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The Gathering: Darkness Rising #1    by Kelley Armstrong order for
by Kelley Armstrong
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Gathering is the first in the Darkness Rising series (following the exciting Darkest Powers trilogy) in Kelley Armstrong's richly imagined Otherworld. The author takes her time establishing an appealing set of characters and setting the scene for a cliffhanging crescendo of an ending.

The story opens on a death by drowning during a pleasant summer outing, involving best friends Maya (the narrator) and Serena, captain of the school swim team. Another close friend, Daniel (who instantly senses any wrongness in people), joins them, in time to help Maya but too late to save Serena. Maya feels that 'Something had happened in that lake, something I couldn't explain. But I would. One day, I would.'

Maya, who has a paw print birthmark and looks Navajo, was adopted as a baby, after being left at a Portland hospital. Her Dad is a park ranger and her Mom is Haida. They live in an isolated, top-secret medical-research community, established by the St. Cloud Corporation in Salmon Creek on Vancouver Island.

Maya cares for wounded and orphaned animals she finds on park grounds - she has a knack for healing. She has both a German shepherd, Kenjii, and a three-limbed bobcat, Fitz, as pets, and is often shadowed by a 'ragged-ear old tom' cougar she named Marv. Maya begins to wonder about herself after an old woman accuses her of being a skin-walker.

At school, hot new student and bad boy Rafe Martinez shows interest in Maya, but her feelings for him are very mixed. She meets his older sister (officially his guardian) Annie, who roams the woods and is 'mentally challenged'. A past mistake of Rafe's has set drug dealers on his trail, while a young cougar seems very protective of him.

As the plot thickens, Maya learns new facts about Serena's death and her own abilities. A stranger, who seemed to be investigating the local teens, dies in the woods. After a forest fire is deliberately set, Maya and her friends are hunted by figures with gasmasks and guns - what is going on? Armstong's conclusion leaves her heroine and readers with plenty of unanswered questions. Highly recommended!

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