…on Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Posted January 28, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 26 Comments

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Series: Unearthly #1
Published by HarperTeen
Publish Date: January 4, 2011
435 Pages
Source: Kindle purchase (I also read from a library copy.)

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side. 
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny? -(from Goodreads) 

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

My Thoughts: I started reading Unearthly a few days ago because I wanted to have a little knowledge of this series before the Pitch Dark Days tour rolls into town in a few weeks. MAN OH MAN, I had no idea I’d find myself so invested in this story – and so fast.

The first thing you need to know is this:
It’s clear from the summary that this book has a love triangle.
Oh how I loooove a well-executed love triangle!
But I believe that this one is going to STRESS ME OUT.

Reading friend and fellow blogger Lauren from Love is not a triangle has been telling me for MONTHS that I should read these books. It seemed like the perfect to start the series because the final book in the trilogy is releasing and YAY for a completed series! I also felt that if Lauren – a love triangle disliker – gave her stamp of approval to this series, it must be super great.

I did not anticipate falling for both of the love interests equally within a few chapters of the book. I repeat: I fell for both love interests. This never happens to me! I’m usually able to make a choice on who I feel is the better love interest pretty quickly after being introduced to both love triangle candidates, and I usually end up sticking with my choice throughout the series. NOT THE CASE HERE! I feel like I may be headed for trouble with my emotions as far as this series-as-a-whole goes.

As far as Unearthly goes, Cynthia Hand began her love triangle very, very well. I myself – speaking only for myself here – was not able to discern which guy I wanted Clara to end up with or even begin with, so I felt this sense of bookish stress as I began to read the book. It was sort of alarming, but it was alarming underneath the story (if that makes sense at all). 

The second thing you need to know is this:
This is one of the better angel books that I have read.
Now, please take that lightly. I love angel stories of all kinds. I do not get tired of them even when they are released in clusters. I do not moan, roll my eyes, or do whatever it is that lots of other readers do. I actually find myself gravitating toward them sometimes. Angel mythology can be really great when written well, and Cynthia Hand did a fantastic job with this book. 

In talking with some friends over this book and the angel-ness of it, I really cannot think of anything that I did not like. There were several points that really stuck out to me that I enjoyed a great deal and am anxious to see explored further in the coming books in this trilogy. Certain characters – good ones and bad ones – embody the mythology written by this author really well and I feel invested in this story thus far.

I will be doing an “Asheley No-No” and reading the next book, Hallowed, immediately following this one. (Seriously, that rarely-to-never happens.) It is unclear yet whether or not this is a good decision for me. I’ll let you guys know!

The third thing you need to know is this:

I absolutely love free will vs. destiny books.
This series is a free will vs. destiny series. 
Big time. 

As Clara gets to know Christian, the guy of her dreams (basically her destiny), things start falling into place – she begins to learn tiny details that she fits together into a bigger picture that is her purpose. But as she gets to know Tucker, the rugged cowboy with the crush on her that turns into her boyfriend, she begins to think with her heart. Clara never forgets her destiny, her purpose – that it involves Christian and it is the most important thing. But she can’t help that her heart loves Tucker, and some of us remember the pull of first love. Clara struggles throughout the book to make these free will vs. destiny decisions that are so very interesting to me.

There are times when her mother and brother become frustrated with her because they feel that she is losing sight of her mission. There are times when Tucker becomes frustrated with her because he feels like he is playing backseat to her mission. Clara is a girl stuck in the middle of her angelic purpose in life and what her earthly heart wants. It was hard to watch her struggle between her job and her desires, but it was certainly excellent for discussion and thought. 

When the time came and Clara had a huge decision to make – WOW, that part! It was eye-opening and heartfelt and heartbreaking and all kinds of exciting (the good kind and the bad kind). I’m pretty sure I bit all of my fingernails in those scenes, if I had any left from previously in the book.


Unearthly by Cynthia Hand is the type of book that people will either stay up late into the night to read until their eyes burn OR that people will read in small doses because it is emotionally stressful. (I’m of the latter group.) With each new stress that was written into the book, I had to stop reading, to think about what had happened, and to calm down before I could go any further, which is why it took me a few days to read this book. That is NOT saying that this was a bad book or that I didn’t enjoy it – rather, this means that I thought that this book was a really great book. It gave me a lot to think about and talk about with my fellow reading friends. (And stress over, I won’t lie. But it was the good stress, the bookish stress, so it was alright.)

More than anything about Unearthly, I love the angel mythology that Cynthia Hand introduced. I loved most of the characters and I’m very interested in seeing where they will be going from here. I liked Clara – I enjoyed the idea that she is part-angel and that she has a very specific pre-ordained purpose in life. I like that her mother is also part-angel, has been through this situation before, and can provide loving guidance for Clara, as this isn’t exactly a normal teenage occurrance. Speaking of family, I love that Cynthia Hand wrote a wonderful, functioning family into this book because we all know that the YA market doesn’t always satisfy us where great families are concerned. 

