m not sure.

    Alissa, I’ll have a review comparison up tomorrow if you’re still on the fence. It seems like most reviewers didn’t expect to like this one much and then ended up enjoying it.

    Alex, I liked it! It’s funny, I’m the same way with Harry Potter. Those hold my attention completely and don’t feel long at all. This one was pretty good for me though. Not quite as much action as I usually like, but a very pleasant to read writing style.

    Dazzling Mage, Me too! The cover is gorgeous and very shiny in person. I also picture Clara looking like that. I was afraid of the angel story too, but it seems like the author did a good job in creating a unique mythology. The romance isn’t all about a fallen angel either, which is a nice change.

    GreenBeanTeenQueen, Oh yes she’d better! No questioning or temptations either.

    Lazy Girl, Hehe thanks! Ugh, I haaaaate spoilers! Unfortunately I couldn’t make the link white too, but I hope that doesn’t give anything away.

  11. Awesome review! I am glad you enjoyed this. And it seems to surprise everyone just how good it is. I think we have been let down by a few angel theme books.

    And Tucker, don't we all wish he was real ~sighs~

  12. Haha! I'm so happy you enjoyed Unearthly! I LOVED this book! XD.

  13. Ok, you've convinced me... I want to read Unearthly now! All the mentions of "clues" intrigued me. I like books that don't just lay everything out on the table for you. Thanks for such a thoughtful review!

  14. I haven't gotten around to reading this one yet but I love that it's got its own unique mythology and well-developed characters. I didn't know that it ended on a cliffhanger though. I might read this one closer to the release of Hallowed then since I know I'll probably forget things too.

  15. AWESOME review! i loved the book and your review points out all the reasons why :)

  16. Okay. I couldn't help it and I read the spoiler and Oh my squeee, I just have to get the book now. I LOVE that scene from AoGG! I just had to watch it again and again because GB looks so dreamy with the way he is resting his head on his hand. *le sigh*

    As you know I just finished a book that was quite boring, so it is rather refreshing to hear that with Unearthly, you don't notice the necessary mundane stuff because the character is so lively! Too bad I don't own the book yet, I bet that discussion post is fun.

  17. You and I have the same thoughts on Unearthly. I agree with everything you said. :) But, hey--we need to duke it out over Tucker. OMG, he's fantastic! I seriously can't wait for book 2. I love that I even want to know more about minor characters. So. Well. Developed. *love!*

  18. I love it when a book exceeds my expectations. I'm very much intrigued by what you say about how there were hints in the first part of the book leading up to the conclusion. I'll be sure to be on the lookout and try not to be too impatient when reading the first 3/4!

  19. I couldn't agree more. Clara and Tucker were both PHENOMENAL characters. Clara MADE this book for me. I want to be her BFF, but we'd probably have to fight over her boyfriend. And YES Gilbert Blythe! Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite series of all time.

  20. Ugh. The carrots thing. I HATED that her hair was obnoxiously ugly for the entire book. It didn't impede how much I liked the book, but it seriously annoyed me.

  21. Another great review. I'm so happy you mentioned by Reader's Circle post - Thanks!

  22. I love this book! I wasn't prepared to love it but I ended up seriously crushing on it. I'm usually not a love triangle kinda gal. Gosh, I'm saying love a lot. Anyways, I enjoyed the love triangle and was very shocked by the end. Great book! Fab review!

  23. Nic, Thanks! I think you’re right. Between the size, the angel theme, and even the beautiful cover I just wasn’t expecting much. Ah yes, Tucker is so swoon-worthy and also really different from the typical paranormal book guy.

    Need Tea, Yay! Your review made me so excited. :)

    Katie, You’re welcome! The clues were very subtle but a lot of fun to try to put together. I have about three different theories of where the author could be taking things, and I’d be happy with any of them.

    A Canadian Girl, I haven’t read many angel books, but the mythology here seemed unique to me. The characters were so well developed, even the minor ones. If you’re like me and you have a hard time remembering little details then it’d probably be a better idea to wait, but definitely don’t forget to read it!

    Aleeza, Thank you!

    Missie, Gilbert Blythe is my Classic Book Boyfriend. So swoon worthy! Just looking at the plot I would have thought I would be bored, but Clara was so much fun and just so real. I think you’ll like the guys, too :)

    A Backwards Story, Haha, you’re on! Clara was crazy to resist him for so long. I want to know more about her brother. And her mother. And Wendy, just because I like her. Aaaah, why can’t the next one be published now?!

    Aylee, Me too! I wasn’t expecting to like it all that much and then I was just sucked in. Hehe, yes, do keep in mind about the hints through the whole beginning part. There’s a lot more going on than first meets the eye.

    Casey, Haha, yes, I want to be Clara’s BFF but that would totally complicate things when I start dating Tucker. :P As soon as he called her Carrots my heart melted.

    Logan, Aw, yeah I had a hard time actually picturing her hair bright orange. I pictured her like the cover only, erm, not purple.

    Gina, You’re welcome! Thanks for starting that post. As you can tell, I’ve enjoyed your discussion immensely. :)

    Julie, Me too! I don’t usually like love triangles either, but I like the way she handled it here. The author didn’t make Clara the stupid girl who can’t choose between two guys who are falling over themselves for her and I was sooooo grateful.

  24. Great review! Loved this book especially Tucker *sigh* The wait for book 2 is way too long :(

  25. I agree, the abrupt ending was disappointing. I wanted to have a bit more closure... Or maybe have Clara's mom open up to her and tell her the truth (cause she is definitely hiding something)... Am i the only one who's leaning a bit more towards Team Christian?... (Don't judge me!) Either way, GREAT review, Smalls! :)

  26. Christie, Thanks! Heck yeah that wait is far too long. I love Tucker. I hope hot cowboys become more popular in YA :)

    The Lovely Getaway, Oh gosh, I want to shake Clara’s mom until she spills all those secrets she’s keeping! You’re definitely not the only Team Christian. Check out the review comparison. You have some more Team Christian readers there :) No judging from me! You can have Christian and then we won’t have to duke it out over Tucker :P


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