First impressions: It doesn't take long for Chloe to start seeing scary ghosts, and she's quickly shipped off to Lyle House. Kelley Armstrong wastes no time ramping up the action and easily hooks us on sweet, friendly Chloe.
Lasting impressions: These books are best consumed in rapid succession, as the endings leave you wanting MOREMOREMORE. That said, the final book left too many unanswered questions and I felt a little gypped after finishing it.
Conflicting impressions: The pace is so fast and the timeline so short that there is little room for growth among the characters. They jump from one conflict to the next, always on the run, and at times I wanted things to slow down so we could learn more about these kids.
Overall impressions: For a series with so much squeaky-clean fun, these books felt sinfully bad to devour. They were so addictive that I would get twitchy when forced to stop reading. I passed up lunch dates and stayed up into the wee hours. I kind of feel like a drug pusher telling you about these books.
When I started the first one, Ruby warned me that I should go ahead and get the others. She was right. It's highly improbable, nay - damn near impossible, to finish one without reaching for the next. I'm not kidding. These books are like crack.
Chloe Saunders is a nice little wisp of a girl. She's barely past puberty when she sees her first ghost - an encounter that scares the crap out of her and leads to her being sent to a group home for the mentally ill. She's diagnosed with schizophrenia, and does her best to get along with the handful of kids in her new home, Lyle House.
But of course, things are never what they seem in good paranormal books, are they?
Chloe soon learns that her fellow housemates have secrets of their own, and when they realize their lives are in danger they start to band together to escape. This conflict takes them across all three books as they discover more about their captors, the Edison Group, and try to get a handle on their growing supernatural powers. I loved that each of them had such different strengths and weaknesses, so that as a team they became stronger than they could ever be as individuals.
True to life were the interpersonal conflicts that arose among these teens. At times vain, socially awkward, naive, overconfident, and nearly always impulsive, all of the characters read like real people caught in this heightened reality. The action is intense and neverending, so you can't help but keep turning the pages to see what happens next to this ragtag group. There is a slow burn romance that develops across the series as well, which I especially enjoyed. As a reader, you can see it coming, but it takes a looooong time for the characters to figure it out, which was just the cutest thing ever.
The thrill of their escape and ensuing chase sequences are nothing compared to Chloe's gift to communicate with and raise the dead. She's a powerful necromancer who has a hard time learning to control her gift in a way so she doesn't draw souls back to their bodies and create an army of zombies. When she does accidentally create a zombie (best. idea. ever.) it's absolutely horrifying and grotesque in all the best ways possible. Armstrong is a genius at creating the ick factor without wandering into stomach-churning territory.
My only real complaint came with the ending of book three. I was frustrated with the lack of answers and resolution. Throughout the series, Chloe's necklace is a bit of a mystery, and its changing colors and purpose are sources of intrigue (not only for the story, but evidenced in the covers as well). Yet we don't find out what it all means! The story also just stops, without a full ending that provides these characters with direction for the future. It was too abrupt for my taste, but since the overall reading experience was so satisfying, I'll forgive it.
Series Rating: 4/5 stars