Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Unnatural by Michael Griffo

In the town of Eden in northwestern England stands the exclusive boarding school known as Archangel Academy. Ancient and imposing, it's a place filled with secrets. Just like its students. . .

For Michael Howard, being plucked from his Nebraska hometown and sent thousands of miles away is as close as he's ever come to a miracle. In Weeping Water, he felt trapped, alone. At Archangel Academy, Michael belongs. And in Ciaran, Penry, and especially Ciaran's enigmatic half-brother Ronan, Michael finds friendship deeper than he's ever known.

But Michael's only beginning to understand what makes the Academy so special. Ronan is a vampire--part of a hybrid clan who are outcasts even among other vampires. Within the Academy's confines exists a ruthless world of deadly rivalries and shifting alliances, of clandestine love and forbidden temptations. And soon Michael will confront the destiny that brought him here--and a danger more powerful than he can imagine. . . (summary from Goodreads)

Michael Griffo's Unnatural is a highly dramatic story of vampires, family bonds, betrayal, and true love, with twists and non-stop action right up to the last page.

Michael feels trapped in the small town where he lives with his mother and grandparents. An outcast both at home and school, Michael dreams of freedom...and a dark and handsome boy to whom he has an undeniable bond. When his mother commits suicide, Michael's long estranged father arranges for him to move to the UK and attend Archangel Academy, an all boys boarding school. As soon as Michael steps foot on the school grounds, he feels he's finally where he's meant to be. And when he meets Ronan, his new roommates half-brother and the boy from his dreams, Michael knows he's home. But things are not what they seem at the Double A. Students are being attacked and Michael sees things he can't explain. Added to this, his father seems determined to ignore the fact that Michael is gay and see him set up with wealthy mean-girl - and vampire - Brania, who has her own hidden agenda. Despite all of this however, Michael knows he has Ronan, who he can trust. Caught in the middle of a centuries old feud as a rare water vampire though, Ronan has his own secrets. So can Michael really trust anyone?

Unnatural has a different sort of writing style that both stands out and hinders the story. From one paragraph to the next, the story swaps between multiple character points of view. While the focus is mostly on Michael and Ronan, here and there it'll delve into the thoughts of other secondary characters. Swapping pov's isn't such a bad thing as it provides a deeper level of insight into character's motivations that may not have been as easily apparent otherwise, and I certainly appreciated that aspect. However there's no forewarning to the changing pov here - like in some books where there'll be a clearly obvious break or header, such as the characters name. Instead the swap literally occurs from one sentence to the next, and if you haven't caught on it can be somewhat confusing. After a while however, each character is easily distinguishable and while the change is never what I'd call fluid, it does stop being overly jarring. It is something a reader might have to push through at the beginning, but I think the story soon becomes engrossing enough that it can be overlooked.

Griffo has created quite the cast of characters and for the most part I enjoyed getting to know them all. Sometimes a tad stereotypical, they're also each ticking time bombs and so provided some unpredictability, which was interesting. Each has their own plot within the story which really kept the action moving, though sometimes I wasn't as connected to an individual character or plot line enough and so it'd frustrate me as I wanted more of another - mostly Ronan and Michael. Michael is sensitive and while at times a little naive, I couldn't help but like him. Add Ronan to the mix, and oh boy. Their interactions were sweet - sometimes overly cutesy and cliched - as well as seriously steamy. I was hooked from the moment they first met each other in the pouring rain. One word - yum! There're a lot of obstacles these boys have to overcome to be together, and most present themselves in the form of other characters, like Brania, who is quite simply an evil bitch, and Nakano, Ronan's vampire ex. I loved to hate these two, let me tell you! Both are following the orders of Brania's father, who we don't meet, but is obviously in charge of some horrible plan yet to be revealed. There's also the matter of Ronan's family, half brother and human Ciaran, and vampire mother, Edwige, who each push and pull at Ronan in their own way. Certainly the family dynamics of this book are somewhat dysfunctional and I enjoyed the added personal touch. There's much more at the center of the story than simply Ronan and Michael getting together. I'm definitely intrigued to read how Ronan and Michael's relationship will further develop amongst what is in a lot of ways, chaos!

Unnatural also introduces a lot of history between many of the characters, much of which is really only hinted at. Which is surprising, as a heap of stuff happens in this first installment alone. I must admit to being a little shocked at how many characters died! Wow. I stated earlier that this book is highly dramatic and I meant it. There is a lot of action and violence! Sometimes I found it a little too dramatic and some of the characters and situations over the top. Where I was maybe meant to be shocked instead I'd be snort-giggling or rolling my eyes. Unfortunately Ciaran was at the end of most of these reactions, which is disappointing as I feel for him as an outcast, a human always alone on the outside of the vampire world, and as such, his family's world. Despite these moments however, the overall story is a bit of an addictive read, as I was hooked and desperate to find out how it ended. I will say though that I think it best not to go in with too high expectations.

Overall, Unnatural is a fun and fast-paced vampire story! I was drawn to it for the Ronan/Michael romance and that didn't disappoint. With so much more action obviously to come, I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Unwelcome.


Publisher: Kensington Books
Published date: 1 March 2011
Pages: 352
Format: Kindle edition

Challenge: 2011 Debut Author Challenge


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