Chloe Saunders is on the run with an unlikely band of allies - half-trained sorcerer Simon; too-powerful witch, Tori, and untested werewolf Derek, when the group is seperated, and Chloe, Tori and Rachelle (who may or may not have powers of her own) end up comfortable, spoiled prisoners of the Edison Group...the group who, Chloe discovers, is responsible for genetic mutations performed on her and her friends - not to mention various others - to tamp down their powers. But in Chloe and Tori's case, the experiments back fired. And having discovered the plot they were all unwittingly part of, none of them are the same. Chloe's innocence has been flaking away with every new development, but The Awakening is the transitional book in the trilogy - the story that takes intelligent but sheltered Chloe from her normal world and fully thrusts her into the middle of the supernatural world. And Chloe, to her credit, handles it pretty well. Kelley Armstrong doesn't really write shrinking violets, from what I've seen. She writes characters that, even if they stumble from time to time, are ultimately capable of making their own choices, and learning along the way, all of which Chloe does over the course of this book. After she escapes the Edison Group and reunites with Simon and Derek, and reluctantly, Tori, the four delve head first into the quest to locate Simon and Derek's father and, hopefully, a safe haven in the storm brewing all around them.
As dire as their circumstances are (Chloe now has a bounty on her head, placed there by her grief-stricken father, who knows nothing of what's going on,) sending the group to the streets was what this book needed to be, while transitory, also enough to keep me reading. Nowhere is really safe for Chloe, Derek, Tori, and Simon, as Kelley Armstrong proves more than once, sending different threats their way, while all the time, Chloe's powers continue to manifest themselves in new and unexpected ways. Armstrong shows us glimpses behind Tori's tough exterior, and proves, subtley, that there is more to Tori than meets the eye. All four characters struggle to come to some sort of understanding of what their powers mean, what they are capable of, and how to survive on their own, away from small comforts and trusted loved ones.
But the real star of this book was Derek, and his relationship with Chloe. Briefly separated from the others, Chloe and Derek are thrown together and experience a couple of harrowing ordeals (a pair of werewolves, Chloe talking to an elderly woman in a restaurant who turns out to be a ghost,) and Derek's second attempted Change. Through all of this, the two become closer, and Armstrong gives us a few rare glimpses behind Derek's gruff facade. There's a real guy there, a guy who cares a lot about those around him, and slowly, a sweet bond develops between him and Chloe. There isn't romance there, not just yet, but there's the hint of something more, something really meaningful, and Kelley Armstrong writes what IS there so well that I immediately wanted more of Derek and Chloe, when they weren't in the same scene.
Overall I was pleased with this book. I had a few hang-ups (people are always "swearing," and I guess because it's a YA novel the words themselves aren't allowed, but to me, it happened far too often and got a little annoying, "he swore, "it was my turn to swear," etc) but mostly it was a good book, and a little better than I remembered it being (I had previously read this book last year.) The pacing is pretty solid and keeps the book moving along nicely toward its climax. By the time I finished it, I felt like I had gotten to know the characters better, and was definitely ready for the third and final book, The Reckoning.