I know of no medicine better than a Nora Roberts book. Whenever I’m feeling down or overwhelmed or just in need of something comforting, her books are always a welcoming escape. The Awakening, the first installment in her newest series, is no exception. If the rest of the Dragon Heart Legacy is as great as The Awakening, it promises to be one of her best.
“You have to look to find. You have to ask to have the answers. You have to awaken to become.”
In recent years, Nora has been taking more and more risks with her work. She’s been writing about weightier topics, departing from the formula she’d adhered to for so many novels, and diving further into the fantasy genre. All of these changes absolutely delight me. While there’s a part of me that misses the predictability, as it was part of the the draw and comfort of her work, I have so much respect for the risks she’s taking and the ways in which she is stretching herself.
“You have to work to have peace, and there are times you have to fight for it.”
In this novel, Nora really highlights her strengths: characterization and strong sense of place. Breen, our main character, grows tremendously over the course of the book. And her supporting cast is simply delightful. There are a lot of musicians in this novel, and the way Nora portrays music was, as it always is, moving and true. I loved getting to know this cast, and I can’t wait to see how they develop over the next two books.
“An instrument was a garden, needed love, needed tending.”
My very favorite element of the story is the setting. We actually have three main settings here: Philadelphia, Ireland, and the fictional Talamh. All three settings are vibrant and well fleshed out, but there’s something about Ireland that just shines. I’m not sure how many novels Nora has written that are set at least in part in Ireland, but I’d say there are at least a couple dozen or so. You can tell that Ireland holds an incredible appeal for her, and her love for it comes through brilliantly in each of those aforementioned books. Reading one of her stories set on the Emerald Isle is my favorite way to travel when traveling is impossible. Because of Nora, Ireland is the top bucket list destination for every woman in my family. The way she paints the setting with her words is nothing short of stunning. I can always close my eyes and see just exactly what she’s described, and it’s always lovely.
“If you fail, well, greatness rises from first failures.”
The fantasy elements in this story are so much fun. For the most part, they are elements she has utilized in past novels, but the parallel worlds motif is a new one for her, and it adds some resonance to the rest. There’s magic, and fairies, and dragons, and more. I feel like these elements will be further explored in the next installment, and I’m beyond excited.
“If you rock no boat, you never end up in the water to see where the waves might take you.”
One way in which this book differs greatly from most of Nora’s novels is that it ends on a cliffhanger. I’m never a fan of such endings, but it definitely packed a punch. Thankfully, I know I won’t have to wait forever for the next book. Nora’s work ethic is insane, and I can’t remember once in my adult life when a book wasn’t published on the date she promised. Because she’s so dependable, I feel pretty secure in the belief that I won’t have to wait more than a year to see what happens next.
“I’ve learned that life, a good one, is about love, about standing up for yourself and others, about generosity, about giving back.”
I had a wonderful time reading The Awakening, and discussing it with my mom and grandmother as we all read it together. Even if it’s not my new favorite book, there’s nothing quite as soothing and captivating as diving into the writing of Nora Roberts when the real world is so far from perfect. This novel met all of my expectations, and I have a feeling it’s just going to get better when I revisit it next year.
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