Thursday, April 26, 2012

CBR IV Review #14,15,16 - The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts

“Know what you want, work to get it, then value it once you have it.” - Morrigan's Cross
“We make destiny with every turn, every choice.”- Valley of Silence

Well, this was a fantastic follow up to the mediocre Irish Hearts series, as this series was FANTASTIC.  I had no idea that Roberts wrote any fantasy until I stumbled across this trilogy.  I was hesitant - could she actually write in that genre, keep her romance roots, and have it all work?  I have to tell you, resoundingly, yes.  I loved this series, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

The first book, Morrigan's Cross begins our journey.  Starting in the 12th century, Roberts introduces the first member of our circle - Hoyt the Sorcerer.  The books follow the battle between the Circle of Six - the sorcerer, the witch, the one who is lost, the warrior, the scholar and the one of many forms - and the vampire Lilith, who is determined to eliminate the human race and end all worlds.  The book opens with a confrontation between Hoyt and Lilith, who had turned his twin brother Cian (pronounced Key-Ahn) into a vampire.  After marking Lilith and tossing his vampire twin off of a cliff in a fight, Hoyt is approached by the Goddess Morrigan (who is a figure in Celtic lore) and set on a mission to gather the Circle together and prepare to do battle with Lilith and her army.  Hoyt is sent through the Dance of the Gods (a real thing as well - Stonehenge is set up the same way as dances in Ireland are) to the future.  There he begins to gather his circle together, starting with his lost brother, who has spent the past thousand years becoming successful and emotionally shut off.  They meet up with Glenna, the witch, and travel together with Cian's friend, King, to Ireland to begin their training.  Cian had purchased the estate where the men grew up, and that is their base of operations for this, and half of the next, book.  It is based in Ireland where they meet the rest of their circle.  Blair, the warrior, is clearly based on Buffy and has been a demon hunter all her life.  She also happens to be a descendent of Hoyt and Cian's sister, Nola.  Larkin, the one of many forms, and Moira, the scholar, are both from another world called Geall, which is based on Ireland and is the site of the final battle against Lilith.

The second and third books outline more training, more bonding, and the big conflict between the sides of good and evil. And naturally, all three books feature a love story.  If you didn't see there was a circle of six and immediately assume that they'd pair off in two's, you haven't read enough Roberts' books yet.  The pairings are logical enough, and I won't spoil it for you by explaining how successful or not they are.  They are well developed - I felt like none of their relationships came out of the blue, and everyone brought their own baggage to the table.  In addition, I enjoyed the way the impending death and doom loomed over them.  Many people find the big good in situations like that, and I loved that they kept remembering to enjoy the simple, happy things, because otherwise what were they fighting to save?  I'm not sure I ever really felt panicked about them making it through - Roberts isn't George RR Martin, after all - but it didn't make their battles and less fraught with tension.

I am in love with all of these characters, even the bad guys.  Every member of the circle of six felt well developed, and I felt such empathy with them.  I saw myself a little in each of the women, and I got what compelled each of them about their men and about their challenges.  I also enjoyed interspersing the viewpoint of the villains of the piece.  We got some insight into Lilith, her lover Lora, and her "son" Davey.  I liked having three dimensional villains that, while I still despised, I was able to understand a little.  They react to each other in ways I could connect with, and that made it more compelling to watch them battle.  I still wanted them to lose, and get their asses soundly kicked, but it's more satisfying to have that happen with characters I get rather than just a caricature of a bad guy.

I don't want to spoil how things develop in the series, because it's truly lovely.  Is it the best vampire fiction out there?  No.  But it's a damn fun ride, with characters you will love.  Definitely recommended reading!

CBR IV Review #11,12,13 - Irish Hearts Trilogy by Nora Roberts

Normally I start off with quotes, but I had a hard time locating them, and I read this series over a month ago, so I'll be damned if I remember any.  So tough.  Life is hard.  ;-)  And yes, this is yet another Nora Roberts series.  The next review?  Also of a Nora Roberts series.  The one after that?  Will probably also be a Nora Roberts series. I've had a lot going on lately (bed bugs, getting married, honeymoon, finding a new place to live) and as such, I've needed some really easy reading.  It doesn't get easier than this.  The thing I like most about Roberts it that I can read these without having to work too hard, but at the same time, there's enough there for me to not get bored.  She's great at writing characters I find myself committed to, and that's what really hooks me into a book.

That being's important to note that this series starts with the first book of Roberts' career, and it shows.  The writing is stiff, there is only one sex scene to each (which anyone who reads her regularly will find surprising) and the story moves at an odd pace.  Everything seems to rush together at the end, and that wasn't really satisfying for me.  Roberts also seems to have a penchant, in this series anyway, for putting each of her female leads through something traumatic.  Adelia faces attempted rape, Erin is kidnapped and held hostage, Keeley is beaten.  Cut these women a break!  Also, being Irish does not make them simple.  I get that Erin and Adelia, coming from small town farm country in Ireland (and in the 80s at that) would have had less access to modern conveniences, but Jesus Mary and Joseph do they sound like retards when they are wandering about the US seeing all our crazy tech.  Like cars.  It was frustrating.

You'll notice I'm lumping all three reviews together here, and not really outlining the plots of any - that's because I don't feel like wasting the time.  Roberts has written more than 209 novels (so sayeth Wikipedia, so grain of salt), so it seems silly to waste time elaborating on my feelings on the only trilogy of hers that I have no feelings on.  I can't say I hated them, but they didn't inspire me to give a shit about them either.  Easily skippable - move on to some of her other, better works (of which there are many reviews on this blog - she's my go-to for fluff writing).