Hallowed was a difficult book for me to rate. I went back and forth between three and four stars. While I enjoyed parts of the novel more than some of my four star books, other parts frustrated me more than a lot of my three star books. After writing this review, I ended up at three stars.
The strongest aspect of Hallowed is the prose, not because it is hauntingly beautiful with interesting word choices and flowery sentences, but because it is highly relatable. Hand is able to capture with words what it's like to be a teenage girl, and in some ways what it's like to be a human being (or at least a female human being). Clara's voice is very strong in the text and it is easy to feel her emotions coming off the page and identify with them. On a technical level, Hand has a good grasp of grammar and her sentences flow nicely.
In terms of characterization, Clara remains likable and relatable for most of the book, though I feel that she lost some relatibility towards the end (more on this later). Angela continues to be one of my favorite characters. Her personality is consistent, she's intelligent, and she's a complex character. I wish Hand had explored the ambiguity of her character a bit more in this book, but hopefully it will be addressed in the next. Despite being two sides of a love triangle, both Christian and Tucker continue to be likable. Tucker is still charming and sweet, while Christian's character is more fully developed.
While most characters faired well, I was disappointed in the direction Hand took Jeffery's character. I found him unlikable and frustrating though way more relatable than Clara when it came to their father, but I thought the revelation about his purpose towards the end was intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading more about him in the next installment.
Unfortunately, Hallowed had some major flaws, which ended up frustrating me quite a bit, particularly because Unearthly was done so well. I think my main issue with this book is that Clara became too much of a Mary Sue and lost her relatability. Admittedly, the Clara we're told about, even in Unearthly, is the typical Mary Sue. She's good at all physical activities, she aces her classes with ease, she's beautiful (being too skinny with eyes too big doesn't count), and she has super powers because she's part angel. The reason I was able to ignore all this was because the Clara we're shown was inconsistent with what we were actually told about her. Due to hair dye issues, she was not stunningly beautiful and the entire male population of her new school didn't fall for her. Although she's an angel blood, she struggled with her powers and wasn't the most amazing angel blood out there. And although she was supposedly good at all physical actives, we actually saw her struggle with many physical tasks. Additionally, she wasn't instantly liked by everyone in her new town, including Christian, who she was pursuing, and her friends held her accountable when she did something wrong. In retrospect, the inconsistencies were problematic because what is shown and what is told should be consistent, but I chose to ignore this because I liked the Clara we were shown.
In Hallowed, Hand undoes much of what I liked about Clara in Unearthly. First and foremost she ends up being three quarters angel, making her super special and all powerful. While I worried this would happen when I was reading Unearthly, and even predicted her father would end up being the angel who saved her mother, I was hoping it wasn't true, and I was still disappointed when Hand took the story in that direction. In addition to the revelations about her angel powers, it was disappointing to see yet another YA heroine allowed into a top-ten school, with a scholarship no less, without actually deserving it. I applaud Hand for at least providing a reasonable explanation for it, but it still made me roll my eyes, especially since Clara didn't even seem to appreciate it. Her ambition, as revealed in one of the early chapters, is to get married and have a child with her current boyfriend, which was also disappointing.
I also had a lot of problems with the way Hand handled Clara's father. I couldn't relate at all to Clara's reaction to him. Explaining her anger away with "magic" felt like a cop out. As mentioned above, Jeffery's resentment, anger, and overall wariness was more relatable. It also annoyed me that after years of absence, her father comes back and is the perfect father to Clara. It seemed like blatant wish fulfillment, a belief that was only further reinforced after reading Hand's interview at The Midnight Garden. It's also strange that Clara's father is so attentive and loving towards her but neglectful and dismissive of Jeffery. This sort of inconsistency makes Clara even more of a Mary Sue and makes her father even less believable as a character.
The mythology also started to fall apart in Hallowed. It's revealed that angel bloods age more slowly than human beings, and the more angel blood in an individual, the slower they age, yet none of the teenage angel bloods are aging slowly. Further, no one even thinks to ask about this, not even Angela who questions everything and seems very perceptive. I also didn't like that it was okay for some angels on rare occasions to have sexual relations but not others. This is especially hard to for me to accept given that Hand relies more heavily on the Bible in this book than in the last.
Lastly, I took issue with the love triangle. To be honest, the triangle didn't bother me at all in Unearthly. I've always felt that Clara had amazing chemistry with both Christian and Tucker, and I liked both of them. Both of these things remain true in Hallowed, which is to Hand's credit. The reason I didn't enjoy the triangle in this book was because I didn't feel like Hand gave me a reason to support the Christian/Clara relationship over the Tucker/Clara relationship, and personally, I believe (based on pure speculation) that Clara will end up with Tucker in the end, which makes the love triangle feel like a big waste of time.
Although we're told Christian understands Clara in ways Tucker doesn't, I never actually saw that in the text. Yes, Christian understood Clara, but Tucker seemed to understand her too. Tucker also comes out of this novel with his character unscathed the fist fight with Christian doesn't count against him since he had every reason to go after Christian, while it does make Christian look like a jerk because he a) was in the wrong for going after another guy's girlfriend and b) because he knows he's much stronger than Tucker and could really hurt him, while Christian's character takes a few hits. Not disengaging from the fist fight with Tucker, going after another guy's girlfriend, and being possessive of Clara (saying at the end that Clara is his) when Hand has already stated that this is a negative trait. In order to really feel the connection between Clara and Christian I wanted more scenes like the skiing trip they took together, which is one of my favorite romantic scenes of the entire series, but he sort of disappears for a while after Clara's father shows up. Even after Clara's mother dies and there was the perfect opportunity to show how Christian is able to understand Clara better than Tucker, this never really happens. I was expecting Tucker to do something that would show that he doesn't understand Clara's pain, but he acts perfectly. It's only her guilt over Christian's kiss that causes her to push Tucker away, not that she really needed space or that he did something wrong.The only thing standing in between Clara and Tucker is destiny, not Christian, which is why I think she and Tucker will end up together in the end. Nine times out of ten when an American author writes about destiny versus free will, free will wins out in the end, whether because a person defies destiny or their destiny ends up being the choice they would have made if they'd had free will. I believe that the vision Clara had of her and Tucker with the dark haired boy at the beginning of the novel is actually a vision of the future, despite her saying it isn't. The way it was written seemed more like vision than a daydream, and her mother says that she had visions of her future with Michael, Clara, and Jeffery throughout her life. Also, I find it suspicious that the child has dark hair when both Clara and Tucker have light hair. Not that it's not possible for Clara and Tucker to have a dark haired child (although unlikely since light hair is recessive), I find it suspicious that Clara would imagine that her child with Tucker would have dark hair considering how unlikely it is. My only hope is that if I'm right and this vision does come to pass that the child is not Christian's or not Clara's (it's not explicitly stated that he's her son).
Despite all of the flaws, I really did enjoy reading Hallowed up to the point where Clara's father shows up, and I'm still eagerly awaiting the sequel. I don't think the series is a lost cause, but if the third book is more like Hallowed than Unearthly, I'll be disappointed.