Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen, 2010
256 pages
YA; Fantasy; Angels
4/5 stars
First in Unearthly Trilogy
Read for YA Debut and Ebook Challenges

Source: Via Netgalley

Summary: Clara is part angel (through her mother) and has lately been having visions of a mysterious boy in a forest fire; the upside is that her family will uproot itself from California to Wyoming so she can be prepared for this vision, her purpose.  Once there she meets the boy Christian as well as another part angel and a cute, decidedly not angel boy, all of whom will complicate her life.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this because of the gorgeous cover and the twist of angels.  I've never read a book featuring angels (I'm pretty sure) so I was interested to see how it would be a different kind of paranormal.

Of course it still fulfills one of the main paranormal tropes: that of the love triangle.  Immediately she is drawn to Christian, the boy in her vision who she must protect and save.  But she also meets the jerky, cocky Tucker (I also don't like his name) who acts toward her in the manner of a grade-school crush.  Although he is mostly redeemed through his behavior later in the book, I hated how he teased her and did everything he could to rile her just because he had a crush on her. I'm not saying that high school boys are at all mature but I found his behavior annoying.

The mythology of the angel world was tantalizingly revealed throughout the book because while Clara's mother is of angel-blood, she tells Clara very little and thus we, the readers, know very little.  I also want to know more about the rules governing angel behavior.  Why does the angel's purpose come between 13 and 20? Is that all angels do on earth? Are they immortal unless someone kills them like Tolkien's elves? And lastly I wanted to know more about the dark characters in the book, the Black Wings or fallen angels; one makes a short appearance but I want to know more!

I thought Hand did an amazing job with descriptions of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as well as how it feels to have wings and fly.  I've had trouble imagining how angels manage their wings (where do they go when they're not using them?) but I thought Hand did a really good job.  She also was very evocative of the outdoor activities one can do in Wyoming, including skiing, fly fishing, and horseback riding among others.

The other aspect I want to briefly mention is her family.  Her father lives in New York, I wonder how much he knows about angels, but her mother and brother are closely involved in her life.  She and her mother begin with a sort of Gilmore Girls relationship (as Clara admits) that fractures as Clara approaches the time of her vision and draws closer to Tucker.  She also discovers that her mother has been hiding much of angel lore from her, which leaves her feeling wounded.  She has a younger brother named Jeffrey who isn't too important but as he ages, his angel powers may play an important role.

Besides the love triangle, something I'm generally not a fan of, the ending was less than anticipated.  There was a big buildup to the vision which has a twist but it ends up being a let down.  However many questions arise, some of which I have listed below in a spoilers section.  I am really curious to see what happens next in the trilogy.

SPOILERS-questions I have for book 2
What has Jeffrey been up to that turns his wings so black? Is Angela on the side of good? What does it mean that Christian is an angel? What is draining Clara's mother? How is the war between the angels and the Black Wings going? Do angels do anything once they've completed their purpose? Was the vision Clara had not her purpose because Christian is also an angel or are they supposed to have kids and help the number of angels in the world grow?

Overall: An interesting debut with an overarching back-story that should sustain the trilogy although the ending was not as suspenseful as it could have been.

Cover: I've also seen a blue cover, I prefer the purple. Kind of makes me think of Natalie Portman

This book was released today; here are links for


  1. Great review!

    I just requested a copy from NetGalley, so it's great to hear you liked it. I think I'm going to be bothered by the same questions that bothered you, but I hope they'll be answered in the sequel. I am so glad that a girl is an angel and in the forefront, and not a supernatural man. That's definitely a change for me.

    I didn't read the spoilers, hehe.

  2. This is a really great review! I just stared reading Unearthly this morning, and I'm really looking forward to it!

    Btw, Your blog is adorable. I love the background design! New follower :)



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