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The Year of Disappearances - Susan Hubbard
'The Year of Disappearances' is the second book in the 'The Society of S' trilogy with the final book; 'The Season of Risks' coming out only last year in 2010. I had read the first book a number of years ago and only recently found out that it had two sequels and so reread the first book (The Society of S review can be seen in my review list) and still loved it, therefore opening up the opportunity to purchase the second book which I managed to get from Amazon for only £3.50 including postage and packaging. With the enjoyment I had felt in the first book, I had high hopes for its sequel.
VAMPIRES AT THEIR MILDEST
"It was the year of disappearances and the honey bees were first to go"
'The society of S' introduced us to Ariella Montero, a half breed teenager born to human and vampire parents, a rarity in the vampire world. As she struggles to come to terms with what she is, as well as trying to find her place in the world of both supernatural and humans, she comes across some terrifying events which both confuse and scare her.
The second book in the trilogy; 'The Year of Disappearances' continues but a few months after the first book ended, yet everything has changed. Ariella feels even more exiled from both worlds, even though she is now residing in Florida with her mother who has lived through a number of large changes herself. Whilst her father is absent due to untimely 'dying' a few months before, Ariella realises that she has more supernatural powers than she could have ever dreamt of, and with her use of invisibility, hypnosis and mind reading, Ariella attempts to make new friends, yet soon it becomes apparent that making new friends is a dangerous path to follow as one by one they all seem to vanish, and Ariella realises that she could be next.
Fleeing from the rumours about her involvement with the murders and disappearances, Ariella winds up in a small college in Georgia. Though her problems seem to follow her as she is thrust deeper into the dark side of life where demons and shadows continue to haunt us all.
My first thought when purchasing this second book was whether it had the space to actually go anywhere as the first book was wrapped up perfectly. Yes, it did leave some questions unanswered, though nothing which, in my mind, left room for a whole new book. So how did this book span out? Slowly is the answer to that. Although the story was well rounded and a lot of new parts were bought into light, a lot of which surrounded the darker side of life, I felt that not only did it read quite slowly, it also had many a part in which seemed to drag on. What could have been said in a matter of paragraphs was bulked out unnecessarily into whole chapters worth of text to enable the story to be longer. This did not happen throughout the story, though, and the parts in which were not padded out in this way read in a much steadier way (though in the main, still a slow way.) In comparison to the first book, the slowness really became an issue though due to my love of the first book, I continued to plod along. The story itself takes in a much less a time than the first book, and so arguments could be that a lot of things happen in this short space of time, yet I do not personally think enough happened. Certain aspects of the storyline were focused upon too much and other aspects in which I had perhaps expected, were drifted over without much thought.
Although the Society of S took place in a variety of different places and situations, this second book focused on a much closer space within America and from the view of a person who does not know America very well, I felt that one part of this country was described exactly the same as another with no real diversity or imagination. Perhaps this is how the different states mentioned in the book are, though personally I found the lack of description with regards to this, rather bland and unexciting.
The story is split into three parts, each with a fresh blank page to announce the next part. I found this quite annoying and unnecessary though it mirrored the style of the first book so I was able to overlook this. Each section did cover a different part of the story, though nothing worth splitting up the book like this. In my opinion, the only real use of the split was to show that the author had prepared her story well and included a beginning, middle and end like we are taught in school!
The author is insistent from the very first book that this series focuses upon the coming of age of Ariella who is fourteen in this second book. I think that this is perhaps an attempt to reach a wider audience as in my opinion, the main focus is upon vampires, even more so than in the first book. Yes, there are still the same aspects of growing up and facing changes though all this is seen through a vampires eyes, and the wider story covers both vampires and other supernatural type characters and situations. These, though, are nothing as extreme as such things as Twilight or Buffy the vampire slayer. This story is much, much milder and a lot of the time you can forget that the main character is a vampire apart from the cheesy descriptions of her special powers such as invisibility and mind reading, though it is always there; the mild vampire scene shown in a way I have never read before. The whole vampire concept has an air of grace and beauty about it, above the devilish undercurrent of what vampires are. The lore according to this story is certainly not as violent, though the drinking of blood and light sensitivity is still included as is some small amount of murder which you would expect from vampire tales, yet even this is dimmed down considerably. There are a few added qualities and vampirisms which are new and fresh to my knowledge of reading, though nothing drastic, though I did find these new ideas quite interesting.
