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Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Deadly Hemlock

by Kathleen Peacock

Series: Hemlock (1)

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Cheap read I picked up that I thoroughly enjoyed. ( )
  libgirl69 | Feb 28, 2016 |
Deadly Hemlock is the first in a new series featuring werewolves and this paranormal young adult novel reeled me in with a heart pounding opening sequence and managed to keep my interest the whole way through.

In an alternate contemporary society, victims of the Lupine Virus are segregated from the human population and confined to government controlled camps in a bid to slow the transmission of the disease. Werewolves inspire fear amongst the majority of the population and understandably an infected person is loathe to reveal their status. When Amy is fatally mauled during a series of werewolf attacks in the small town of Hemlock, her best friends Mackenzie, Jason and Kyle blame themselves for her death. They are still struggling to deal with their grief when The Trackers arrive, a vicious vigilante group whose agenda reaches far beyond the hunt for werewolves amongst the populace.

Deadly Hemlock doesn't stray far from the familiar cliches of YA fiction but nevertheless it is an enjoyable read. Underlying the paranormal guise is an exploration of prejudice, bullying, class warfare and politics. Nothing too heavy handed but enough to give the story some depth. A little darker than some YA novels, there are quite explicit descriptions of violence that provide plenty of action. In Peacock's world, werewolves are acknowledged though feared but I liked the authors take on werewolf lore in that werewolves can shift at will (though strong emotion can force a shift) and remain mostly sentient.
Determining the identity of the werewolf that murdered Amy is the main mystery element of the story which Peacock cleverly twists part way through. I have to admit though, I doubted that the werewolf's human self would have been so accomplished at remaining under the radar for so long.

Mac is likeable as a heroine, not the brightest, but she is determined and loyal (if to a fault). As with most YA protagonists, Mac has little self esteem, and is a touch too naive to be completely credible. The author does provide some back story in an attempt to justify Mac's more foolish decisions but I am not sure she was entirely successful. Mac's dream sequences, starring a cryptic Amy, left me cold and I think they were unnecessary. I can only assume they tie into Peacocks plans for further installments.

The ubiquitous YA love triangle veers slightly from the norm, Mac knows who she wants so she isn't torn between the bad boy with a heart of gold and the golden boy with a heart of, well, bad. Kyle is the tortured, brooding type who has been in love with Mac forever but denies it to protect her. Jason is pretty much a jerk though I did feel some sympathy for him and Peacock allows him to redeem himself, at least partially.

I did enjoy Deadly Hemlock for its fast paced action and paranormal element. It's a quick, entertaining read and a solid debut for a new series which has a lot of potential to grow. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jul 8, 2012 |
When I first read the blurb of Deadly Hemlock I was immediately drawn in - I wanted to see how the world reacts to the news that werewolves do exist and are murdering people. Upon reading the book I discovered that I had mis-interpreted the story: Deadly Hemlock doesn't resemble the world of True Blood in any way (where vampires have 'come out of the closet' and have integrated into main stream society) - the werewolves in this world are stripped of their rights and shipped off to containment compounds, where they are forced to live out their lives in conditions bordering on inhumane. But extremist groups like the Trackers want to exterminate everyone who has been infected with the virus, so society is largely divided on the issue of how handle them. Are werewolves humans who have contracted a disease, or animals that should be locked up, or worse, killed?

In the midst of all this is Mac, struggling to move on after the horrific death of her best friend at the hands of a werewolf. She used to be part of a group of four friends: herself and Amy, Amy's boyfriend Jason and his best friend Kyle. For the last three years these four have been inseparable. Until Amy's death sets Jason on a path of self-destruction and Kyle wants nothing more to do with him. The relationships between the friends, before and after Amy's death, are believable - it's very easy to empathise with Jason and see why he blames himself, and why Kyle can't stand to be around him anymore, and feel sorry for Mackenzie, who is in the middle, trying desperately to keep her friends together. When I read the blurb I was sceptical of Mac's reasons for investigating the murder herself - that's a pretty stupid thing to do! But I understood how much she wanted to bring the murderer to justice so she would get her friends back, so things would begin to resemble 'normal' again.

While I saw some of the romance in the book coming early on, I love the way Kathleen Peacock handled it. Again, it is extremely realistic - friends never want to ruin what they have for the possibility of something more, and I think the characters are motivated in believable ways. Other aspects of the romance in the story caught me completely by surprise, but once revealed they made complete sense. I hate love triangles, I wish authors didn't include them in their YA novels. But this one is real - this can happen to anyone, and it makes the story sweeter and more desperate at the same time.

So, great relationships, engaging plot, skilful world building. Check, check, check. Why then, wasn't I overwhelmed with love for Deadly Hemlock? Why wasn't I furiously flipping pages to see how it all turns out? I feel like I was never allowed to know Mac. She internalizes everything, and as Kyle points out, holds everything and everyone at a distance. Including the reader. So while I can sympathise all I want, at the end of the day I didn't have an emotional investment in the story. I did have one in the characters, but even when I read the epilogue and read that tantalising tid-bit that should have left me desperate for the sequel, my reaction was bland. More along the lines of 'Great there's a sequel, I'll have to remember to buy it' rather than 'I have to wait how long before I can what happens next ... is there a novella, is there anything to tie me over?'

Make no mistake: I will be reading the next book or books. I really enjoyed Deadly Hemlock and believe fans of YA will too. And if you're into urban fantasy or dystopian stories then I urge you to try it: the book has elements of both genres in it and may surprise you.

You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic. ( )
  alcarinqa | Jun 26, 2012 |
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When Miranda Lovelady and Dr. Bill Brockton discover what could be the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, their finding triggers a deadly tug of war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming, and trigger the end of time.… (more)

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