Pros: Fantastic approach; wonderful premise; in-depth characters and relationships; exciting ending to a great series
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Pagan Stone is book three of Nora Roberts’s Sign of Seven trilogy. Although the books can stand alone, they’re definitely meant to be read in order as one whole story, and I recommend that you start from the beginning. To recap with as few spoilers as possible, in Blood Brothers three boys, Cal, Fox, and Gage, accidentally released a demon on their tenth birthday. Every seven years thereafter, for seven days around their birthday, the demon haunts their town. It infects people with madness, causing them to harm and kill each other and themselves. The three do their best to protect their town, but the demon’s getting more powerful.
It’s been 21 years since they first released the demon. Quinn Black, a writer, has asked to interview Cal for her research into the ‘phenomena’ surrounding the Hollow. Before he can even talk to her, she glimpses the demon—and as far as he knows, she’s the first person outside of their group of three to do so. Soon she’s joined by another outsider, Layla, and Quinn’s friend Cybil. All three share an odd connection to the town, the demon, and the men.
Blood Brothers focused on Quinn and Cal’s connection and the initial steps in researching the phenomenon. The Hollow related Fox and Layla’s story. The six friends dug deeper in the course of their research, finding out more about their ancestors and about fate’s plan for them. In The Pagan Stone, Cybil and Gage have little interest in meekly following the obvious pattern and becoming romantically involved. They’re both fierce individualists, dedicated wanderers, who detest the idea of white picket fences and 2.8 children. Sure, they’re attracted to each other and maybe even willing to act on that attraction, but romance? Uh-uh.
The demon is becoming more powerful as July seventh approaches, and it’s desperate to prevent the six from stopping it. It knows Cybil and Gage’s part in the unfolding drama approaches, and it’ll do anything it can to prevent it. The group doesn’t even know how to use their most potent weapons, and there’s a town full of unsuspecting people to protect.
Or is there? Not everyone is as blind to the danger as they seem, and the group has more help than they imagined they would. The demon can do horrible things to people, but it doesn’t really understand them, which gives them an edge. And when it comes down to it, as much as Gage and Cybil might revere their independence, there’s nothing saying they couldn’t be independent together…
There are so many things I love about this series. It isn’t a full-bore atmospheric horror series, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll want to look elsewhere. However, it has so much else to recommend it! There is definitely a certain amount of blood, gore, violence, etc.; it just isn’t the focus.
The characters are first-rate. They have a ton of depth and dimension, and each one is unique. Each couple in the series has its own chemistry and pace, and I never felt as though I was simply reading a rehashed formula from the previous books. The sparks truly fly, and the sex sizzles. Cybil and Gage have a very different relationship from either Cal and Quinn or Fox and Layla, but it’s no less enjoyable to experience.
I love the research angle. Readers looking primarily for action or gore might find it too talky, but it’s so fresh to see characters who, when confronted with a horror-movie setting, don’t simply rush headlong into things. I love watching them research the history of the demon, figure out how to fight it using magic, symbology, strategy, and psychology, and execute their plans with strength, intelligence, and humanity. It’s a relief to see the typical unknowing masses turn out not to be sheep after all, but capable of participating in their own rescue.
In The Pagan Stone, we inevitably end up confronting Gage and Cybil’s pasts and personal demons. One of those is Bill Turner, Gage’s father, who is an alcoholic and who beat his son as Gage was growing up. I was incredibly relieved and impressed with the manner in which this relationship was handled. Suffice it to say, there are no easy answers or pat resolutions.
All in all, an entirely worthy conclusion to the trilogy!