When I first heard about Nora Robert’s new book YearOne I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Years ago I went through a Nora Roberts reading stage where I devoured all her romantic suspense novels but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of her books. When I heard that this book was a departure from her usual romance stories and was about a killer virus taking out billions of people and leaving a dystopian wasteland in its wake, I was even more intrigued.
I was then lucky enough to win a proof copy from Good Reading magazine and Hachette Australia but I would have bought this book otherwise.
Year One starts with a riveting opening:
“When Ross MacLeod pulled the trigger and brought down the pheasant, he had no way of knowing he’d killed himself. And billions of others…”
As the world’s population rapidly depletes, a new order rises. People who had previously had slight magical impulses now grow into their power, revealing all sorts of beings from witches to fairies to shapeshifters and elves. Some normal humans survive as well. But for every good Uncanny (as they call the magical people) and for every good human, there are plenty of bad people who want to kill and let chaos reign.
The story follows quite a lot of different characters as they leave New York in search of other people and safety. The cast of characters grows and was at times hard to keep up with. But the scenario is intriguing and a bit different from the normal zombie apocalypse dystopian route. There are no zombies in this book!
Reading a Nora Robertsbook is like sitting down for a chat with a really good friend. You know it’s going to be entertaining; you know there will be a juicy story or two in there; and it leaves you feeling pleasantly satisfied.
Nora never lets me down. I know I’m going to get a plot which involves either a female or male protagonist with issues. The woman will be feisty and independent, yet vulnerable in some way. The man will be ruggedly handsome and instantly attracted to the woman – not without some angst. The story will be set in small town, beautiful America somewhere. The characters will cook a lot, eat a lot, fight a lot, make-up a lot, resolve a life-or-death situation, and there is usually a cute dog thrown in there as well. And it always ends with all the problems and issues resolved and happily ever after.
This is not a criticism. Nora is a fantastic storyteller and I keep on buying her books because I know what I’m going to get. In Nora’s latest book – The Witness – it’s the female protagonist, Abigail Lowery, who has issues. At the age of sixteen she witnesses a double-homicide carried out by the Russian mafia. She goes into protective custody and when her safe house is no longer safe, she runs … and keeps on running. The interesting thing about this character is that she is socially awkward and brilliantly gifted à la Lisbeth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (though not quite as messed up). She has an eidetic memory and can even computer hack her way into FBI records.
The love interest, Brooks Gleason, is the small town Chief of Police. He is intrigued by this woman who arrived in town a year ago and keeps to herself. He decides that despite her rudeness, social ineptness, and her complete lack of interest in him or anyone else in the town that she is the woman for him – and he pursues her relentlessly. (Where is this guy in real life? Note to self: move to a small town near the Ozarks, Arkansas, and act weird to attract a hot cop’s attention.) Will he learn the truth about her terrible past? Or will she run again?
There are other richly constructed characters populating the pages, a Russian mafia back-story and some other twists and turns. Oh, and of course there is a cute dog!
Nora Roberts may never win any Booker Prizes from the literary powers that be, but damn does she know how to construct characters and write believable dialogue. Perhaps after writing more than 190 books (according to the publisher’s website), her stories can sometimes feel a bit déjà vu to fans, but she always pleases. That’s why she has sold millions of books! If you want a good read with a smattering of suspense and a large dollop of romance, you’ll enjoy this book. I know I did.