Two of my favourite novels I read in 2011 were definitely Unearthly by Cynthia Hand and Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, and I was so excited to dive into their follow-ups. Luckily, neither author disappoints and I've decided to do mini reviews for these two intense novels. Plus, I’ve somehow managed to discuss them without spoiling the first novels in the series, incase you somehow managed to miss out when they were first released (and you can now fix that by getting them in paperback!)
Hallowed is the sequel to Cynthia Hand’s debut novel, Unearthly, in which part angel Clara Gardner is torn between her quest, and reason for existing, and the boy that’s not a part of it. The complicated love triangle continues in Hallowed, in which Clara deals with love, lost, and trying to figure out who she is. Hallowed was even more intense than its predecessor, in particular due to a tragic event I did not see coming. What Hand does so well in her novels, besides for a charming love interest with a Southern accent, is make Clara, despite her powers, relatable.
The Unearthly Trilogy is a unique spin on coming of age novels, in which teenage concerns are only part of the growing responsibility that Clara faces. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about reading Hallowed is how the final book won’t be released until 2013. There’s also a decision made at the ending of the book that I didn’t agree with and I’m seriously hoping that Clara redeems herself in book three.
As much as I loved O’Brien’s dystopian debut, Birthmarked, featuring the strong heroine Gaia and perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, I did not expect the follow up to be anything like Prized. In fact, Prized takes place in a totally different world than Birthmarked, in which Gaia has to face a slew of new and incredibly difficult trials when she finds herself in a community where women are the minority, and the rulers. The perverse truth is that although things are extremely different than the marginalization that Gaia is used to, they aren’t any better. In this world, a kiss is a crime, and for Gaia, falling in love may be the most difficult struggle of all.
My only disappointment with Prized was that after being accustomed to such a strong heroine in Birthmarked it was disappointed to see how weak Gaia became, accepting society’s norm without the fierce questioning that characterized her in book one. Though in context, it is slightly more understandable, it was a relief when she got some of her fire back.
Overall, at a time when bookstores are flooded with paranormal and dystopian stories, Hand and O’Brien have managed to write two with compelling and authentic characters, as well as storylines so intense it’s amazing I didn’t get paper cuts while flipping the pages of these books, they were that heart-pounding. If you’re unsure about continuing these series, or if you’ve managed to miss out on them so far, the release of the second books in the Unearthly and Birthmarked Trilogies is a perfect excuse to get started because if anything, the second books get better.