Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Ms Roberts’s foray into a new trilogy is to be commended, given the high quality of her earlier works. The Awakening maintains the high standard we have come to expect. In this book, her command as the puppeteer is more evident than usual but in no way diminishes the quality. She controls every action, from the drawing of scenes to the entry of characters. She infers as well as states, she uses tints or hues for scene setting, writes the narrative of an evil person so that his/her speech reveals an evil heart, and she relies on brevity to make ideas or actions more believable.
This tale of love and adventure straddles two worlds. It is a tale that demonstrates that people can take others as they are, noting or ignoring differences. On page 285, the issue of gayness surfaces. One character remarks that a gay couple has married. The other knows the word ‘gay’ only in the sense of being happy. She explains that her world describes all relationships as ‘sex’ or ‘love’, whereupon the other conversationalist comments that such a practice was ‘sensible’. [Nora Roberts is of an age when ‘gay’ in her girlhood had just one meaning. Perhaps she slips in a sly recommendation here].
Simplicity ranks high with Nora Roberts. There is a multitude of short paragraphs. Sentences, too, are often brief. They do not weaken the narrative, but rather strengthen its effect. The story unfolds, opening out to welcome new characters or events, then like a stream flowing gently across a plain, it meanders until a new highlight – a character, event, crisis – requires addressal. What I have called ‘highlights’ do not appear without reason. They are scripted to appear at their place of best fit.
Some may question the inclusion of Marco, the gay best friend of Breen’s first life. Roberts is not following some written/unwritten law that requires her to address sexuality or race. The chief character is the ever so innocent Breen. Such innocence needs a friend and Marco is close and very strong. Breen is not awakening only in the sense of super-powerdom, but also awakening to a life as a woman. Marco understands that a confidante at this time in her life when she is dealing with an insensitive mother, the loss of her father, and between-world relationships, is essential to her well-being.
Information comes when Nora Roberts wants it to come, when the time is right. We learn of Breen’s strength as a three-year old, a hint that later on she will be leading the fight against evil. Keegan, the taoiseach, fittingly rides a gold and emerald dragon. The mysterious dark man, who puzzled us in the early part of the book, is revealed later, at the most appropriate time, in his true form. Nora Roberts opens the main part of the story with the appearance of a dragon and the introduction of the evil god, Odran. The exotic, in the form of a shy mermaid, adds to the mystery while horses play a large role as is fitting for a novel located in Ireland.
Breen learns a lot from her grandmother who, like most characters in the other world, has a special skill. Keegan teaches Breen to fight, somewhat grudgingly at the beginning, since she needs to learn the tools of survival in his world. Having, on one occasion, bested Keegan, Breen begins to understand her worth and realises that she has an important contribution to make in her father’s world. She is no longer the repressed, valueless, but safe, creature that her mother insisted she be.
Nora Roberts offers the complete package. Her language suits the tone and the circumstance (273), touches of humour lighten the seriousness of the conflict faced by the other world (277), she delivers the narrative with a heavy emphasis on repetition (282), she employs mixing of colours (300) to support the narrative. Hence most senses are engaged.
The Awakening recalls Nora Roberts’s recent trilogy. While the new book might be said to be written to the same recipe, a careful reading would dispel such a charge.
Read it for yourselves. I loved it.
By Nora Roberts
$32.99; 447 pp