September 3, 2012

book review: sign of seven trilogy

Ancestry, blood and love create a bond strong enough to go up against an ancient evil force in Nora Roberts Signs of Seven trilogy: Blood Brothers, The Hollow and The Pagan Stone.

Caleb, Fox and Gage have been linked before their birth on the same day, July 7. In honor of their mutual tenth birthday, the boys hike to the Pagan Stone, a legendary marker in the woods near their hometown, which is rumored to have mystical powers. The boys holds a makeshift ceremony to make themselves blood brothers. Instead of giving them the link they hoped, they unlock an evil power, which has been dormant more than 300 years.

As a result, every seven years, on the seventh day of the seventh month, the dark demon takes over the town of Hawkins Hollow for seven days, causing the locals to inexplicably turn on each other -- arson, murder, rape and more during an event dubbed the Seven. In the months preceding the Seven of their 31st birthday, the three men sense this year will be even worse and stronger than in years past. This year, the fight will be over, win or lose.

Quinn, Layla and Cybil, three women with ancestry linking back to the last series of events 300 years before, arrive in the town and join the men in their battle against the demon. While fighting against the force, the three pairs of men and women must put their trust in each others hands. Along the way, those feelings develop into more. With love involved the stakes are even higher as their final confrontation with the evil approaches.

Blood Brothers
In Blood Brothers, Quinn, a journalist and novelist, arrives in Hawkins Hollow to research a novel about the Seven. Cal, a local first son, takes on the responsibility of chaperoning her during the visit. Though Gage has moved away from the town and does not appear until later in the book, Cal and Fox have stayed behind and think an outsider's opinion might enable them to find a resolution to the evil threatening their home.

Attracted to each other almost immediately, Quinn and Cal have healthy skepticism of each other. Both have secrets, and it takes time for them to build trust in each other. They find a connection deeper than their physical and emotional. Both have the ability to see flashes of the past. By working together, they are able to piece together key moments of history, which might help them handle the present and future.

The Hollow
In Book One, Layla is drawn to Hawkins Hollow after a series of dreams plague her. After finding her past connection to the community, she rearranges her life to stay and help her new friends fight this force. In The Hollow, she builds a deeper connection to Fox, the small-town lawyer with a big heart, but one that has been hurt in the past.

Like Quinn and Cal, Layla and Fox share a deeper link. Both are able to sense the emotions and thoughts of people and elements of their future. While they combine their abilities to find key pieces of information, the two also find themselves falling for each other. Both have aspects of their past to overcome before they can decide their future.

The Pagan Stone
Both Cybil and Gage came to town to help their friends. Initially, Cybil's involvement is one of interest and Gage one of loyalty. In The Pagan Stone, they find their alliance goes deeper -- especially after they give into their physical attraction to each other.

Initially, neither has any interest in strings or attachments, but before long they grow as do their commitment to the town, their friends and each other. With their mutual ability to see the projected future, the possibilities, they hope to find an answer to their main question: How can they beat the demon? Both will have to make sacrifices neither anticipated if they want to protect what matters most in their lives.

Filled with a great blend of suspense and romance, these books kept me up at night. Not only did I have a hard time putting the books down, but they messed with my dreams. Without spoiling plot elements, I will just say that a few of the visions the demon gives to terrorize the six heroes found their way into my dreams. Gross and scary.

The main characters were also great. I have read enough Roberts novels now that I can instantly tell which role each will take (the pillar of the community with edge, the sensitive dreamer, the bad boy returning after years away, etc.) and who they will end up with. By no means is this a deterrent for me, but something I take comfort in predicting. What was great about this particular trilogy was that the characters pointed out the trend of their pairing off and poked fun at it.

Out of the three women, I found I most related to Quinn. She had a good blend of sass and sarcasm, thinks like a journalist and writer (because she is and I am, too), constantly obsesses about dietary lifestyle changes to watch a slim figure (or in my case, get one) and generally handles emotions the way I do, too. For that reason, I was instantly drawn to Cal, too. While it was great for me to connect so deeply to characters right away in the trilogy, it also made me nervous to read the other books. What if I did not like them as well as the first?

Fortunately for me, my connection and self projection to the original couple did not keep me from enjoying the second and third any less. Instead, I found I enjoyed them much the way I would the stories of my closest friends. I love Nora's ability to make me connect with characters and see them as part of my life.

Aside from the main characters, I enjoyed the locals and family members in the book. Roberts' secondary characters always add flavor and solid development to the stories.

I have enjoyed her other books set in fanciful worlds with ghosts, Gods, demons or other mystical forces. She somehow manages to create these other places that, though fictional, do not seem wholly impossible. This one was good, giving just enough explanation to make sense, while still leaving some mystery. Believe it or not, I am not someone who needs an answer to every question (Like, where did these good and evil forces come from in the first place?), just how they are going to solve the problem.

Though these books came out four or five years ago, a friend gave them to me for Christmas year before last and I am ashamed to admit I let them sit that long. Had I known I would love them so much, I would have read them right away. But as someone who buys up and stocks Nora's books in bulk, it is not unusual for this to happen.

Roberts has earned her reputation as America's best romance novelist for a reason. The Sign of Seven trilogy supports it. She tells spins stories in a captivating way, which never leave me disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

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