Saturday, October 07, 2006
Nora Roberts’ Circle Trilogy—Books One & Two
I’m thinking there could be spoilers here. I don’t give away any twists, but I do share the basic plotline and character identities.
A foot race. This is the best I can come up with for a summary description of Morrigan’s Cross from Nora Roberts. It felt rushed. I felt rushed reading it. Like there was so much for Roberts to ‘set up’ that she was simply not afforded the time to entertain.
It starts with a somber, medieval tone and a pace that is filled with dread—like a slow, tortured march to death. And it seems to go on like that for a good length. In this darkness, we meet the wizard Hoyt, the Goddess, Morrigan and Lilith, the evil that leads the vampires. We also learn of Cian, Hoyt’s twin turned by Lilith. A visit from Morrigan sets up the trilogy nicely. Hoyt is to gather a circle of six to battle Lilith, with the fate of all worlds at stake. From here, the reader can see how the trilogy will unfold.
But just as I was drawn into the images and vernacular, Roberts transports us to today’s New York, introducing three new characters with pivotal roles. With the change in setting, Roberts switches to a new vernacular and a lighter tone (cast by the internal dialogues of each new player). The time travel is not unexpected. And the lighter tone is not much more than the attitudinal difference between medieval times and the 21st century. Still, the change felt abrupt to me, jolting me out of the story a bit. Others may not experience the same disconnect.
In New York, we meet Cian in the vampire flesh, his right hand man, King, and Glenna, a modern day witch. Hoyt and Cian’s reunion is interesting, revealing the character of Cian in insightful glimpses. Left me wanting more. The introduction of King and Glenna felt too brief however, and their immediate acquiescence to Hoyt’s cause left me feeling shortchanged. We get background on each, but little time with them in person.
Remaining in the 21st century, the group relocates to a more suitable base of operations. Two more characters are introduced—first in their own POVs, in their own time. A short while later, they join the others in this century. Again, we get some background, that instant acquiescence and the story shifts forward. And again, Roberts’ move to assemble the circle feels rushed; the number of characters—introduced with no time to become acquainted—appears a tangled mess. I tried reading more slowly (don’t laugh), but remained on the outside looking in. Couldn’t get a real sense for any of these characters. Not even the couple at the center of this book’s romance.
Between more visits from Morrigan and Lilith, the characters (all of them) are attacked at every turn. This constant level of danger is critical to the storyline, yes. But it was exhausting and predictable. And, in one of those skirmishes, ALL of Roberts’ characters suffer the TSTL syndrome. It was unbelievable to me. Also, with the constant sword swinging, there was little time to get to know the characters. I harp on that, I know. But I’ve never read a book that left so little an imprint of its characters. There were simply too many in too short a time, IMO. That problem (for me) was compounded when yet another pivotal character is introduced—in their own POV—seemingly out of the blue. While this character—through identity—provides the neatest twist of the book, I was still annoyed by the last minute addition of yet another character I can only watch from a distance.
So clearly, Morrigan’s Cross fell short of my expectations. I liked the premise, saw promise in the characters—despite their number—and enjoyed Roberts’ voice (as I always do). However well written though, I found Morrigan’s Cross poorly constructed. The story ascends too quickly. And characters and readers are simply along for the too-fast ride. When I finished, I told a friend that this was a book that could have been two; a trilogy that would have been better served in five books.
Dance Of The Gods
Less than thrilled with the first book, I was still compelled to read book two. I chalk that up to wanting another chance at getting to know these characters. I’m glad I did. Dance Of The Gods was much, much better in that sense. Tossed together in Morrigan’s Cross, all of the characters are afforded more face time in book two. For the romance, this is pretty important, as these two characters were not much more than faces in book one. Roberts’ builds their romance slowly, playfully—peeling back layers on each until we connect and begin rallying for them. I was relieved. Happy to finally be drawn into the circle, developing an attachment to each member that will keep me tuned to the rest of the story.
I also enjoyed the pace—the space between battles, the breathing room for banter and the time to absorb the weight of fate’s dictate. In book two, Roberts lets us ‘live’ with the characters. It is what I missed in book one and what I fear will be lost in book three—sure to be the action-filled scene of the final battle.
To avoid spoilers, I’m not inclined to reveal even the identity of this book’s ‘couple’. Nor spend more than a few words on pivotal events. Here are the few words: In preparation for the battle, the circle is transported back to medieval time—where the battle will take place.
To share more of the book’s tone however, I will share a laugh out loud passage featuring the trilogy’s driest wit—Cian. This follows a simple request from Glenna, asking him to drop off a tray of tea and cookies to Moira in the library.
Copyright © 2006 by Nora Roberts:
He hefted the tray, muttering to himself as he left the kitchen. “I’m a vampire, for God’s sake. Creature of the damn night, drinker of blood. And here I am playing butler to some erstwhile Geallian queen. Mortifying is what it is.”