Serena’s Review: “The Awakening”

Book: “The Awakening” by Nora Roberts

Publishing Info: November 24, 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley

Book Description: When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.

This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…

Review: I read a few of Nora Roberts’s more traditional romances back in the day (way, way back in the day, now that I think about it). But I know that she’s written a lot of books in other genres, too, most notably, perhaps, mysteries. I’ve also seen that she’s released more fantasy novels recently, and having missed the “Year One” trilogy when it was coming out, I thought I’d jump on the first book in a new fantasy series she started up this fall. And so, I nabbed an e-ARC of ‘The Awakening.” Sadly, it wasn’t all that I was hoping it would be.

Breen has lived a simple life full of doing what is expected of her and not expecting much in return. But when she discovers that her mother has been keeping a massive secret from her, a massive 4 million dollars worth secret, Breen decides that enough is enough and it’s time to take control of her life. And the first thing she decides to do is to travel to Ireland, the homeland of the father who left home never to return when she was a child. But she discovers much more than a new country, instead finding herself in a completely new land and one that comes with a destiny for her even greater than she had ever imagined.

To start with the pros for this book, there’s simply no denying that Roberts has a very appealing and approachable style of writing. She’s able to deftly paint a picture of all kinds of locations and peoples and immediately create connections between the reader and her story. These strengths were particularly on display in the opening chapter of this book that is set in the fantasy world. I was quickly drawn in and curious to know more about Keegan and the history of his people and land.

Unfortunately, the strengths of this opening chapter made the switch to Breen’s story land with quite a thud. For one thing, Breen simply isn’t the most exciting character. Yes, that is part of her story, her learning to come more into her own. But it’s still a long slog through the thoughts and actions of a character who is bland to the extreme. It got to the point where I was even beginning to be frustrated by the friends around her who were all described as being great people. It’s almost a constant stream of support and encouragement from everyone around her to the point that A.) the friends are almost unbelievable in their goodness and B.) Breen’s complete inability to expect better for herself and have confidence without all of this validation becomes strange.

I also felt that some of these friendships fell into pretty stereotypical patterns. Her friend, Marco, read as the “gay best friend” straight out of the early 2000s. He’s right there telling her to update her wardrobe and reclaim her natural hair color, etc etc. It felt a little shallow and dated, to be honest. And then she starts a blog, which of course immediately takes off and she has a bunch of followers and has found a natural ability in writing. Which…don’t even get me started on that. Obviously, being a writer and blogger myself, this raised some serious eyebrows on my part. I mean, I have an easier time believing in a magical land of dragons and fairies than that someone started a random travel blog and somehow immediately has thousands of followers reading and commenting.

The story got better when she finally makes her way to the new land, but it was a bit too late for me. It took a long, long time for her to even get there, and by the time she does, I was already struggling too much with Breen herself to really redeem the book for me. I did like the romance and fantasy elements when we go there, though. This is the first book in a trilogy, but I’m still unsure whether I’ll keep on with it. Fans of Nora Roberts will probably like this, but it could have been better, in my opinion.

Rating 6: A decent fantasy story, but the main character dragged it down.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Awakening” is a newer title, so it isn’t on many relevant Goodreads lists, but it is on Books with parallel world.

Find “The Awakening” at your library using WorldCat!

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