CBR11 #2: Year One by Nora Roberts
My first Nora Roberts! The two books were a gift from my friend who's a huge Nora Roberts fan, and she thought Year One could be a good entry point because I'm a real sucker for dystopia fiction.
It starts out with a family vacation in Scotland, when a peasant is shot and falls right in the middle of a stone circle, and its blood seeps into the frosted ground. What appears to be a regular hunting expedition turns deadly days later when the shooter is afflicted by an incurable disease that spreads like wildfire across the globe. It wipes out the majority of the population, but it also sparks an awakening in folks with magic in their blood -- strengthening their powers, which will either help them survive or make them targets.
My favourite parts were in the beginning, when the world was going to shit and people were getting rushed to the hospital. I find being able to picture the boring logistics of trying to get people to emergency rooms, doctors struggling to cope with the onslaught of sick people and their desperate families to be somewhat comforting. This is what we will see when an epidemic happens.
Year One moves fairly quickly, jumping from various important characters to the next, and that was kind of my biggest issue with it. I felt like more time could have been spent in exploring the group dynamics of the people hiding out in the forest, or in how the town of New Hope was actually set up. Like I said, I want to know the boring logistics of how to get a small town functioning again, or how to break up arguments between longtime friends under constant stress... and I wanted to know how all these various important characters were able to establish trust and friendship with each other.
I understand that shared experiences under stressful circumstances can build relationships quickly, but I felt like Roberts really skimmed a lot of that. And honestly, by the end of the first book, my biggest complaint was that I was expecting *some* sexual tension from the Queen of Romance, and Year One really did not deliver on that.
Still, I kept on reading, which brings me to the next review...
CBR11 #3: Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts
In book two, we are focusing more on The Chosen One. Her name is Fallon, and she is the daughter of the now-deceased Max and Lana. Raised by Lana and Simon -- who is such a steady, trustworthy character that he might as well have "THIS IS A GOOD MAN" stamped on his forehead -- Fallon's grown up knowing she was essentially born to save the world from its current darkness.
And boy is there a lot of it: There are truckloads of really terrible scavengers roving the streets, picking off people they think are magical or just weak; there is the dark magic contingent, who sort of work with these anti-magic people to kill the good magic people; and then there are pockets of people just trying to fend off those who take advantage of the chaos, trying to live their lives.
Fallon and her family are in the third camp, except her parents have been trying to teach her and her brothers how to be good, how to learn from right and wrong, how to farm, and how to use her powers in a responsible manner. But when she turns 13, she has to go off with her Merrick (OG BtVS, anyone? Anyone?) who then basically puts her through Hogwarts, except his school is a cottage in a forest where elves live nearby.
I was quite a fan of the training montage section of the book -- it's what comes after that annoys me a bit, and this came up in the first book as well. Roberts is very good at setting up premises, yea? Like, she gets you somewhat invested in the characters in the beginning and shows you their growth -- and then bam! It's years later, and that character has grown up so much they are basically unrecognisable, but it's hard to get the connecting tendrils to understand how they've changed so drastically. We are able to infer from what's happening in the book that, "She grew up. Fast." but it can be quite jarring if it's not expanded upon.
I mean, Fallon went from a sulky teenage girl, wondering if she should take the mantle of destiny... to straight up commanding a whole host of seasoned fighters, and not feeling any sort of nervousness about it. She no longer questioned whether she can save the world -- instead now, she's thinking of how she can save the world. At the end of the day, Fallon is a 16-year-old, and we all know we were notoriously inclined to self-doubt and angst when we are 16.
I don't know if I'll seek out the third book when it's out. I guess if my friend gifts it to me, I'll read it, because I do find it to be a relaxing read, overall.