I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the book signing and pre-launch sale of Kelley Armstrong’s The Gathering. I’ve been to quite a few book events, and I have to say, I’ve rarely met anyone so eager to chat with their fans. Kelley must have been exhausted – I was tired and all I did was stand in line! – but when I saw her, she was still as chatty and cheerful as she was when the event began. Love that.
Even better, she answered a ton of fan questions. As almost a brand-new Kelley Armstrong fan (so far, I’ve read Bitten and The Gathering, and still have the rest of her books on my To Be Read list), I was torn between covering my ears to avoid spoilers and realizing I would completely forget these spoilers by the time I get around to reading her other books. Still, one thing she said stayed with me. When asked about writing supernatural characters, she said she doesn’t think about it that way. It’s not about “Ooh, I’m a werewolf, let’s see what cool things I can do!” Rather, it’s about how an ordinary person who happens to be supernatural deals with living in this world. “If you or your friend happens to be a werewolf,” she asked, “how would you live?” How would you shop, eat, work… what would your day-to-day existence be like?
That’s when I realized why I love her books so much. Bitten is about a female werewolf trying to live in Toronto, and The Gathering is about Maya, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl in a tiny (population 200) town in Vancouver Island. [Spoiler alert, though this shouldn’t be a spoiler for anyone familiar with Armstrong’s work: Maya isn’t an ordinary girl. Hint: she has a paw print birthmark.] It’s the ordinariness of the situations in which Elena and Maya find themselves that make them such relatable characters.
I love The Gathering. I love how Maya is such an intelligent, savvy teenage girl. Maya doesn’t have to deal with the dystopian society Katniss faces in The Hunger Games, but Maya strikes me as a very similar character. She’s also strong and smart. I read a lot of books where heroines get caught up in really dumb situations, usually for comic effect, and I don’t usually mind. But Maya is totally not that kind of heroine – she carries pepper spray, and when she encounters a suspicious looking stranger, thinks, “He had a gun. This was the time to run, not fight.” She’s practical rather than emotional, strategic rather than hysterical. I feel old for thinking this, but if I ever have a daughter, I want her to be that capable at taking care of herself.
As with Bitten, The Gathering has its share of hot guys. Unlike Bitten though (Team Jeremy!), I honestly couldn’t choose between best friend Daniel and bad boy Rafe. Both are smart, caring, vulnerable, and equally capable of kicking ass. The story is intriguing: a “reporter” comes to Maya’s town and is interested for some reason in the teenagers, the town has a medical research lab that you just know is up to something shady… Oh, and Maya’s adopted. She’s happy with her adoptive parents, but again, you just know something interesting about her biological parents will be revealed. Unlike Bitten, The Gathering ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, which is somewhat frustrating – I want to know more! Now!
Bright side, I do have quite a few other Kelley Armstrong titles I can read while waiting for the next book.