Lately, instead of my usual heavy fantasy fare, I've been picking up light romances or fantasy romances to read. Jacqueline Carey's Agent of Hel trilogy was fun, and I go back and reread Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books because I like the characters so much. Ephemera is alright too and has a very interesting world concept. Another trilogy I go back to over and over again is Nora Robert's Key series; three women have to find a trio of magical keys to save three young souls from a power hungry god. Along the way they forge friendships, build a business and find true love (of course). My other fave series by her is The Three Sisters trilogy; both series have magic in common, though in Three Sisters the story literally centers around three women who are the reincarnation of three witches who have to fight an ancient evil sorcerer. There are a lot of rhyming phrases and white light references, very New-Age. In the Key books the three women have no magic of their own but their very humanity is their greatest strength as they battle their ancient evil sorcerer-god. Seeing a pattern?
The latest series I picked up is named after the three main characters, the Cousins O'Dwyer. Set in County Mayo, Ireland, I fell in love with the rich descriptions of the rolling green hills, lush forests, babbling rivers and local history. There are enough Irish phrases thrown in to know she did some research on the area, plus actual dialect, to make it feel real; that's important as the more truth to your fiction, the better your fiction! As usual we have a trio of important characters; Branna, Iona and Connor, each who must overcome their own challenges and find love in each book. All three are descended from the original Dark Witch of Mayo and are witches in their own right, and of course they're fighting an evil sorcerer from long ago that battled the first Dark Witch. If not for the setting this would read almost exactly like the Three Sisters trilogy, right down to a snarly fourth witch, a man to boot, who loves the selfless, most powerful and wise witch, Branna.Three Sisters has that exact dynamic too, except his power comes from a Selkie heritage and not the evil sorcerer they're fighting against.
Despite the charm of Ireland I was bored with this series, only finishing it to see if there was some kind of twist or surprise ending; there wasn't. There are long stretches where nothing happens and then the bad guy attacks in some way, and someone gets hurt and it's oh, family! Yes we trust you! We're a circle! Don't be a fecking idjit! And then nothing. happens. Like, an entire year goes through the series and it just doesn't work. In the Key trilogy there is a time-table that has to be met; each woman only has one phase of the moon to try and find her key or else all is lost. That urgency is sorely lacking in Cousins O'Dwyer; if they fail to kill ... Wow. I can't even remember the villain's name, he is so forgettable. I'll just call him McWolf; if they fail to kill him it's the end of all the cursing and such anyway as Branna will have no children to carry on the curse, or eventually the Three will come again and get another chance.
Of course they defeat him, discovering along the way that SPOILERS McWolf made a deal with a demon in order to get his powers, so all they need to do is separate the two and kill each. In order to do that they need a name but until the last damn page, they don't have it. It's unclear who or what gives the name of this dreaded demon to Finbar Burke, our broody love interest to Branna, but I just about pitched my book across the livingroom when he named the creature; Cernunnos.
Are you kidding me, Nora Roberts? In a trilogy set in Ireland, steeped in New-Agey magikal tropes, you throw the name of a revered God out as belonging to an ancient evil demon? It's like she went to Wikipedia, picked a Celtic deity based on a cool name, and threw it in last minute. "I gotta wrap this up, so many more mediocre books to write! So little time! Maybe the next trilogy with three magical people, probably ladies, I write I'll set in Australia! Exotic!" I'll admit I'm biased because I am a Pagan, and it hurts me to see the name of a God thrown carelessly about. Someone who doesn't know anything about Celtic Paganism will either think it's totally made up, or worse, associate it with evil the next time they hear it.
So Cousins O'Dwyer is a pale shadow of The Three Sisters, and doesn't even compare at all to the Key Trilogy in depth of story telling. It's literally a retelling of The Three Sisters set in Ireland instead of somewhere on the North East coast of the United States. It's tame, even in the sexy parts, and I'll be trading it in at the local bookshop as soon as I can get there. It's taking up valuable space on my shelf.
2/5 stars and Ireland itself gets one of those stars just for being so damn pretty.
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