You had me scared there for a while, Nora, but you came through. Just in a way that was different from what I was expecting.
Have you ever picked up a book by an author you love and when you start reading it you keep having to remind yourself that said author wrote it? That was what I struggled with at the beginning of this book. Yes, the writing style I had come to love was still undoubtedly present. There’s just something about Nora’s prose that always resonates with me. As I’ve stated in previous reviews of her work, Nora’s novel’s are like a bubble bath for my brain; they’re what I turn to when I’m stressed or sick or just in the mood for comfort.
So, when I started reading Year One, I was thrown for a bit of a loop. Yes, I read the synopsis and knew it was going to be different for her, but I failed to comprehend just how different it would be. I was getting the prose I love, but with a plot that honestly hearkened back to Stephen King’s The Stand more than any other book I’ve ever read. Now, The Stand is one of my favorite books of all time. But reading something so similar to it in the voice of my comfort author made for some severe cognitive dissonance right out of the gate.
However, once I got adjusted to the bleakness of the plot and accepted the fact that Nora would actually be killing off an insane amount of characters for her, I really appreciated the story. Again, this book bore a remarkable resemblance to The Stand, but in no way felt derivative of the aforementioned novel. Where King’s plague was developed by science and the aftermath proved to be a spiritual battleground, Nora’s plague was rooted in magic, as was the aftermath.
Seeing people learn for the first time that they are witches or elves or fairies, while they are struggling to deal with the fallout of a plague that wipe out massive amounts of the population, was a truly unique twist on the apocalyptic plague storyline that has been so popular for the past decade or so. And seeing those people choose sides, joining either the Light or the Dark, was a study in human nature. As was the reaction of normal humans who survived the Doom (as it’s called) to these magical beings, termed the Uncanny.
One of my favorite things about The Stand was witnessing survivors finding each other and trying to rebuild society in the small community they created. That same societal rebuilding was present here, and it was a joy to read after the horror and darkness of the Doom. That’s not to say that there was no more darkness; darkness can find its way in through the smallest of cracks. But watching our various main characters meet up and begin rebuilding was a beautiful testament to the resilience of mankind. And while darkness may on occasion win a battle, light will always win the war.
This was the first volume of a new trilogy, and I’m interested to see how the rest plays out. Nora has been taking her work in a vastly different direction, turning slightly aside from the feel-good stories she’s become known for and instead digging into current issues and hard topics, raising questions and shining light into darkness. At least, this is what I gather from the books she released the past few years, as well as those slated for publication soon. I might not agree with the spirituality presented in the majority of her novels, but I do agree with the worldview: even in the darkest of times, there is always hope. I’m looking forward to seeing how far she takes this new approach, even though I’m still trying to adjust to it.
While I’m not comfortable with the change yet, and I mourn the change just a little, I really respect the willingness to try a new direction in spite of having such a large fan base so used to (and expectant of) a certain type of book. Also, for the first time in her career, Nora has published a book without a central romance, which I think it incredibly gutsy. Upon my second reading, I’m still blown away by the risks Nora took with this book, and how well those risks paid off. Because of her dedication to her craft after writing over 200 books, I’ll always be a die-hard fan. Thank you for stretching your wings, Nora, and for sharing the story. I can’t wait for the next installment!
Review originally written December 2017.
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