McCloud’s School for Supernatural Youngsters

A Review of Kelley Armstrong’s The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012)

By Derek Newman-Stille

The Gathering, the first book of Kelley Armstrong’s Young Adult/Teen Fiction Darkness Rising trilogy is set in the same world as her Otherworld series. The supernatural is real, but hidden in this world, kept secret by the members of the supernatural races that inhabit it. In The Gathering, Armstrong focuses on a teenage girl named Maya who was orphaned at birth and is being raised in a small town on Vancouver Island that is centred around a medical research facility. All of the families in the town are forced to sign confidentiality agreements and leaving the town can be problematic and nearly impossible.

As an adopted child, Maya is curious about her roots and how her past has shaped her identity. She knows that she is half aboriginal and half white, but is unsure of which aboriginal nation she belongs to. Her adopted mother, a Haida woman, has been trying to give her access to aspects of Haida identity.  But, Maya suspects there is more to her identity, and things become more complicated when she tries to get a tattoo to emphasize her cat’s paw birthmark and is called a witch by the tattoo artist’s aunt because of the mark. Her curiosity is further aroused when a stranger shows up in town asking all of the children questions. Maya and her compatriots begin a quest to find out who they are and what brought them together that opens doorways into cabals, secret genetic research, the mystical, and the murderous. The children, like most kids, are left in a world of uncertainty, unsure who to trust and unsure whether the ‘truths’ they have used to guide their lives have any validity. This novel is a traditional YA search for identity story with a supernatural flavour as her characters challenge their beliefs about themselves and the nature of their reality.

Armstrong creates a quick-paced read that leaves the reader feeling like they are running through the forests of British Columbia with her characters. The role of the forest and the presence of animals is felt strongly in this novel and Armstrong does a good job of capturing the battle between the instinctual and the intellectual among characters caught on the fringe of the human and the animal. She captures the joy of animal existence as well as the threat embodied in it and the fear and uncertainty in human-animal interactions.

Armstrong leaves her readers on edge, waiting for the next book in the series.

To find out more about Kelley Armstrong’s current projects, visit her website at

Derek Newman-Stille

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