"Unearthly" by Cynthia Hand (Debut Author)

Cynthia Hand's debut novel, Unearthly, is full of unexpected surprises and delights. I'll be honest: It took me a while to pick up my ARC. First, the book was about angels, which isn't my genre du jour. Second, the cover wasn't anything inspirational--even online "finalized" copies. When I finally started reading this book, I was in for the shock of my life because I LOVED it. Seriously. I picked the book up the other night after work and didn't finish until almost two in the morning. I couldn't put it down!

The book was as surprising as physically seeing the cover. For example:

The first image is what you'll find if you go to order the book online from sites such as Amazon and B&N. The white was all filled in with silver. I tried scanning a picture of the actual book jacket for you guys (yes, I liked the book so much that I went out and bought a physical copy yesterday), and got the middle image. Very silvery and pretty, but still missing the way the book looks when you physically see it. So I tried a third time, this time using a camera. You've got some glare spots and some darkness where there shouldn't be, but you can really get a taste of how gorgeous the cover is. This is the same image as the one I use at the beginning of this post (I usually use final publisher images, but even publisher Harper Collins and author Cynthia Hand don't have a full-color rendering of this lovely cover).

I never expected to love this book so much, but I'm so glad I got a chance to read it. This is why I love ARCs: they allow me to read books I otherwise wouldn't. (Another case-in-point: Last year's Firelight by Sophie Jordan, which I also ended up loving.)

The best thing about Unearthly is the character description. I felt like I knew everyone by the end of the book. The main character, Clara, is trying to balance life as a teenager with the fact that she's 1/4th angel and slowly coming into her powers. Unlike other supernatural reads where the MC is perfect and powerful, Clara struggles with life in a way we can all relate to. She klutzes out, gets red-faced in front of the boy she likes, has to learn how to be good at something like flying, and is faced with tough, life-altering decisions. Her characterization is so well-done that readers will be consumed with reading about what happens next and make sure everything winds up okay. Even minor characters such as her mother, brother, and best friend Angela are well fleshed-out. I really hope Hand goes into more detail with these characters in the next two books. Then, you have the love triangle. At first, it was very typical: Girl falls for the unattainable high school superstar and is oblivious to the cute, adorable guy who really likes her. But it changes. Oh, how it changes. I can't even tell you more without spoiling this, but the rest of the trilogy will be very unpredictable. Who will Clara ultimately choose? I can absolutely see fans breaking into camps over which love interest she'll wind up with for this series. At the moment, I'm obsessed with Tucker, the brother of one of Clara's friends that she doesn't think twice about. He's such an amazing character. I seriously want a Tucker in my life. As for the unattainable boy, Christian, at first I was very ambivalent, but now he's captured me: What will happen next!?

Hand's writing style is gorgeous and draws readers right in. The book opens with gorgeous description. There are scenes so delicate and fragile and perfectly written that I needed to go back and re-read them...and will do so again. I also like the fact that the novel isn't all about angels. If it was, I don't think I'd like it nearly as much because I'm so over the paranormal romance thing. Hand has new ideas that she incorporates into the novel; there's a lot of intrigue, mystery, and unanswered questions that will carry over into the new book. You learn about angels right alongside Clara, but more importantly, you follow her struggle as a teenager who doesn't quite fit in at her new school. Who can't relate to that?

Fellow bookworms, this book is wonderful. I hope all my gushing makes you want to run out and grab a copy of this amazing book. It's the first in a trilogy, and this is one of those times where I'm already impatiently awaiting the rest of the series. The characters are unforgettable, and I really can't wait to see what happens to them next.

[Review based on ARC edition]

[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]


  1. I'm just like you, I'm SO glad I picked this book up. Angels aren't really my favorite genre because the authors just can't write a great story (in my humble opinion). But Cynthia Hand is amazing. I can't wait for the rest of the series to come out!

  2. I really liked this book too! I wasn't expecting to like it either.

    I like how your camera flash made a halo around her head. Pretty perfect :P

  3. @ Henrietta: My humble opinion and your humble opinion are on the same wavelength. I wasn't really looking forward to reading this, but knew I should. For once, I'm SO glad to be wrong!

    @ Small Review: It shows how jaded we are if we're all dreading reading a book. It's a gem waiting to be uncovered. Haha, and I didn't even notice that the flash made a halo. Definitely subliminal! :)


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