Year One by Nora Roberts


Year One by Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (419 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed―and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magick rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river―or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Get ready to read something unlike anything you’ve read by Nora Roberts before. I hadn’t even read the blurb before I picked up a copy of Year One and so had no preconceived notions of what I should expect. I’m really glad of that, though I will say that this book starts a trilogy that’s completely different from her previous works. It’s not romance, not really, though there are obviously relationships in the story and it’s not her typical annual trilogy following sets of people (either three or four women and men) who have some goal to reach and end up falling in love on the way.

Now that I’ve said what this book isn’t, let me tell you what it is. It’s fairly dark and depressing, and after the initial near-extinction of the human race, a battle of good and evil begins that is exceptionally reminiscent of The Stand by Stephen King. The book starts by showing us the unleashing of evil, in the form of a plague that kills more than 5 billion people. Additionally, many of the immune develop unexpected powers (they become witches or fairies or shape-shifters or other paranormal beings). There are good and bad in both the “uncanny” and those without new powers. Just like anything else, how things are used depends on the character of those who use them.

The story follows a few groups of people who ultimately merge together. We have Max and Lana, two lovers who were already somewhat aware of their powers prior to Doom (the name given to the plague), but became exponentially more powerful after. Then there is Arlys, a TV reporter who does her best to honestly and factually report about the demise of humanity and the world as we know it. Next is Jonah and Rachel, an EMT and a doctor. Each begins the trek out of the city (New York) on their own, and each set of folks pick up others on their journey.

This is not an uplifting romance, or a tale with much that is light. There are pockets of happiness, but they are few and far between. The world is ending. Violence is on the rise. The uncanny are being hunted, tortured and murdered. Evil is growing. Despite the fact that dark stories are not usually my preferred reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. I was completely invested in the characters, especially Eddie and Jonah who really grabbed me by the heartstrings. I needed to see what happened to everyone–but be prepared, just as in real life, not everyone is going to make it to the end.

There is also “the one”… the person who will apparently be the one who can save the world. I honestly found this a tad corny and struggled with the idea, but am reserving judgment until the next book which I imagine will give me a chance to be a bit more accepting. I also didn’t like the character arc Ms. Roberts gave Lana. I want to avoid spoilers, but I found her behavior at the end (a change of heart, you might say) to be a bit difficult to believe.

I’ve heard from others that they didn’t even bother to read past the first few chapters because this isn’t a typical Nora Roberts book. While I wish they’d have given the book a little more of a chance, they’re right. I recommend you pick up this book not expecting that. Instead, just be prepared to be engaged. Don’t force your own preconceived notions about what the book should be, enjoy it for what it is. I certainly did and can’t wait to read the next in the series. I, for one, am glad to see Ms. Roberts spreading her wings a bit and endeavoring to not just churn out something usual or clichéd. Despite the darkness here, she still engaged me and did the one thing I think she does best: created characters that mattered to me. Ultimately, that’s why I read books and it’s one of her strongest abilities.

Grab a copy. Read it. Then let me know what you thought.

Comments

  1. Jillian Jacobs says:

    I’ve been contemplating this read after a friend was blown away by it. I think I’ll wait until all books in series are done then binge. Thanks.

  2. Diane Sallans says:

    I read an early copy from Goodreads. I’m a fan of Nora Roberts & JD Robb (mostly love the In Death series) – tho some of the more supernatural aspects of some her stories have not been my favorites. I found ‘Year One’ interesting & I will read the next installments in the series. There is only snippets of any romance in the book, but perhaps there will be more in the next books. There is her signature theme of ‘friend connections’ which I always enjoy.

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