In terms of the two love interests – the love triangle – I love both Tucker and Christian a ton. I loved them both right away. I know that not everyone took to them both as readily and as easily as I did, but for some reason, I clicked to them immediately. At this point, at the end of Unearthly, I do not have a current favorite. This is interesting given that so much attention was given to building the relationship between Clara and Tucker in this first book. I have to wonder if the second book will be largely time spent with Christian? I don’t know. I still have a wide-open heart for Christian, and I haven’t counted him out yet. (I realize there are still two full books for me to read and I haven’t counted out anything.) 

In terms of secondary characterization, I have a strange disconnect with Clara’s friend Angela, which is odd. I think she has a big enough role in this book that I should feel something for her, but I just don’t. I can’t really give a reason why at this point. Also, I feel like Clara’s brother Jeffrey is a bit of a wild card – I’m not really 100% sure of his intentions or his motives for anything, and I’m not sure that I trust him completely either. We’ll see – I’ll be reading Hallowed next and everything could change!

I loved the setting of Jackson Hole, Wyoming for this book. I am familiar with this area from traveling, and I have enough memories of the area that I can visualize these scenes, and I LOVED that. Between characterization, setting, and the incredible angel mythology of this book, I loved this first book in the Unearthly series. I’m eager to continue with the next book.

If you have not begun to read this series yet, I urge you to start it soon! There is no time better than the present, particularly since the series is coming to an end! I recommend it for fans of YA paranormal stories involving angels, fans of romance, and fans of books containing stories of free will vs. destiny. There is a fairly solid love triangle thrown in there as well. 


Unearthly will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal Romance

Romance: HUGE love triangle!
Great Setting

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
is currently available for purchase.


Have you read UNEARTHLY yet? 

If you have, at the end of Unearthly, were you rooting for
Tucker or Christian to win Clara’s affections?
At this point, I still can’t decide! 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


26 responses to “…on Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

  1. I'm not the biggest fan on the planet of angels, but I kind of TOTALLY love your review. I've been hearing fantastic things about this trilogy nonstop lately, but I always brushed it off because of the angels thing. I'm thinking I can see past that though. I love anything with good romance, which is clearly something Hand excels at in this novel. Great review!

    • This trilogy is indeed on heavy rotation in the YA world right now, and I have to admit that it is fun to be reading a not-new book along with a bunch of new-to-the-trilogy readers. The romance really is great and while everyone else seems to have an easy time picking a "team" – I'm still undecided! I think you should read it and let me know what you think!

  2. I have been telling everyone I know to read this book for MONTHS, and now they all are in the middle of the series and it's making me so HAPPY. I am thrilled that you loved this book so much, and I agree with all of these points. Hand makes it TOUGH to pick between the guys. This is really fantastic angel mythology, and I love the free will/destiny debate. I actually can't believe that your read these two books back to back, and I cannot wait for you to finish the series (but I'm willing to be patient for that to happen!).

    • I'm actually glad I waited to start it now because I have to admit that it is fun to read it along with so many people, particularly since it isn't a brand-new series and people feel so strongly about it. I love the way I can mention this title or series to anyone and they're ready to start a discussion right away. That's always so much fun!

  3. Okay, so I have not read these books. Angel books scare me because I do not like books with a lot of religion thrown in. Is it one of those angel books? Or more in the vein of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (which obvs I loved) angels that are not connected to religion at all? Cuz now I'm curious. I love a well-written love triangle, and this book/series definitely sounds like it counts. Great review, Asheley! 🙂

    • Truthfully, there is mention of hell and heaven, but it wasn't a religious book at all. I thought it was a book about angels, but certainly there has to be mention of the other worlds. They spend their time on earth, so there's that. I wouldn't say they aren't connected to religion, but it isn't the focus of the books. This triangle is honestly (so far) one of the most well-written I've ever read. (By now, I've read the second book too.)

    • Okay…So you may have convinced me to give this series a chance! It's going on the TBR, which means hopefully Ill get to it sometime this year. 😉

  4. Yes, I've read Unearthly and I was surprised by how much I liked it (given that I'm not a huge fan of love triangles).

    I totally agree with your indecision about which guy to root for…I'm undecided too. Maybe after I read the sequels things will become more clear?? Anyways, fantastic review as always!

    • This author makes a GREAT case for both of these guys. I had the hardest time from the beginning because I felt like I needed to make a choice, and by the end I still hadn't chosen. Ultimately, I guess I don't really have to choose – it's Clara's decision! But you know, we typically gravitate toward one team or another.

  5. You finally started the series – YIPPEE. And like I thought you would, your loving it – YAY.

    Ha! I get what you mean about liking both boys, I did too for a short amount of time. But I quickly became Team Tucker – sa-woon! I like both boys though which is different because usually I've found I'm Team Whatever and the other boy just irritates me but not with this series which is good.

