________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 41 . . . . June 24, 2011


The Gathering. (Darkness Rising, Book One).

Kelley Armstrong.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2011.
359 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-385-66851-4.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Vasso Tassiopoulos.

*** /4



Dr. Inglis was as much a part of town politics as Chief Carling and the mayor. Mina Lee wasn't the first "reporter" to come sniffing around Salmon Creek. From the time we were little, we'd been told how to deal with them.

As far as we knew, no actual reporter had ever come to cover Salmon Creek. We might be an unusual little town, but we're definitely not worthy of a feature in an American newspaper. We were, however, worthy of attention from activists and competing medical companies. Over the years, we'd had a few activists posing as reporters, searching for evidence of mass animal testing or stem cell research. Of a bigger concern to the St. Clouds, though, were the corporate spies.

Drug research is a huge business, with potentially huge profits. Imagine how much you could make if you developed a cure for cancer. Or even the common cold. The St. Clouds built Salmon Creek so they could develop new drugs without rivals peering over their shoulders. But that doesn't mean their rivals don't occasionally send spies to see what they are working on.

Still, it doesn't take us long to sort out the troublemakers from the tourists. An alert about Mina Lee would go through Salmon Creek before lunch, shutting down all her potential sources of information.

Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering is a supernatural teen novel set in the fictional mysterious Vancouver Island town of Salmon Creek. The prologue of The Gathering introduces readers to Maya Delaney, the 15-year-old (and later in the story, 16-year-old) protagonist of the novel, as she witnesses the mysterious drowning death of her best friend, Serena. The novel's prologue sets readers up with many questions surrounding how and why Serena, the captain of the swim team, died in the calm lake she grew up swimming in. The same question haunts Maya as she copes with life without her friend and also comes to uncover secrets about her own past and future.

      Maya has lived in the very small town of Salmon Creek since the age of five, which is when the St. Cloud Corporation recruited and moved her father from Oregon to Vancouver Island to become the park warden of the town. Salmon Creek is owned and run by the drug research facility, the St. Clouds, who selected the townspeople as employees of the company. They provide the families in the town with the best of everything they need but make it difficult for families to leave their work contracts with the company. The town is in an isolated forested area on Vancouver Island. The physical setting is vividly and accurately described by Armstrong. The reader is able to gain a strong sense of location in the descriptions of what trips and travelling to Nanaimo and Vancouver mean for the young people of Salmon Creek. Although fictional, Salmon Creek becomes a very real place for readers connecting to the protagonist's narration.

      Mystery develops in the story as cougars begin making frequent appearances in Salmon Creek's forests after the elusive reporter, Mina Lee, is scared by one early on in the novel. Maya and her friend Daniel come to question why Mina keeps appearing and disappearing and wonder why she is interested in interviewing teens in the town. The mysterious reporter makes them come to question whether Serena's death was an accident or something the St. Clouds are trying to hide.

      Maya's background is also a mystery to her and to readers because she was adopted as a baby. All she knows is that she may be Navajo, but when she encounters a strange old woman in a Nanaimo tattoo shop, where she goes to have her paw print birthmark tattooed so that it doesn't fade away, she finds out otherwise. The old woman is the tattoo artist's great aunt who tells Maya she is not Navajo but a witch and a shape-shifter. Further intrigue develops when the town bad boy and recent resident, Rafe, takes a romantic interest in Maya. Maya wonders why Rafe chooses to pursue her and why his sister, Annie, takes an instant liking to her.

      The Gathering will appeal to teens who are fans of supernatural fiction, especially in the form of series. The novel is Book One in the "Darkness Rising Trilogy" which can be thought of as a companion series to Kelley Armstrong's popular "The Darkest Powers Trilogy." Readers do not have to be familiar with the "Darkest Powers" series to enjoy "The Gathering" because the novel brings forth all new characters and a new storyline. The ending leaves readers with further questions surrounding the mystery of the town and the people in it. Readers wanting to know more about the mysteries surrounding Maya's identity and her shape shifting capacities have to wait until the second and third novels in the series for their questions to be answered.


Vasso Tassiopoulos is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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