Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly, Book 2 (Book 1 review)

Tags: YA, paranormal, angels


Lost after what happened the day of the forest fire, Clara Gardner continues to struggle with the many duplicities in her life. She is part-angel, and yet her mother won’t tell her the full truth about who she is and what she’s meant to do on earth, and in the meantime she has to pretend to be a normal girl attending high school in Jackson, Wyoming…which is beginning to feel like it’s home to a few too many angel-bloods. She loves her boyfriend Tucker—wholly Wyoming hottie, wholly human—but cannot deny her connection with Christian, the angel-blood who had been appearing in her visions even before she moved to Jackson.

When Clara begins having visions of someone she loves dying, she is forced to come to terms with the fact that she belongs to a complicated, and sometimes even dangerous, world that will never be as normal as she wants.


By now most of you know how I feel about YA paranormal romances. We’ll just leave that at that. But there are a handful of YA paranormal books that I would be less skeptical of, less hesitant in considering reading, and Cynthia Hand’s interesting and well-written angel series is one of those few. Despite it unfortunately taking on a few more “YA paranormal cliché” characteristics, HALLOWED remains a well-written and even funny second book in the trilogy.

One of my favorite parts of Unearthly was Clara and her narration. Too many paranormal YA female protagonists have no personality, no sense of humor. Clara has both. I can’t get enough of the moments when she actually pokes fun at her own fictional genre, referencing the melodramaticness of YA paranormal romances, love triangles, and stalker paranormal love interests. I love when fictional characters are, metaphorically, self-aware: it happens so rarely that I’m inclined to laugh out loud and share with everyone around me when it happens.

Unfortunately—although in some ways I suppose it was inevitable—HALLOWED acquired a few more YA paranormal conventions as it continued Clara’s story. Despite its subtle jabs at Twilight, Twilight fans will like this series, and HALLOWED reminded me of that pervasive YA paranormal franchise more often than I would have liked. HALLOWED dilly-dallies: the story within probably could’ve been told in 150 pages instead of more than 400. It contains few surprises: a large portion of the book seemed to consist of Clara waffling between Tucker and Christian.

Sadly, the attractive and confident Tucker of Unearthly is reduced to being stubborn and petty and just not all that appealing in HALLOWED. Methinks I spot a setup for the third book in here…? And Clara finds out something shocking about herself, thereby changing her from “(relatively) ordinary girl we can empathize with” to “character whose struggles are legitimized by her newfound understanding of herself and her role.” If Hand had wanted to blow readers away with so-called shocking revelations and twists in HALLOWED, well, let’s just say that all I felt was a tickle of a breeze.

HALLOWED wasn’t as strong of a read as Unearthly was for me, but fans of Unearthly should still love this second installation in the series. Despite its at-times conventional plot development, HALLOWED is still a well-written and unique take on the angel concept—emphasis on “well-written.” A strong successor to both the deserved and not-quite-so-deserved financially successful YA paranormal series.

Cover discussion: What was a stunning cover in the first book last year just seems kind of stale now. I suppose my tastes have evolved.

HarperTeen / Jan. 17, 2012 / Hardcover / 416pp. / $17.99

e-review copy provided by NetGalley and publisher.


  1. A funny heroine in YA paranormal? What? I need to get this series ASAP! I've heard so much good about it, but I'm always a little wary of paranormal in YA. I think I'll try this one, though.

  2. I agree, I feel like a lot of YA paranormal heroines are blank slates with zero personality, but Clara definitely holds her own. As a fan of Unearthly, I quite enjoyed Hallowed. I think it's definitely miles above other angel books.

    Also, the self aware thing -- that is SO true and so awesome. And I did love the little jabs at Twilight lol with Clara talking about Edward Cullen being creepy and watching someone sleep.


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