Series: THE GUARDIANS TRILOGY
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—3
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
Stars of Fortune (11/2015)
Bay of Sighs (6/2016)
This post was revised and updated on 12/28/2016 to include a review of Island of Glass, the third—and FINAL—novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first two novels.
NOVEL 3: Island of Glass
An archaeologist, Riley is no stranger to the coast of Clare, but now she finds herself on unsure footing, targeted by the dark goddess who wants more than the stars, more than the blood of the guardians. While searching through Irish history for clues that will lead them to the final star and the mysterious Island of Glass, Riley must fight her practical nature and admit her sudden attraction to Doyle is more than just a fling. For it is his strength that will sustain her and give her the power to run towards love—and save them all.
|A map of Ireland with|
County Clare in red
As was true in the first two novels, the six Guardians must find and protect one of the three Stars of Fortune, in this case the Star of Ice. You'd think that once they found that star their quest would be complete, but you'd be wrong. In fact, midway through the book, the six intrepid warriors discover that the number "3" is the key to everything: They themselves are three couples. There are three stars and three goddesses (well, three good goddesses). The stars have been hidden in three different locations, etc., etc.... So, this last task will have not one, but three parts. They must find the star, find the novel's titular island, and then...one more dangerous adventure that I won't describe here. All the while, they have to fight off the evil Nerezza, her equally evil minion Malmon (who is now a blood-sucking demon), and Nerezza's demonic air force—a horde of horrific bat-monsters with knife-edged wings and long, poisonous fangs and claws.
For most of the book, the plot basically duplicates the first two novels: The Guardians eat (frequently), drink lots of beer and wine (constantly), bicker amiably among themselves (endlessly), praise each other's goodness (unceasingly), and have sex at every opportunity (persistently). Doyle and Riley don't get in on the sex part until midway through the book, but when they do, they make up for lost time. In fact, Roberts writes one of the best make-up sex scenes I have ever read towards the end of chapter 13.
For me, this is by far the best book of the series, mostly due to the wonderful lead characters: Riley and Doyle. Both are headstrong, intelligent, blunt, no-nonsense world travelers. Both have always been loners who prefer to do things their own way. That means, of course, that when Cupid's arrows strike their hearts, each must find a way to accept the fact that they are, in fact, actually in love for the very first time and that—deep down—they desperately want a lifetime of commitment to the other person. That last part will be particularly difficult for this couple because Doyle is immortal and Riley is human—well, werewolf-human—so he will be forced to watch her her grow old and die, just as he has had to do with other friends and acquaintances during his three centuries of immortality. (Did you catch that?...THREE centuries of immortality. You really have to pay attention to the numbers in this novel, particularly when there is a "3" involved.)
Obviously, since this is the final book of the trilogy, all of the Star-related conflict and several of the Guardians' personal problems are resolved by the time the novel ends. Along the way, the six also discover some interesting details about their ancestral connections. At every opportunity, Roberts emphasizes the theme of "strength in unity" that has been front and center throughout all three novels.
Although having to wade through three different quest-steps threatened to drag down the pace a bit, in the end, it is Doyle and Riley's relationship that gives the plot the strength it needs to hold the reader's interest. They are definitely the most entertaining and fascinating of the Guardians, so Roberts made a great choice in choosing them to climax the series.
Of the three female Guardians, Riley is the one that I'd like to share a pizza with. (Annika would be too busy arranging the pizza box and the napkins into an Italian tablescape, and Sasha would be tranced out in one of her ambiguous visions.) As for the male Guardians, I think that Sawyer, with his drawling snark and his encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, would be the most fun to join the pizza party. (Glum and broody Doyle is definitely not a conversationalist, and nice-guy Bran doesn't have enough edge to him.)
Now for the cast of characters, listed in the order in which they are introduced in Stars of Fortune. For the human characters, I am providing only the facts the reader initially learns about them—not the secrets that they gradually reveal later in the first book. So…no spoilers here.
