Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Publisher: Egmont UK Limited

Published: 2nd May 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 435

Genre: Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Rating: 6.5/10


‘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?’

Pretty good, but didn’t blow me away. I think that sums up how I ultimately felt about Unearthly.

Which is kind of what I expected, but then again, everyone insisted that this was the paranormal book to read if you don’t tend to get on well with books such as Hush, Hush, Fallen etc.

Unearthly is definitely in a league above these, but I still found my attention wandering at certain parts.

There were many parts of Unearthly that I appreciated, a normal, healthy teenage relationship for one. I might not have found Clara or Tucker particularly interesting characters, but their scenes together made some of the best parts of the book and it was gratifying to see a heroine falling for the boy who makes her smile, who respects her and with whom she shares interests, instead of the god-like mysterious boy, so typical of these books, who tends to patronise, belittle or play around with the heroine’s feelings.

The love triangle was interesting in that Clara was fighting for her right to choose who she loves, rather than it being pre-destined, although I have to admit it all seemed slightly irrelevant since I personally found Christian more of a background character and dull as ditchwater at that. He also, unfortunately, brought out some of the more annoying traits of Clara’s personality, her being near-swoon whenever he was around was plain irritating.

It was also great to see some positive family dynamics – I loved that Clara comes from a family of angels and had her mother’s support and guidance. The growing distance between them felt like the beginning of a bigger, potentially exciting, story arc, but it was still frustrating to read. I think my favourite scene in the whole book had to be Clara’s mother fearlessly taking on a Black Wing to protect her daughter. We definitely need more strong, confident and powerful older women in YA, women that younger readers can aspire to be. Clara’s relationship with her brother was, sadly, underdeveloped and a missed opportunity. I’m almost certain he will play a larger role in the upcoming books but it would have been nice to get to know him in this one.

I also liked that Unearthly takes place over several months, it makes everything, the character’s relationships, the plot, seem far more believable, although the pacing of the book is a little off. Clara’s vision got a tad repetitive and she never really seems to be doing too much about it. The book also ends rather abruptly and was strangely anticlimactic, a clumsy lead in into the second novel. I enjoyed the mythology too, though I would have liked Unearthly to have focused on this more, with a little less high school drama.

Unearthly is definitely one of the better angel-based romances that are so popular at the moment; I enjoyed it well enough then promptly forgot about it, but I think maybe I have outgrown these types of stories. I also wasn’t particularly driven to care about the characters. Clara was shallow and pretty self-obsessed, Tucker was more likable, but I still wasn’t especially interested in knowing him any better either.

However, kudos to Hand for writing a teen paranormal romance that works well and embraces exactly what you’d expect to find picking up this book in a way that feels fresh and doesn’t give out twisted ideals about what is okay in a relationship. I’m not surprised Unearthly is so popular, and I would definitely recommend this to fans of the genre and teenager readers.


One thought on “Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

  1. Despite your issues with it, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I actually only ended up falling in L-O-V-E with it on my reread and now it’s one of my absolute favorites. I read Hallowed a few months ago and I think its focus shifted away from the high school drama quite a bit. I hope you end up checking it out!

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