Title: Toward a Secret Sky
Author: Heather Maclean
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.Jean Book Nerd Tours for picking us to be on the tour.
With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
There were a lot of elements I loved and some that didn't work for me. I'll start with the aspects I enjoyed which makes this book worthwhile, in my opinion.
Setting: I've never been to Scotland but I hope to someday. Heather Maclean uses great descriptors and I could imagine/picture myself there. It provided a great background to the gloomy tone of the novel.
Premise: Even though the whole angels/demons trope has been done before, this one had a unique spin. You see, we meet Maren. She's lost her mother at a young age and is sent to live with her grandparents (whom she has never met) for the first time now that she is orphaned. You get a sense that there is more than meets the eye as soon as she arrives and there is a world that turns from safe and where she can wallow in her sorrow, to one that becomes immediately terrorizing, given the unearthly war taking place there. And I loved the idea of the Abbey, the counterpart to the Angels fighting the demons here on Earth.
Characters: There were some secondary character which I just adored, like Jo and Hunter. And there were others that I wanted to really like, but they just didn't grow on me.
So now, onto the not-so-good aspects...
There's something about characters instantly falling for each other that tends to rub me the wrong way. I get it, some people love it. But this is one of the aspects I think felt short for me. Maren, upon first laying eyes on the love interest Gavin, is completely smitten way too quickly. This is before she's even had a get-to-know-each-other worthy conversation with him. So for the rest of the book, the relationship felt a bit empty and I was numb to it, not really along for the ride with the both of them.
And that is sad, because as mentioned above, this story does have a lot of aspects and themes that I enjoy in these types of narratives.
But as always, I ask that you make up your own mind because you may feel differently than I did. And the ending seems to suggest that there's a sequel in the works and my thoughts on this one doesn't deter me because I will be reading the sequel. I'm so intrigued by what's to come and there's so many possibilities. Maybe the author will have worked on some of the more critical writing issues I had with this first one. Happy reading!
Heather Maclean is a Princeton graduate and The New York Times bestselling author and editor of 15 books. Named one of the '16 Best Entrepreneurs in America' by Sir Richard Branson, she accompanied the adventurous business legend on a 50,000-mile trip around the world, alternately helping improve the lives of others (designing sustainable development initiatives in South Africa) and fearing for her own (rappelling out of a Black Hawk helicopter in a Moroccan sandstorm). Heather began her career at Disney, where she had the distinction of being the first person ever to answer Mickey Mouse's e-mail. When not castle hunting in her husband's native Scotland, she and her clan of 3 kids happily reside in Michigan.
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