Fantasy Book Review: The Awakening by Nora Roberts

Fantasy Book Review

Dragon emblem suspended between city and forest
The Awakening
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication Date: Nov. 24 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genres: Epic Fantasy
ShelvesFemale-authored, Female-fronted

Despite having read her Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy and a handful of Eve Dallas novels over the years, it was Chronicles of The One that put Nora Roberts back on my radar, leading me to The Awakening and my first experience with her as a fantasy author. In case there’s any doubt, she nails this just like everything else to which she puts her pen.

This is a magical portal fantasy, complete with a Chosen One trope, but it’s more a story of family (born and found) than the romance readers may be expecting. With these kinds of stories I’m usually itching to get into the fantasy realm, to put aside the contemporary world with which we’re so familiar, but here I was quite content to linger with best (gay) friend Marco, drag queen mother Sally, and the rest of the gang from Sally’s bar. Contrasted with Breen’s real mother and absent father, the found family there is absolutely wonderful.

Of course, as we soon discover, her extended family of aunts and grandmothers and cousins aren’t lost . . . just hidden, living out their lives in Talamh, a Celtic inspired land that’s home to fairies, elves, witches, dragons, and (yes) magical swords lying in lakes. It is there that Breen comes to understand the dual meaning of the book’s title, The Awakening, which refers both to her awakening from dreams of home and awakening to the true potential of her power and her destiny. As much as I loved her, though, I never quite warmed up to Keegan, epic hero and intended love interest. There’s potential there, and I’m curious to see how Roberts explores that relationship in future books, but I think my problem is that Marco casts such a shadow that I had trouble seeing any other man as worthy of Breen.

If I had one (albeit minor) complaint about the book it would be the pacing. There’s a lot of character development and world-building here, but not a lot of actual plot development. Momentous conflicts are teased, with the ground established for portal fantasy to become epic, but this does feel more like a prologue than a first book. That quibble aside, it was a well-written adventure and I am eager to see what Talamh has in store for Breen beyond The Awakening.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.