Dark Witch - The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, Book 1

Author: Nora Roberts

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Blue Ribbon Rating: 5 + RR

Format: PRINT

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DARK WITCH casts its spell at the beginning with Sorcha, the original Dark Witch, and her three children in the year 1263 when they face the malevolent Cabhan, a sorcerer.  With her husband away at war, Sorcha tends her children by herself as well as fights the evil that wants her power.  Her legacy reaches into the future, into the year of 2013, to those who are descended from her.  Now is the time when three shall join as one against the sorcerer that Sorcha believed she banished but is still an evil entity to defeat...

Iona Sheehan has felt unsettled most of her life until she moves to Ireland.  Her grandmother's stories of County Mayo and the gift of magick they all hold dear intrigues Iona.  Barely trained in her craft, she knows that if her cousins in Ireland accept her, she can learn much from them.  As a descendant of Teagan, one of Sorcha's children, Iona believes that her destiny in Ireland is much more than it would be in the U.S.

I have been anxiously waiting for this book since I first heard about it.  In my early years of romance reading, I devoured as many of Nora Roberts' books as were available at that time.  The most memorable and influential of these books, which opened my eyes to other genres, was the GALLAGHERS OF ARDMORE trilogy.  That trilogy made me fall in love with Ireland and the magick of its folklore, often thinking of them as parallel.  Now that I've experienced Ireland in person, I can't resist going back to that mystical setting, with an aura all its own, in my reading.  Nora Roberts' ability to bring the mystique of Ireland alive is incomparable.

Many years have passed since I have read a Nora Roberts' novel and, at first, her writing style in this book made my internal editor go crazy.  Her style of combining thoughts with commas, without using "and" at all, jarred me at first and I couldn't concentrate on the story unfolding.  But, my fond memories of the GALLAGHERS OF ARDMORE trilogy kept pushing me forward and, eventually, the mechanics no longer mattered because I was having such a good time experiencing the storytelling.

At the core, DARK WITCH has a very specific rhythm, like the ebb and flow of a soft rippling wave along a shoreline.  It takes a bit to roll with it and just let it be.  It's almost singsong or poetic, the swaying rhythm soothes and mystifies until I felt wrapped up within the words, drawing pure joy from them.  I laughed out loud, I cried for joy and sorrow and I couldn't read fast enough to satisfy the craving for more.  I felt like a kid reading my first fairytale.  Even now that I'm done with the book, I ache for more.  It was just so darn much fun!

The characters are rich and well-drawn—a delectable lot, each with their own individuality and idiosyncrasies, making each character come alive as if you've always known them.  Iona is the main character but she has a supporting cast who breathe life into her journey.  There are Iona's cousins, Connor and Branna O'Dwyer, brother and sister as well as witches, who take Iona into their home and their lives with open arms.  Connor and Branna are so very different from one another, yet they couldn't be closer.  Then there's Boyle McGrath, the handsome and irresistible co-owner of the stables where Iona is employed.  Boyle and Iona's passion for each other is immediate and transforming for both of them.  Let's not forget Finbar "Fin," the other stable co-owner and Branna's long ago sweetheart.  He's very intriguing.  Then there's Meara, a dear friend and co-worker who adds to the laughs as she introduces Iona to Ireland and Irish ways.  Combine these good friends with a few more characters, horses, a dog and some hawks, all with personalities of their own, and you have a well-rounded story full of comradeship, promising a trilogy filled with adventure.

Iona is often very funny in her bold as brass demeanor.  She says exactly what she thinks, honest to the core, often throwing the steadfast and serious Boyle completely off-kilter.  Several times I experienced sentimental tears for how sweet and passionate the love between Iona and Boyle becomes.  Their journey is beautiful, sometimes uproariously funny, heartrending and unbearable, coming full circle to tenderness.  Their love is honest and Iona needs it as much as Boyle, even if it takes him a while to realize he should risk everything to get it.  Will it be enough to want their relationship to succeed when evil is determined to ruin their hope before they even begin?

Besides the writing and the story, the paperback packaging begs the reader to own this book in print.  I love the artistic look of the cover front, as well as the scalloped edges of the inside flaps.  It's a trade size paperback worth holding within your hands.  I even love the jagged edges of the pages that make it feel like an ancient mystery about to unfold.  So happy to have it reside on my keeper shelves.

DARK WITCH is evocative storytelling that comforts like a well worn quilt.  The story, the place or the characters may seem familiar, but it's the characters' camaraderie that makes you so happy to go along for the adventure.  If you love the magick of good against evil in an engaging novel—buy it, cherish it and then buy one for a friend.  DARK WITCH begs to be shared, discussed and relished for the satisfying and joyful experience it is—highly recommended!

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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