Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
Darkest Powers trilogy contains three books, the Summoning, the Awakening and the Reckoning. The names get me confused when I’m trying to remember the order in which to re-read them but it actually makes pretty damn good sense.
The trilogy tells the story of Chloe Saunders, who’s fifteen and who basically starts seeing ghosts. She wants just a normal life, but her supernatural problem gets her admitted to a group home for disturbed kids. The Lyle House, as it’s called, seems okay, until things start happening that can’t be just explained away.
Now, I adore Armstrong’s writing. I haven’t quite collected all of her Otherworld series yet - I’ve been reading them out of order, too - but if you like that series, you might want to give this a try. But don’t worry, this is also a good place to start because even if the reality she works in is the same, earlier knowledge only adds to things but you’ll get the hang of it.
Three things that at first made me hesitant about the series: first, Chloe is fifteen. Sometimes really young characters are a little odd to read about, because even if I love YA, really young characters can be written, well, really young. No problems here - I’ll explain soon.
Second, the group home. I was really curious about how Armstrong would write that, but she handles it beautifully: it really reminded me of the ways some adults would treat me when I was a kid. The group home becomes a really interesting feature and place to “be in”. It doesn’t feel like ugh, crazy people, but there is this feeling of strangeness, but Armstrong gives us the notice that it could be something else, too.
Third, it’s written in first person narrative and you know I’m not really a fan. Well, apparently I’m a fan if Armstrong writes it. No, seriously, I adore the narration; it’s quick, flows well and gives us such a good description that it’s like watching a movie. Adore!
Now, Chloe. She’s spectacular. I absolutely adore her point of view. There just are some characters that you just click with and Chloe’s one of them for me. She’s a big reason why I love the series so much. She has her own quirks and especially her ghost-problem is delicious from the way it’s written. It’s painful and heartbreaking and it comes so close to you. And her relationship with it and everyone else’s is a fascinating thing to read because it’s a roller coaster; it has its ups and downs.
Chloe’s young and maybe a little inexperienced thanks to a rather sheltered life and yet, she still has these bad memories and traumas that just come up and get to her. She’s basically moved around a lot and hasn’t had anyone be there for her, so she knows how to take care of herself. So that small innocence and yet her toughness makes it a nice balance that we see several times in action.
She is kind to others, but she isn’t really socially active, probably because of the moving, so she isn’t a loner, just a little quiet. And I just love the way she sees the world: sort of through a lens, which could be because of her love of filmmaking, which we do see nicely at times.
Armstrong really writes excellent characters and this series is full of good characters. All of the good guys have big or small flaws and very few of the bad guys are absolutely evil. Armstrong writes her characters in a real way: they walk the line or their motives are lined with grey. You can feel how they really become real on the pages. All of the characters have their motivations and even if we see things from Chloe’s perspective, we still get such a good view of them: partly because of her.
There is such a wide range of characters that it is hard to describe them all. But they don’t really fit the usual tropes. The sort of main male characters good be the elusive and mysterious brothers Simon and Derek. The brothers both could fit the obvious love interest trope: a charming and a funny boy and a brooding, strong guy. But as the story goes, we see that Simon is far from perfect and Derek isn’t quite what you’d think either. If I said more I could spoil something, but I love how we get to know them in the same way you’d get to know them in real life. First you have only your first impressions and then, through these small things and conversations you realize that hey, there’s a complicated person underneath. I actually didn’t really think much about them when we first met them but hey, things change.
The other cast of characters at the group home is just as multifaceted. Some are selfish and spoiled and then, we see the reason behind that and you can’t really say no to that. And then you befriend someone who turns out to be something else completely. (That could refer to two things so it’s a sneaky hint!) And the adult characters are absolutely delicious, because even adults on your side aren’t necessarily on your side. After all, Chloe is a fifteen year old girl with a ghost-problem. Not many of adults are going to be on her side.
Now, Armstrong’s writing is perfect throughout. It moves pretty fast, but not so fast it would be hard to follow. But the writing describes things in detail but using very little words. It’s like down to the basics-kind of a thing and it works so well. I don’t mean that it’s dumbed down for kids, but that there’s no unnecessary prose and yet, it feels like when you’re reading that there is this huge list of adjectives given to you. Armstrong does with simple words what some might do with a dozen complicated ones. And that’s what makes it so good. And it works with the plot.
The writing makes it feel like you’re really close to the things happening and the characters. So everything that happens to them, feels really close to you as well. Armstrong keeps it simple and grounded, but this just makes it so much bigger when something heartbreaking happens. And the really exciting, adrenaline-filled parts are just gut-wrenching.
Some books are very character-driven. Here, it’s all about the mystery that slowly unwraps. The trilogy is a puzzle and you’re given most of the pieces at the beginning and then you add to them and then you can almost guess what the mystery is. The plot moves constantly and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Because while it never stops, it is sneaky. It lets you think you’ve stopped or slowed down, but instead something else entirely is going on.
And even if things are very plot-driven, the characters move in it freely. It doesn’t become heavy or too action packed. The characters are valid players, but as they try to solve mystery, the plot doesn’t stop. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat and you just want to know what the hell is going on!
Final thoughts: Writing the review was hard because I adore this trilogy so much that I just wanted to gush about it. I love the characters, the mystery is absolutely delicious, I love how you get small pieces of it revealed. Armstrong delivers a good thriller, that keeps you at the edge of your seat. It’s definitely an excellent re-read and if you don’t like first person narrative, I’d still say give this a try.
There’s action, romance, mystery, villains and fights for the good of all - what else could you need?