Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Series: Darkest Powers, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
“You did not overreact. Anytime someone lays an unwanted hand on you it is your right to object and to complain and…” (Aunt Lauren, Ch 16).
If you’ve read any of my post before, you probably already know that I’m in love with Kelley Armstrong’s writing. In fact, her Women of the Otherworld series is my favourite series of all time. It just so happens that this trilogy, and its companion trilogy Darkness Rising, are set in the same world. This world is filled with supernaturals such as witches, sorcerers, half demons, necromancers, and other supernatural races. The biggest difference is that these trilogies surround teenagers coming into their powers – and discovering that they even have powers – whereas Otherworld revolves around adult females in the supernatural world.
The Summoning deals with some heavy topics such as abuse and mental health. While many books nowadays talk about how important it is to stick up for yourself when someone touches you in a way you don’t like, I find it important to note that this book was published in 2008 – a time when the notion of everyone having power in these situations was not nearly as widespread. Armstrong deals with topics such as physical violence and assault in such a natural way, even going so far as to point out that no always means no.
As for the mental health aspect of this book, Armstrong beautifully demonstrates the way some people use the labels that get thrown around in regards to mental health as a way to belittle others. Words such as schizophrenia get a bad wrap because people don’t fully understand what this condition is. I’m not saying that everyone who has schizophrenia in harmless, but I am saying that not every schizophrenic deserve the bad wrap that this condition is given. This is just one example of the labels that get thrown around in The Summoning, but it does prove that Armstrong isn’t afraid of bringing up harder subjects and educating her readers on misrepresentations that occur in the world.
Now that I’m done going on about how well Armstrong deals with touchy topics, I’d love to get into my review of the meat of the story. Overall, I feel like this story is wonderfully written. Armstrong does a great job with introducing the world and the characters to the reader. When we’re first introduced to Chloe we know very little other than the fact that her dad travels a lot for work, she’s constantly the new girl, and her Aunt Lauren is pretty much the only person she trusts. As the story progresses, we get to learn more about Chloe and what makes her tick. More importantly, Chloe starts to learn how shelter she’d been her whole life and decided she needs to change that. Chloe is a real 3D character, seeing her weaknesses and working hard to change them rather than allowing those around her fix her problems for her.
Throughout this book, we also get to learn how the Lyle House works. The doctors and nurses work together to keep the “special home” running as smoothly as possible with a bunch of teenagers trying to “get better” doing what teenagers do and making things as difficult as possible for themselves and those around them. Not everyone has the same motivations, and the reader slowly gets to figure out whose motivations are honest and whose aren’t.
If you’re interested in magical coming of age stories and haven’t yet read this story, I highly recommend giving it a try. Putting aside my love for the way Armstrong writes books, the story itself is beautiful. Armstrong is exceptional at describing the way the magic system works in this world and making her characters jump off the page.
I love the way the story starts with Chloe dealing with a ghost in her basement when she’s a tiny child. This memory happened before she could remember it, to the point where it just felt like a bad dream. Of course, as the reader we know that this is more than just a nightmare even before Chloe herself figures this out. It must be harder living your life and then suddenly having to believe in the fact that you’re a necromancer.
Chloe also had reasons to hope she wasn’t actually able to talk to ghosts. While I know the thought of being able to talk to ghosts can be terrifying, what’s even more terrifying is being able to talk to your ex roommate who you think is still alive. Chloe would rather be seeing hallucinations because it would mean that Liz wasn’t dead and that she had actually been transferred to a different facility. Just like the workers at Lyle House were saying.
You wouldn’t want to know the people in charge of you were keeping a murder a secret now, would you?
I do have one question about this whole situation, though. How in hell were Liz’s parents okay with her being killed just because she was a “failed” experiment? Did they care so little about their daughter that when Lyle House wasn’t able to moderate her genetic tweaking without telling Liz that she had supernatural powers they were okay with them terminating Liz’s life? Why not just tell Liz the truth – that her poltergeist was really just her using her powers without being able to control them – and get her to learn to manipulate her powers consciously so she could continue to help them out with their experiments? Okay… I might have more than one question.
I love the way that Chloe’s attitude about Derek completely changes from the start of her stay at Lyle House to the end of the book. At the beginning he scared her no matter what he did, but by the end Chloe trusted him enough that she no longer jumped when he was around. Heck, she even went looking for him instead of escaping with Rae like she had every opportunity to. Chloe slowly started to realize that just because Derek wasn’t the stereotypical teenage boy that she was used to dealing with didn’t mean that he wasn’t a nice guy. Heck, Derek might just be one of the most considerate people that exist – even if he does have a crass way of dealing with things.
Can I just mention how betrayed Chloe must be feeling at the end of this book? She escapes a place that is trying to make her think she’s crazy, get a pretty bad injury and needs stitches, goes to her aunt who’s a doctor for help, and then gets turned in to the very people she was trying to escape by the one person she thought she could trust the most in the world. Everyone else in her life left one way or another – the endless cycle of housekeepers, her father always travelling for work, her mother dying, endlessly being transferred to new schools, etc – and she thought that she could actually rely on her Aunt Lauren. Surprise! Your aunt wanted to take care of you after your mom died not because she loved you but because she wanted to keep a closer eye on your powers as they start to develop. After all, you’re an experiment that she’s in charge of.
Knowing what I know about this world, I can’t imagine how many genetic changes they had to make to Chloe’s DNA to make her powerful enough to be able to raise the dead without even trying. How many poor souls did they experiment on in order to figure out what they needed to tweak in order to get an all powerful necromancer? I know some people are willing to do just about anything for power, but don’t they think that’s going just a little too far with things?
What was your favourite or least favourite part of this book? This is my second time reading the series but it’s been about 10 years (and a couple hundred books) since so I’m basically going in blind this reread. I didn’t even remember the main characters’ names before opening the pages up. When did you first read this book/series? Have you reread it since, or was it a “one and done” read through for you? Have you read anything else that reminds you of The Summoning?