For some time now, I've held off on reading werewolf novels, but within a few chapters of Hemlock, the debut from Kathleen Peacock, I knew not only that I couldn't hold out any longer, but also that this novel was truly something astoundingly special. Poignant, electrifying, and enchanting, Hemlock is a spectacular start for Peacock. Picking up shortly after Mackenzie's best friend is murdered by a werewolf, Hemlock races headlong into the action as a still-grieving Mac decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate Amy's death. Along for the thrill-ride are a wonderfully written cast of supporting characters, ranging from the tragically broken Jason (Amy's boyfriend), the protective Kyle (Mac's best friend), and Tess (Mac's cousin and parental figure.) Between the stunning cast of characters, their intricate relationships, and the mystery aspect, I absolutely couldn't put down Hemlock or tear myself loose from the gorgeous web the story wove around me.
Mac is a refreshing protagonist - self-aware without being TOO much so, spirited, honest, and brave. She's also a tremendously strong female, with a huge heart. Mac cares a great deal about her friends and family, and isn't afraid to show it in various ways, whether it's reaching out to try to save Jason, who's fallen apart after Amy's death, or looking out for Tess. I want to applaud Kathleen Peacock for writing such an amazingly sympathetic and likable character in Mackenzie. This story, compelling as it was, wouldn't have made such a huge impact on me where it not for Mac.
Hemlock did make an impression on me, from start to finish. I enjoyed trying to figure out who Amy's killer was, and it was delightfully frustrating in so many ways. Kathleen Peacock has written a nicely-developed mystery that stumped me and will likely continue to do so with readers. When the mystery finally was solved, I think I may have gasped. Between that aspect, and the Trackers, an above-the-law fanatical group of werewolf hunters, Hemlock definitely had a darker feel than I expected, but one that I adored. I definitely want to know more about the Trackers, and about the werewolf camps, as well as about the secondary group that came into play during the story, battling for rights for werewolves.
I didn't want to finish Kathleen Peacock's debut novel for many reasons, yet another one being how haunting and brilliant all the characters and their interactions were. I felt for so many of them, and yet I have to say, I think - and this may seem odd - that one of the strongest characters in the novel was Amy. Although she was never anything but a memory, she was very much a presence: in Mac's nightmares, in between Mac and Jason, and Mac and Kyle, in the town, in the mystery of her death. Amy was compelling, and added yet another layer, another enigma to Hemlock, because as the story goes on, we see that there was much more to Amy than anyone knew. I also really loved Mackenzie's relationship with Tess. Despite Mac's family history, it was clear how much she and Tess cared for one another.
Further complicating Hemlock in an elegantly heart-pounding manner is the thread of romance Kathleen has woven throughout her novel. I didn't expect to fall in love with any characters, but I fell, hard, for Kyle. It's been a few weeks now since I finished Hemlock and I'm still swooning over him. I really enjoyed watching Mac and Kyle puzzle through their feelings for one another, and I thought their relationship was intense, sweet, and perfect, in some ways. I could see how badly Mac wanted to rescue and fix Jason, but I think by the time Hemlock ended both she and he were starting to realize he would have to save himself for it to mean anything. I was slightly disappointed in the emerging love triangle between Kyle, Mackenzie, and Jason, but I will say it was all well-written, emotional, and an impossible decision for Mac to make. I'm glad Peacock didn't rush her toward either boy rather, the steps Mac did take felt natural and organic. I am definitely a Kyle/Mac girl, but I cannot wait to see where the second book takes all of these characters I've come to love.
Yes, I said love. It may seem improbable, but I already feel like I know these characters, this town. Hemlock was such a bewitching and compelling debut that I know I won't forget it anytime soon. Some books just have IT, that spark, that combination of events, characters, writing, and themes as to make them unforgettable. There's a certain kind of magic in a well-written, striking book, where all the ingredients meshed perfectly. And with plenty of action, mystery, romance, darkness, heart, and soul, Hemlock is one of those books.