by Kelley Armstrong
I have a feeling that some people are going to hate Kelley Armstrong’s The Calling. It’s almost impossible that she didn’t think this was going to piss a few people off. This is a book you can’t take at face value. Because at face value, this is a slow progressing plot, the romance is largely missing (though not entirely, it’s just not with the same guy – shock horror), and as we get more answers about Maya, her friends and the bad guys, we also get more questions.
This is an adventure book. It’s a prolonged action scene. It’s like a cross between the Blair Witch Project, Mantracker and Survivorman. There’s a lot of hiding, running, fighting, all that jazz. It started to become frustrating because if you’re someone who looks for plot development, then this might be a bit of a challenge. If you’re someone who’s content as long as the pages are readable, then this might be your next best read. Because despite the bogging down of actual narrative movement with internal monologue and trading confidences in hushed voices, this was still very exciting.
Armstrong can write. Contradictory and unhelpful as it sounds, I didn’t actually find a single page boring at all. The story moved from scene to scene, and it was exciting. I’m not sure if it’s even necessarily that she’s a great architect of words because I didn’t find anything particularly beautiful or distinct about her writing style (as opposed to Lauren Oliver, for example, who writes prettily). Armstrong’s strength, in my humble opinion, comes from the simple fact that she knows what to write about, what to focus on, where to go in a scene, what kind of characters readers will like…and that is invaluable, especially when you’ve read as many underwhelming books as any average YA reader has in the past while.
The characters are great. Maya, as I mentioned in my The Gathering review, is probably one of the most level-headed, capable young characters I’ve ever read in YA. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s likeable. Her batch of secondary characters are also intriguing: Sam, the tough chick; Corey, Mr. Popular with jokes; Haley, the bitch who isn’t really a bitch; Nicole, the angel who turns out is the spawn of Regan MacNeil; Rafe, the sympathetic love interest; and Daniel, THE BEST FRIEND WHO IS ALSO SO OBVIOUSLY THE ONE FOR HER — ahem — excuse me… As I was saying,the characters were nicely done. Their only downside is that they might be a little too impressive.
There were other things that bothered me. One in particular was the absolute eternity it took for Maya’s powers to actually unfold. Not only did it take most of the novel, but by the end, she still hadn’t used it in any truly effective ways. And since this is a trilogy, I feel like this should’ve been the time for Maya to become acquainted with her powers, so that she can prepare for whatever is coming in the final book. If it took this much to prep for the third installment, I can’t imagine how much will be thrown at us by the time The Rising comes along (although if the title is any indication, we already know exactly what we might be getting).
Though perhaps, the most troubling aspect of Armstrong’s books is their lack of momentum, particularly in the end. Armstrong may be the queen of the anti-climatic. Not just for overall plot, but even her chapters sometimes just…end. There isn’t always a strict dramatic structure. Words and action just fall off the page, and you’re looking to see where it went so you can pick up where you left off, only to find that that was it, and you must now move on to the next chapter. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so uncomfortable, jarring, and disorienting. The end, specifically, doesn’t exactly inspire raging excitement for the next book. It’s more like a see you when I see you, rather than a teasing gesture that evokes impulsive cupidity.
Overall, this book is slow, yes, but a damn good read. And the story itself is interesting – I didn’t mean to leave that part out of this review. It’s creepy, suspenseful, and different. Like I said, we’re still not given much, but what we do read is enticing enough to persuade us onto the third book.
This was tricky. I flit back and forth between 3.5 and 4 stars. Either one is appropriate. So while there isn’t much to say for plot development, there is something to be said about a book that gives so little, yet leaves you satisfied nonetheless.
It’s like that student who does the least amount of work but still gets an A. You want to flunk them but oh, you just can’t.
Rated 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
This review also appears on Goodreads.