This is the first book in the Darkness Rising series, which is a sister series to the Darkest Powers trilogy. Although the Darkest Powers trilogy has concluded, it is my understanding that some of the characters from that trilogy will be featured in a new trilogy along with some characters from the Darkness Rising trilogy.
Maya Delaney is a 16 year-old teenage girl who lives in a very small town with an approximate population of 200 residents on Vancouver Island in Canada. St. Cloud Corporation owns the land that the town is built on, and they established a top-notch medical research facility. Everyone who lives in Salmon Creek is employed in some fashion by St. Cloud. Maya's father, Rick Delaney, is a park warden and wildlife rehabilitator, and Maya often helps her father care for the injured wildlife that he brings home. Cougar sightings are nothing out of the ordinary, and the Delaney family is often visited by Marv, a resident tom with a ragged ear that seems to have taken a liking to Maya.
Maya's past is a little bit of a mystery because she was abandoned at a hospital in Portland after she was born, so little is known about her biological parents. Her physical attributes suggest that she is at least part Native American.
Maya's best friend is Daniel Bianchi, whose father is an abusive alcoholic. He frequently stays over at Maya's house when his father is on a bender. I suspect that Daniel is in love with Maya but, if that is the case, there is no romance between them in this book! Daniel was actually dating Maya's friend, Serena, who drowned the previous summer in the lake. The circumstances surrounding the incident are very strange, although the casualty was ruled an accidental drowning. Maya was with her when it happened, and she swears that it was like something pulled Serena down into the water from below. When Maya jumped into the water to try to save Serena, she felt something moving around her legs.
Rafael ("Rafe") Martinez is the resident bad-boy, and he seems to have a thing for Maya. She soon discovers that Rafe's bad boy image is just that, and she starts developing feelings toward him. She has dreams of running at top speed through the forest, often alongside Rafe. One day while the two of them are out in the forest, they come across a cougar that has a mysterious patch of darker fur on its flank that is in the shape of paw-print. Maya is intrigued, since she has a birthmark on her hip that is also in the shape of a paw-print. Rafe also has the same birthmark! Surely, these cannot all be coincidences!
Maya's paw-print birthmark has faded as she has grown older, and she wants to have it tattooed so that it is more visible. Her mother takes her to a tattoo artist, Deena, who specializes in traditional tattooing. Deena's aunt catches one look at Maya's paw-print birthmark and tells her that the reason why her parents didn't want her is because she is a witch: Yee naaldlooshii. It means "skin-walker."
Armstrong is a new-to-me author. I have read nothing but praise for her Women of the Otherworld series, which is on my TBR list. However, I was completely unfamiliar with her Young Adult books. The Gathering was a bit of a slow-starter for me, but it picked up in the latter half of the book. What I enjoyed the most about the book is the strong parental bond between Maya and her parents. Maya is extremely level-headed and responsible, and she looks up to her parents and wants to please them. How refreshing! Maya's parents allow her to have some independence, and they do a fantastic job of straddling that fine-line of being authoritative but not overbearing. Armstrong also tackles the subject of alcoholism, and how the child of an alcoholic is affected. I thought she handled this sensitive topic beautifully from Daniel's perspective, and I love how Maya's family is so supportive of Daniel and their concern for his safety and well-being.
A word of warning that no clear answers are given at the end of the book, which ends on a cliff-hanger. The second in the series, The Calling, was just released this month so I am glad that I don't have to wait long to find out what happens next! I suspect that Armstrong was laying much of the groundwork for the series in this book, and I have high hopes that the next one will have more action. I am intrigued enough in the series to want to read not just the Darkness Rising series, but also the Darkest Powers series.
MY RATING: 3 stars!! It was good, and I enjoyed it!