Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Book: Unearthly

Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Source: NetGalley ARC

Synopsis: (from GoodreadsIn 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 it 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 deciet, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

First impressions: Clara is immediately likable.  I loved her from the start.  Her voice is easygoing, unpretentious, funny and believable.  The first few pages really set up the strong relationship with her mother and her insecurities with her purpose, which kept me reading.

Lasting impressions: I was slightly annoyed that the book so obviously leads into a sequel.  I love cliffhangers, but only with established series where I am totally invested in continuing to read.  Here, it feels like a gimmick to get me to buy the next book, which based on this story, I probably won’t do.

Negative impressions: Yet another love triangle.  Yet another female protagonist who underestimates her own beauty.  I don’t usually mind familiar tropes, but here I felt there wasn’t much new being offered.  I also felt there wasn’t enough urgency for Clara to discover her purpose.  The summer she spends with Tucker was captivating, but it seemed like a detour from the main story that didn’t slide seamlessly into the action.

Overall impressions: I think there’s a good book hidden in here somewhere.  Sort of like with comedians who don’t quite nail the right joke, I think Hand has good material that didn’t quite get executed to its fullest potential.  Clara is such a great MC that I really wanted to love the book, but in the end, I just kind of liked it.  Something about Christian irritated me, and by the time the relationship with Tucker started to develop, I didn’t really care about either of them anymore.  I just wanted her to get around to doing something.

I think there were one or two superfluous characters that distracted from the plot more than they added to it.  I didn’t feel Wendy or Jeffrey added much to the action or character development.  They may be Chekhov’s guns.  Perhaps they add something more to the sequel, due out in 2012.  Personally, I feel that all characters should either advance the MC or advance the story, and if they do neither then why spend time with them?

Overall, the story was interesting and I loved Clara.  Despite a few issues I had with suspending my disbelief when it came to the angel concept, I found the book engaging.  In the end, I think this turned out to be a nice debut and a good book, although with some tighter editing I think it could have been great.

Rating: 3/5 stars

4 thoughts on “Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

  1. I had a problem with the first line of the synopsis: In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . .Standing among the trees or literally IN them?

  2. Ah, I suspected as much. Seems these kind of complains can be applied to a lot of new paranormal romances. I hate it when cliffhangers are gimmicky. If I enjoy a book in a series, I want to read the sequel because I want to see more of the characters I love and the exciting storytelling. If the only reason I'm reading the sequel is because there were too many things left open, then that annoys me. I feel like I'm being conned into reading a book I don't actually want to read.

  3. Hmm, too bad. This one's included in my 2011 Debut Author Challenge list. I will try to keep an open mind while reading but I can see myself being just as annoyed as you at some of the things you mention here.

  4. @Small Review – Definitely. I love series as much as the next person, but each book should have a complete story.@Aylee – I seem to be in the minority on this one, so I'll be curious to see what you think of it.

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