I never thought about Nora Roberts as a fantasy author until she published Year One in 2017. When I finally listened to the audiobook last fall, I thought it was a gripping 4-star combination of post-pandemic survivalist epic and magical (or magickal as Roberts spells it) fantasy.
The following two books of the series were satisfying in some respects, and pretty pedantic in others. What I loved about Year One was the characters and the suspense. I also thought she did a credible job of discussing the dangers of marginalizing people who are other than ourselves. Roberts carries the same characters throughout the series, in varying degrees. But in the end, the focus on teens as saviors made it feel a lot like a YA series. That’s not how the first book felt, and not what I would have preferred.
Of Blood and Bone
In book two, Roberts needs to set up her teenage savior, who is both the titular The One and the only hope for magickal people and the world. She’s Fallon Swift, a 13-year old girl who must leave her family and train with a warrior magician.
And 13-year olds lean towards whiny and tiresome behavior. So there’s that. Her mentor Mallick is an interesting, prickly, gazillion-year-old guy. He forces her to buckle down, but has a soft spot too. This training period is a big section of the book, and was alternately annoying and charming.
When the action starts to happen, I was so ready. And Roberts does admirably crank up the volume and excitement. On the whole, I like Fallon and her support system. But it’s just a 3-star read.
The Rise of Magicks
Since this book came from the library, I had a time frame. If I hadn’t already borrowed it, I might have just skipped it. But, sure, I decided to see what came next.
Sadly, this book was the hardest to get through. Battle scene after battle scene. Ugh. Even though I cared about the characters, Roberts dragged them through the blood, mud, and conflict again and again. If they weren’t fighting, Fallon and her dad were planning and strategizing. I liked their relationship, but on the whole, it’s not my cup of tea.
Although Fallon has a love interest, I didn’t feel much chemistry between them. Teenage or early twentysomthing romance (sandwiched between battle scenes) isn’t my jam. Somehow the pair still seemed immature, despite the multi year time frame. And yet they’re saving the world. The cognitive dissonance didn’t work for me. I’m giving it 2 stars.
My conclusions about the series
What I loved about the first book was the challenges of post-pandemic survival. None of that existed in books two or three. They were more focused on routing out the bad guys, which ultimately bored me.
If you loved Year One, give book two a try. But don’t buy an expensive copy. Just borrow book two and three. Averaging my star ratings, I’d give the series 3 stars. I was hoping for more.
Pair with Tosca Lee’s The Line Between for another post-pandemic adventure. Or choose a more historical look at pandemics, like my current read, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It by Gina Kolata.