There’s something about a culmination that makes me hesitate. Whether it’s a fear that the ending won’t live up to my expectation or a desire for the journey to never end, it leaves me inclined to never finish anything. Not in life, mind you; I’m incredibly dependable and the opposite of a procrastinator when it comes to reality. But when it comes to entertainment, I’d rather let the story live on unfinished in my mind than risk a final chapter that sours something I grew to love. Constant Readers of Stephen King can relate, I’m sure; though I love his work, the endings are rarely satisfying. However, there are some authors I always trust to really deliver with their endings, and Nora Roberts is high up on that list. She knows how to stick the landing every single time. The Rise of Magicks is no exception, and has actually shot this series into my list of best loved series of all time, alongside The Kingkiller Chronicle and The Stormlight Archive.
“Loss can shake faith if you let it, and the dark gloats when faith seeps out with loss.”
Chronicles of the One is, in ways, radically different from anything else Nora has ever penned. For one thing, she very rarely kills off characters, much less 80% of the world’s population. But not only did she launch the planet into a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions, she also took a pretty hefty risk by killing off a central character in the first book. While this might seem pretty par for the course for fantasy fans, remember that Nora has, until recent years, been first and foremost a romance author, whose audience expected happily ever afters in the final pages of any book she penned. Even I had a hard time accepting that radical choice, and I read plenty of fantasy and horror. I suppose I was thrown off because Nora was my ultimate source of comfort reading for a decade. She’s added some incredible depth to her work over the past few years, but I just wasn’t quite ready for what I found in the pages of Year One. At least, I wasn’t the first time around. On my second read-through, my cognitive dissonance was replaced with a ton of respect and a genuine love for the story Nora was telling. By my third time through, Year One had become one of my favorite books. Both of the following installments cemented that love.
“The other, the not-like-me, would always spark hate in some hearts.”
In other ways, Chronicles of the One is merely a final draft of the story Nora has been telling for years: magic finds its way to a group of friends or family or strangers destined to become both, and those who use magic for good must battle back the dark, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. While never derivative, it’s a story that Nora has told before, and told well. You can tell that it is her center, a belief that magic lies just beneath the surface and that those who wield it for light will always triumph over the darkness. However, that triumph never comes without blood, sweat, and tears. One of my favorite elements of any Nora novel or series is her portrayal of idyllic families and communities, while also showing how much hard work went into building them and goes into maintaining them. In all of her stories, the central characters find their passion, be it art or carpentry or baking or bookselling or defending others in a court of law, and how hard they work at said passion. The same goes for any practitioner of magic; nothing worthwhile comes freely or even easily. I love how much emphasis she puts on giving whatever path you’ve found for yourself absolutely every ounce of effort you have. And I love how, no matter how long and hard the fight, that good will always triumph over evil in everything she writes.
“I can’t lean on you until I’m sure I can stand on my own.”
There’s very little I can say about the actual book itself without spoiling it. So I’ll say that it was a perfect conclusion, both for romance fans and fantasy fans. There were a multitude of battles and strategic preparations and war councils, but there was also love and humor and the culmination of a romance that had been building since the involved parties were born. Nora perfectly balanced fate and free will in regards to both the war and the romance, and I think she handled both beautifully. For those who are fantasy fans and not lovers of the romance genre, don’t worry; the romance in the book never takes over the plot even as it becomes vitally linked to it. The entire trilogy was handled in such a way that I truly believe that fantasy fans will love it should they give it a chance.
“Then again, love’s a victory… Without it, all the battles mean nothing.”
If you can’t tell, I loved everything about not only this book, but the trilogy it concluded. I wish I could say more about the character development and the magic and the scope without fearing that I’d inadvertently spoil the story in some way, but suffice it to say that I couldn’t have been more satisfied. In fact, upon finishing the book I did something I’ve thought about but never actually done in my entire life: when I finished the last page, I decided to read it again. I went with the audio version the second time through as Julia Whelan did such a brilliant job with the first two, and I loved going that route when I decided to reread them in preparation of this book’s publication. And I loved every minute of both reading experiences. All of Nora’s books are fabulous in print, and this trilogy was no exception. But there’s something about her writing that lends itself incredibly well to audiobooks. There’s a cadence, a distinctive and lovely rhythm to her prose that is absolutely enchanting when read aloud by a talented narrator.
“Now I’ve looked… And I see. The treasures, the dreams, the dangers, the glorious diversity of the world and those who live in it. She’s a generous mother who offers all we need, and she’s a child who needs our tending and care.”
I can’t recommend this series highly enough to everyone, no matter your preferred genres. If you’re a fantasy fan, please don’t let the fact that Nora is a “romance” author deter you. The woman can seriously write. Her world building, and lore weaving, and character development are all absolutely stellar. And for someone fairly new to the game, her battle scenes were completely gripping. If you’re already a longtime Nora fan, and are hesitant to pick this up because of the darkness of theme and plot, please give it a try anyway. You already know that you’re in good hands; trust her to get you through a radically different story in such a way that you’ll be completely won over by the final pages. (Side note: my grandmother devoured this series and isn’t a fantasy fan. Chronicles of the One, written by one of her favorite authors, opened her up to reading more fantasy. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.) This trilogy is truly something special. It’s among my top ten series I’ve ever read. In my whole life. Now I have to face the difficult decision of which books to move from my favorites shelf in my living room so that Chronicles of the One can take its rightful place among them.
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