Nora Roberts (aka J.D. Robb), as you probably know, is a prolific award-winning (and best-selling) author of romance novels. Not being a romance novel reader, I had never before read any of her work. But, when I found that I could freely download her fantasy trilogy (The Circle) from my public library’s website, I decided to give it a try.
First, let me say that authors don’t get to be award-winning best-sellers for writing poorly, so I’m perfectly willing to believe that Nora Roberts is an excellent romance writer and, if I ever decide to read a romance novel, I won’t hesitate to pick up one of her books.
However, I couldn’t help but get the impression from Morrigan’s Cross, the first book in her Circle trilogy, that Nora Roberts is a romance writer trying to attract fantasy readers. And perhaps she couldn’t decide which type of fantasy readers she wanted to attract because she threw a bunch of random fantasy clichés from several sub-genres of fantasy literature into the pot and stirred. And this is what came out:
- Hoyt: The medieval sorcerer who time-travels to the 21st century
- Morrigan: The Goddess who commissions Hoyt and the others to fight the vampires, but doesn’t help much
- Cian: Hoyt’s brother — a centuries-old vampire who listens to Nine Inch Nails while flying his private airplane
- Lilith: An ancient vampire queen who’s got black hair, red lips, and wants to rule the world
- Glenna: A red-headed NYC Wiccan witch in a little black dress
- Blair: A kick-butt female vampire hunter who can fell three vampires while changing her tire and says almost nothing that’s not sarcastic
- Moira: A princess from Gael who must save her people and her land from evil
- Larkin: A handsome shape-changer who might have been interesting in another novel
With a cast like that, it sounds like there would be, at least, plenty of action… Not so. Vampires occasionally and suddenly appear out of nowhere, scrap a bit, and retreat. But most of the plot of Morrigan’s Cross is focused on the relationship between Hoyt and Glenna who suddenly decide that, after knowing each other for about two weeks, they “complete” each other and must be married. They spend most of their time making the lights surge while they’re in bed, and arguing (a lot) about how Hoyt wants Glenna to stay safe in the house. Occasionally they work on trying to figure out how to fight vampires.
There were some other disappointing plot elements. For example, Hoyt has travelled from the 12th century to the 21st and keeps brooding about what’s going to happen to him and his family and if he’ll succeed in his task to vanquish the vampires. Cian (his brother) tells him that he (Hoyt) becomes a legend in their family history. Basically Hoyt says “oh” and doesn’t think to ask what he’s so legendary for. Might there not be a clue there??
Most disappointing, though, is the arbitrary nature of the magic. It’s as if Roberts doesn’t realize that fantasy readers demand a consistent, well-planned system of magic. Hoyt and Jenna show us a few remarkable displays of power (rose petals appear out of nowhere while they’re in bed), but then seem to forget who they are at other times.
At one point, they have to melt down Hoyt’s mother’s favorite candle-sticks (now centuries old) to get the silver they need to fashion crosses (I won’t even get into the weird religious inconsistencies). Yet Glenna finds a wedding dress at NeimanMarcus.com and says a little charm (“As I will, so mote it be”) which puts the dress directly on her body. When Blair asks (at the end of the novel) if that method might work to acquire the weapons they’ve been wondering how to get, Glenna says “I suppose it would.” Aaarrrrggghhhh!
Perhaps the strangest thing is that the whole story has a narrator who’s telling the tale (filled with explicit sex and blood-drinking vampires) to a bunch of young children sitting around the fire on a rainy day. Weird.
I won’t be downloading the other two books in The Circle Trilogy.
The Circle — (2006) Publisher: As a storm rages, the tale begins… of a powerful vampire’s lust for destruction — and of the circle of six charged by the goddess Morrigan to stop her… A battle is brewing between the forces of good and evil — a war that will be fought across the planes of time — as Lilith, the most powerful vampire in the world, gathers her dark minions around her. The goddess Morrigan rises up to stop her — and with her, a circle of six…