Pros: Fantastic approach to a wonderful premise; incredible characters and relationships; wonderful dialogue
Cons: I imagine some people might want a higher action-to-talk ratio
Rating: 5 out of 5
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Blood Brothers is the first book in Nora Roberts’s Sign of Seven trilogy. I ended up reading the second book first (The Hollow), and had to immediately run to the store to pick up book one. While book two was wholly readable on its own, there were definitely some pieces missing (the trilogy is clearly meant to be read in order), and I just had to follow the whole story from the beginning.
The basic premise of Blood Brothers sounds intriguing and fascinating, but not altogether unusual: Three boys, Cal, Fox, and Gage, accidentally release 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. When the week is over, most people don’t remember much of what happened. The three do their best to protect their town, but the demon’s getting more powerful—and they’re fighting a losing battle.
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. Desperate for a new perspective, he agrees to her request. 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 seem to share an odd connection to the town, the demon, and the men—who soon realize they have no choice but to share their knowledge in the hopes of defeating the demon.
That’s where any resemblance to other demon-haunting books I’ve seen ends. Other books would focus on the details of the demon’s attacks on the town, the ‘infection’ and madness, suicides, rapes, assaults, murders. Instead, while these come up now and then, they aren’t the focus of the book. After all, that’s been done before (I can’t help thinking of Douglas Clegg’s The Abandoned, which wasn’t even half as good). Instead, Blood Brothers is as much a mystery as it is a horror novel.
You could say that this series was written for those of us who chuckle every time we read one of those ‘lessons learned from a horror movie’ emails that goes around, or who swear when the girl in the horror movie freaks out and runs straight into the bad guy’s arms. It’s for all of us who want to know why the good guy imprisoned the bad guy centuries ago, risking release centuries later, rather than eliminating him. It’s for all of us who get frustrated with horror characters that run around getting mown down by evil rather than fighting back.
When the demon tries to drive the women away from the town they’ve been drawn to, they don’t run away. They decide it’s time to find out why things are happening they way they are and how to end them. The whole group goes into research mode, interviewing Cal’s 97-year-old great-grandmother, reading the journals of an ancestor, consulting with experts on demonology in Europe, figuring out the women’s connection to the town, and trudging out to the Pagan Stone in the forest where everything started.
This being a Nora Roberts book, characterization is beautiful, and key to the story. Every character is fascinating and unique, from Cal and Quinn (the foreground characters in Blood Brothers) to Cal’s extended web of relatives and acquaintances, and yes, even his dog. I’ve often wondered how Ms. Roberts can keep up such entertaining and fun descriptions and dialogue for book after book; it feels as though she writes them with every bit as much joy and mirth as radiates from the lines she’s written. I had to struggle not to keep quoting lines to my husband as I read:
“Is your dog in a coma?” Quinn asked when the dog didn’t move a muscle.
“No. Lump leads an active and demanding internal life that requires long periods of rest.”
There’s also a strong element of romance to the plot, and yes, sex, although it isn’t incredibly explicit. It’s a little hard to describe if you aren’t familiar with Nora Roberts’s writing, but she has an amazing knack for employing metaphors and euphemistic description that avoids being incredibly explicit yet doesn’t fall into eye-rolling giggle-inducing ‘rod of love’ territory.
Blood Brothers is part horror/paranormal, part mystery, part romance, and all amazing. Due to the research angle I imagine there are some people who might find it too ‘talky’ if that isn’t what they’re in the mood for. However, the plot & background are so fascinating as they get teased apart, and the characters and their dialogue so interesting, that I daresay as long as you aren’t specifically in the mood for something else, you’ll get quite a charge from this engrossing story.