Review: “Year One,” Nora Roberts

Pros: Combines several now-popular end-days structures and takes them further
Cons: Jonah should have seen an attack coming
Rating: 5 out of 5

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.

The opening line of Nora Roberts’s Year One: Chronicles of the One, Book 1 hooked my attention and kept me riveted. The original ‘biological event’ that kills billions of people builds up immediately, sparing no one no matter how much effort Roberts has put into a character. It’s quick and brutal, leading also into the survivalism phase of the story. Where some get entire trilogies out of just these two phases, Roberts blazes through them. She knows she has other fish to fry. We get into a tale of community-building, which is something I’ve seen less often, so it kept me interested. Just when we’re expecting to walk through all the positives and negatives of world-building, two things go to hell. The magic level ratchets up (yes, magic–I’ll come back to that in a minute) and an attack on our burgeoning community sends a key character spinning off on her own, trying to find a place where she can safely give birth to her prophesied baby.

Unlike most other tales of the end of the world, this one has magic. Fairies, witches, sorcerers, good magic, bad magic, small magics, huge magics… it’s all there. Some people appreciate these people’s newly-hatched abilities (especially when we’re talking healing, or encouraging food plants to grow!) while others blame the magical folks, who are all immune to the disease, for its ravages. Many people believe the “Uncannys” caused the plague, even though most of them had no idea they were anything unusual until the plague came along and triggered their skills or physical alterations. The magic is what makes the story of Year One different from so many otherwise similar stories of the end times coming upon us.

As usual for Roberts, she paints wonderful characters. Whether it’s a fairy scavenging junk food for her friends, a reporter who went from nobody to somebody as everyone between her and the main desk died, a paramedic who sees people’s injuries or deaths in their faces, or a Wiccan who suddenly finds she can light candles with her mind and throw force from her hands in times of need, everyone feels like a potential main character. I did feel like the savage raiders were a bit cliche until we finally find out more about what’s behind them. I’m happy that not all of the good guys are Uncannys and vice versa–there are plenty of good ‘normal’ humans and plenty of evil Uncannys. The one problem I had is that since we have an Uncanny named Jonah who can see people’s deaths coming (even if they’re not going to suffer a natural death), we should have had warning of a major attack on the community. He should have seen upcoming injuries and deaths in people’s faces.

I’m having trouble waiting for book two–this is why I prefer to wait to read a book until the whole series is out!

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