    Unearthly was GREAT but Hallowed was just anazing and completely surpassed my expectations. Adored it in all its emotional packed glory and I can't wait to hear your thoughts. I hope LOVE it.

    • Haha, Tucker is certainly swoony! And he was a large focus of this book.

      I've since read Hallowed and OH MY WORD my emotions were all over the place! It was great and…well, you'll find out soon. But wow, this series. Fantastic.

  6. Like you, I am so glad I finally picked this one up after hearing so much about it over the last couple of years. I've finished the series now so I'm going to tread lightly with my comments but I love what you had to say about:

    1. angel books- not always a fave of mine, but this one was great. LOVED all the angel mythology.

    2. the love triangle- you are so SWITZERLAND sometimes, Ash! I don't know how you do it! First Adam & Warner and now Christian & Tucker! I'm firmly in the Tucker camp and have been from the start:)

    3. I love the Wyoming setting too! In fact the setting was one of things that stood out most to me. I spent many years of my childhood in Idaho (love that C. Hand is from there) and anytime an obscure Western state gets some love it makes me so happy:) All the scenery she mentions brings back so many memories for me growing up in northern Idaho.

    4. Side characters– you know I love them. My advice regarding Angela: make sure you read Radiant after you finish Hallowed. You will get a lot more info on her and meet one of my FAVORITE secondary characters of the series:)

    Of the three books (and the novella) I have to say that Unearthly was my favorite. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Hallowed and the rest of the series:)

    • I love that you mention that I am SWITZERLAND sometimes! I guess I am and that is a hilarious way to put it! I'm totally stressed out over these fine gentlemen.

      I just didn't really dig the secondaries in this series as much as I'm used to typically with the exception of Sam. I liked him. But the others were sort of bland – or perhaps the main characters were just really, really great? I'm next in line for Radiant at the library, and I'm second in line for Boundless. So it won't be too long before I read further. I just needed a break after Hallowed, which I've already read.

  7. I think most people are rooting for Tucker but I actually like Christian more so I'm really glad to see you be torn. I'm not really the biggest fan of either guy but def Christian over Tucker. I've read the second book as well but not yet the third so I'll be interested in your thoughts on the former.

  8. This is a series I've been meaning to start for AGES. I really think that the time is right NOW because (a) the series is complete and (b) so many other people I know and love and share reading tastes with (like you!) are experiencing this series and LOVING IT. I'm intrigued by the angel mythology the author writes about, but I'm particular excited for the free will vs. destiny debate 🙂

    • The reasons you mention for starting the series are EXACTLY the reasons you should start it. And I honestly think you'll enjoy it. I've read Unearthly and Hallowed, and wow. The whole angel spin Hand writes is really, really great plus the romance is great too. And that free will vs destiny is there underlying the whole thing. So very discussable. The time is right now, Alexa! Try and fit it in now while everyone is talking about it if you can!

  9. Okay:
    1) Wyoming rocks. And not just in the geological sense.
    2) I'm SO happy you finally read this.
    3) I'm really intrigued by the notion that you fell in love with both Christian and Tucker in book 1. Personally, I didn't fall for Christian until book 2. I love them both, but I'm not 100% that I want Clara to end up with EITHER of them.
    4) LOVE the free will vs. destiny in this one–I feel like Cynthia presents interesting ideas about religion without being preachy or imposing her own ideas through the mythology, and that's pretty hard to do.

    Can't wait to see your thoughts on Hallowed!

    • Thanks Heidi! I really liked this book. I agree about the free will vs destiny – this has been one of the better book series with a free will-type theme, which is one of my favorites, along with good vs evil, which is also a little bit present in here too. I also loved the angelology that is in here, and that is hard to find since there's so much out there.

      I DID indeed fall for both boys. I just wasn't able to pick. I went through a "stage" where I thought I liked Tucker more, but I ultimately ended up finishing the series neutral as I could be. I'm okay with that – they were both very strong characters. Both were good choices. I knew right away I was in for trouble with my emotions because somebody has to get hurt. I'll leave it at that because I'm not sure that you've finished the series yet. But I knew early on in this book that I was attached to them BOTH. I still am, actually!

      (Hallowed nearly stressed me to pieces. Boundless was WAY easier for me to handle.)

  10. It's so interesting reading all your reviews in reverse because I'm revisiting your impressions of the whole series in retrospect. Love being able to read this knowing what I know now about how the series ends and how we felt about everything 🙂

    Also, kind of want to go back and count the number of times you reference your stress about this series. I love it!!

    • Gosh, this may have been the most stressful series I've ever read. Even more than The Chaos Walking series when I read it for the first time. Maybe. I'd have to think on that one.

      I think it may be because I read the books kind of back to back and because I read the last book in the series. If you haven't figured it out, I am the weirdest reader ever. But it's so good, so good.

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