Every reader has an author who is his or her go-to author, the one whose books always break reading ennui. The author’s stories provide comfort in an anxious world, and a reader will always buy the author’s latest book without even reading the synopsis. For me, that author is Nora Roberts. It doesn’t matter if her novel is a romantic thriller or fantasy or pure romance, Ms. Roberts’ stories always make me feel hopeful no matter how crappy my world is. In other words, I really, really love Nora Roberts. So, for me to say that I believe her latest novel, The Awakening, is probably one of her strongest, if not her best, novel to date, I base my assessment on all of her previous novels, of which there are many.
Ms. Roberts can paint a picture with words. Her worlds, whether fantasy or real, are always gorgeous in their life-like descriptions. Yet, I think her depiction of her fantasy realm of Talamh exceeds anything she has ever written. Her descriptions of Talamh are so vivid that it is almost impossible to believe that it is an imaginary location. You can all but smell the horses in the pasture, feel the breeze off the lake, and hear the wind rustling through the crops. Moreover, even though the realm’s entrance is in Ireland, Talamh feels like home. It makes no difference whether you are city- or country-born, northern or southern, or have ever stepped foot in Ireland, there is something about Talamh which is familiar and comforting.
As if that were not enough, the characters in The Awakening are among her strongest portrayals. There is serious character development occurring, even though it is the first book in a trilogy, and not just among the main characters. Breen shows the most obvious growth, but we also see it in her best friend Marco, in Keegan, in Marg, and in other secondary characters. In particular, Breen’s issues with her mother hit really hard for anyone with difficult family relations.
Plus, The Awakening appears to break away from Ms. Roberts’ usual story structure. The romance, while there, is a slow build. So is the story itself. There is no major clash between the Big Bad and our heroes to signal the end of the first act. Instead, Ms. Roberts takes the time to allow Breen to struggle with her new knowledge and power and to make decisions about her life in Philadelphia as well as in Talamh. This makes for a much richer, more fulfilling novel.
There was no doubt that I would adore The Awakening given my feelings towards all of Ms. Roberts’ novels. What did surprise me was the richness and exquisite detail of the story. While expecting something that entertained me, I did not expect such depth of character and setting nor such a well-plotted story that did not rush. While I am always excited at the thought of a new Nora Roberts novel, I am particularly excited and anxious for the next story in the Dragon Heart Legacy series and can only hope she maintains the magic of The Awakening.