As mentioned, Ariella (the main character) turns fourteen within this book, though like with the first book, her age was difficult to digest as the character seemed a lot older both in language and actions. This is easily explained by the rigorous education and knowledge which is taught to her by her father in the first book, and the upper-class speech and home life that she is used to, though I do feel that perhaps fourteen was too young to make this character. The character also attends college for a short period of the book and seems to fit in perfectly with those in their twenty's which did not read right. There are also many moments which are more adult focused, such as discussions about sexual relationships, which makes me feel that this is certainly in the wrong category when it is put into a children's section. A young adult/teenager into adult would be more suitable. I believe that the author may have made Ariella twelve in the first book and then fourteen in this book to allow room for her character to grow throughout the three books, though in my opinion, perhaps fifteen or sixteen may have been easier to digest.
On the subject of characters, I would have to say that most are written extremely well apart from the age problem with Ariella. We learn more history about the main characters within this book and most are very well rounded. I was upset to find that one of my favourite characters from the first book had all but vanished in this second book, and for the main part all we saw of him was through discussions about him. I felt that this absence was never fully explained and left a gaping hole in the story. As with the first book, we get to know more about Ariella's thoughts and feelings than any other character as the story is written from her first person perspective, and in some sense, as though it is written like a journal. There are no dates or 'dear diary' moments, though the whole feel of the text does read like a journal. This, though, is not off-putting in the main and is actually written quite well. The only gripe I have with the style of writing is the constant additions of factual information which does fit in with the story but is just too in depth and I found myself often skimming these parts.
The language used in the story is a mix of upper-class, well educated speech between Ariella and her family, and the more usual relaxed speech patterns. As Ariella progresses through her own story, we see her own speech reflect the changing of her character and situation and her speech as a whole is far more relaxed in this second book. As already specified, a lot of the time Ariella seems a lot older than her given age of fourteen and a lot of this is to do with her language abilities. Apart from some language choices in which I needed a dictionary to decipher, (though most of the time I didn't bother looking up meanings!) the language of the story telling and the character is very simple to read and almost poetic at times which makes it run off of the tongue beautifully. A lot of quotes are used within Ariella's memory of her past education moments, mainly from Edgar Allan Poe, which are both interesting and thought provoking which really aid in the understanding of the world in which this story is set as well as place a firm link between her and her father. It is obvious that a lot of research went into this book, though sometimes, this research flows onto the page and takes forever to read!
The story itself is not overly long. It only took me a couple of days to read, though it is certainly not a quick-read mainly due to the annoying scientific explinations which can last pages!
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of this book compare?
I loved the first book, and although I did not hate this second book, I found it far duller and slower than its predecessor. There was a limited amount of action and the story progressed extremely slowly throughout and so it was not a surprise that the ending was just as slow. There was a slight twist in the tale at the end though it seemed a little out of place to me which really ruined the story further. The one great thing was that everything was wrapped up well, yet I thought this of the first book and the author managed to bring out a sequel and there is still one more book to go in this trilogy! I have not decided yet whether I am going to purchase the last book. I am intreaged as to where it will go, though from the experience of this second book, I expect that the third will be worse.
As for the ending being what I had hoped, I couldn't really tell you. I did not have any idea where the book was really going and so had no expectations, yet this was not really in a good or exciting way. The ending worked to a degree though it certainly did not leave me bouncing off of the walls with happiness!
A slow ending to an otherwise slow book.
Overall, the whole story seemed a lot more grounded compared to a lot of fantasy based stories I have seen on television or in movies, and also more realistically portrayed than vampires in many books I have read. Science and rules are used to explain vampires themselves and their way of life, and although the vampires possess some variations of super powers such as hypnosis, invisibility and mind reading, the use of these powers are not overused or completely out-of-this-world, even if the descriptions and mentions of them are a little cheesy. In fact, I can quite easily see our own world surrounded by these vampires and we wouldn't even realise. The author paints such a vivid and believable side to vampires which really pulls the reader in.
The story itself, though, came across in the main as quite dull. There was no real path in which it was following and many parts seemed out of place. I would not say that I hated the story though I do not know if I could fully recommend it.
I was able to get this book for a good price from Amazon and I certainly would not pay more. I had to go to the American Amazon to find it cheaper, though, as the UK one was twice that price or more. My hardback copy has an RRP of $22.95 which I believe is around £14-£15 which in my opinion, is too much to pay for this story.
Themes to be aware of in this book include; Death, betrayal, violence, vampirism, kidnapping, cult, sexual discussions.
A/N: When looking at the different covers for this book and the other two in the trilogy, I found that there is a feel on one set of covers of the Twilight series of books. Do not be fooled into thinking that this book is anything like the Twilight Saga, though, as it is completely and utterly different.