Fifteen-year-old Chloe has no idea how much she loves her normal, everyday life until the one fateful day when everything changes, suddenly and irrevocably. One moment she's an upper-middle-class student, studying film at a well-respected art school, and she's thrilled that she's on the short list to direct a student film. Sure, her life isn't perfect. Her mother is dead; her father travels all the time; and she has to put up with a less-than-desirable housekeeper who runs things while her father's away. But still, she has a supportive aunt who is almost like a mother to her, and she's following her dream of becoming a director, and that is the main focus of her life.
Then something awful happens at school. Chloe sees something horrible and unbelievable, and when she screams and runs, the teachers get involved. They can't see what is so terrifying to her, and when it seems she might hurt herself, that she's having some sort of breakdown, the paramedics are called and she's taken to the hospital. The next thing she knows, Chloe finds herself at Lyle House, a group home for "troubled teens." There Chloe is told she has schizophrenia, and while at first she sees no reason to distrust the diagnosis, it soon becomse clear that Lyle House is not what it seems - nor are its residents. Soon Chloe finds herself part of a world she'd never imagined possible, a world where terrifying and inexplicable things seem to be common occurences.
This is one of the most gripping audiobooks I've ever listened to. I was so caught up in the story, I just didn't want to turn it off (which makes for a fairly antisocial mom/wife, but what can you do?). Cassandra Morris's youthful voice made it sound as though Chloe were personally telling me her story, which made the narration particulary effective. At times I grew impatient with Chloe - she was frustratingly slow to consider the merest possibility that she might not have been hallucinating - and that went on a bit too long for my taste. But she was a very believable character, full of typical teenage contradictions - self confident one moment, vulnerable the next.
The pace of the second half of the book was relentless, full of revelations and sly twists and turns. I would have been highly annoyed by the cliff-hanger ending if the second volume weren't already out - although now I'm worried about how the second volume is going to end, since the third one's not due out for at least a year. This is a novel that will appeal to dark fantasy fans of all ages, even though its intended audience is YA readers. I have only read the first book of Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series (for adults), but I will certainly have to remedy that. I found this one to be a very suspenseful read, with interesting characters and a compelling premise, and I'll be looking forward to completing the rest of this trilogy as well as her other series.
Books in the Darkest Powers trilogy:
1. The Summoning
2. The Awakening
3. The Reckoning (forthcoming - 2010)
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (#1 in the Darkest Powers trilogy); narrated by Cassandra Morris (Recorded Books, 2008)
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The Compulsive Reader: "Armstrong keeps a nice, even balance between the paranormal drama and the politics of the new world that Chloe and her friends are thrust into, resulting in a suspenseful read that poses many unshakable questions that easily propel the reader through the novel."
Darque Reviews: " This is a story that’s easy to follow, well-detailed as events unfold and easily enjoyable by both teens and adults alike."
J. Kaye's Book Blog: "I skipped work in order to finish the book. I simply couldn’t put down. The question will be why not five stars? One reason has been mentioned – believability."
Reader Rabbit: "The plot is fairly unique and pretty engrossing, especially action picks up near the end. And then it leaves us with a horrible and painful cliff-hanger."
SciFiGuy: "This is very much a setup novel preparing the way for others in the series. The Summoning is left at a huge cliffhanger that makes the novel up to that point seem a mere preamble to the main event."