Luna, Arianrhod, and Celene: the three "good" moon goddesses
Nerezza: the "bad" goddess
Sasha Riggs: a timid, insecure American artist with powerful psychic talents; a seer and an empath
Dr. Riley Gwin: a brash American archaeologist, adventurer, and world traveler
Bran Killian: a charming, wealthy Irish magician
Sawyer King: a fearless, profane American sharpshooter who is skilled in all types of weaponry
Annika Waters: a joyous young woman of mysterious origin who is discovered at the water's edge one night by Sawyer
Doyle McCleary: a brusque, sword-wielding Irish loner with great tactical skills who comes to the rescue of the others during their first battle with Nerezza
Andre Malmon: a villainous adventurer who is only mentioned in passing in book one, but who will almost certainly appear in the next book. Riley describes him as a thief, a cheat, and a murderer, while Scott claims that Malmon has been stalking him for five years because he wants an object that Scott has in his possession.
This series has basically the same general plot as the COUSINS O'DWYER TRILOGY: three magical soul-mate couples in search of a means to defeat a psychopathic ancient enemy who constantly harasses them. The major differences between the two series are that the main characters in this one are not witches and that these stories are set on islands off the coast of southern Europe rather than in small-town Ireland. (Stars of Fortune takes place on the island of Corfu (see map below), off the coast of Greece and Albania in the Ionian Sea, while Bay of Sighs is set on the Isle of Capri, off the coast of Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea.)
|Sasha, Riley, and Bran|
meet in Corfu Town
(red airplane) and then
travel north, up the coast
to the villa that will serve
as their headquarters.
In THE GUARDIANS, Nora Roberts presents her readers with yet another "threesome" trilogy: three soul-mate couples, three stars, three quests, and three "good" goddess sisters (versus one bad one). If you are a fan of Roberts's patented plotting style, you'll no doubt enjoy this series, but if you're getting tired of one-dimensional, unkillable characters, an overload of food descriptions, and a psychotic magical villain doomed to certain defeat, you may want to wait for her next series in the hope that she'll freshen things up.
In the opening novel, Roberts makes extra sure that we understand her straightforward mythology by introducing it in the prologue and then repeating it every time a new character joins the group—seven times altogether. If you combine this repetition with all of the meal-preparation/eating scenes, there isn't much time left for the action. Basically, after the characters meet up with one another, they interact at the dinner table, gradually reveal their personal secrets, have a few battles with Nerezza and her bat-like minions, learn to work together as a team, and eventually begin to pair off, with Sasha and Bran leading the way down the soul-mate road to HEA. (Annika and Sawyer are next.) Clues to each character's deep secrets are liberally sprinkled throughout the story, so most of them aren't very surprising when they are finally revealed in full.
NOVEL 2: Bay of Sighs
So, to summarize: In this book, the six protagonists spend so much time eating, exercising, and heaping cheesy clichés on one another that the pace remains glacial from beginning to end except for the handful of battle scenes. Once again, Nerezza is a cardboard cutout of a villain, as is Malmon. Annika, Sawyer, and their friends are so unbelievably loving and forgiving and thoughtful and too-good-to-be-true that there is absolutely nothing interesting about their group dynamic. Towards the end of the book, Roberts begins to hint that the reason they were all specially chosen for this star-gathering task has its roots in past events, but we won't learn the truth of it until the final book. Perhaps that is why this book is so flat. The first book gave us the initial world-building and set up the starry theme, and the third book will fill in the remaining details of the mythology and take us to the final resolution. But this book is just filler, with no new information and way too much platitudinous chitchat over an endless stream of food-filled plates. Here's an example:
Annika: "The bright side helps us face the dark."
Sawyer: "Can't argue."
As I was reading this book while seated in a public place, a woman sitting near me asked me if I was enjoying the story. I told her that I didn't much like it because it was so sappy. There was a pause, and then she admitted that she reads Nora Roberts precisely because she likes sappy stories. So, if you are like this lady, perhaps you will enjoy this novel, because it takes sappy to new heights.
Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Bay of Sighs on the book's Amazon.com page by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon. The final novel is set in Ireland, at Bran's huge stone house on a cliff overlooking the sea. Obviously, it will tell the love story of the immortal Doyle and the werewolf Riley.