Year One by Nora Roberts is the first book in a post-apocalyptic fantasy series. It follows the survivors of a virus known as the Doom. Some of these survivors are starting to develop magical powers. The world is divided further by the fight between ultimate good and ultimate evil.
Here is my spoiler-free review of Year One!
Pin for Later!
A Short Summary
Year One starts with a seemingly normal world and follows the creation of an evil plague known as the Doom. Whoever shows symptoms of the Doom will die very soon, but those who don’t show symptoms, will either be immune humans or Uncanny.
The Uncanny are magical humans, who will find their powers strengthened by the spread of the Doom virus. In addition to the Uncanny, some will become a fantastic race, from Elf to Faerie to Demon. One's moral compass defines whether one becomes truly good or truly evil.
With the theme set, you will follow three groups of survivors and their journey to find a safe place where they can survive and defend themselves against evil.
There are several characters to talk about when it comes to the main characters, so I will be brief.
In the first group, we have Max, Lana and Eddie. Max and Lana are a couple, as well as Uncanny. With magic, love and friends, they believe they can survive the post-apocalypse. Eddie is a sort-of-goofy immune human who joins Max and Lana with his puppy, Joe.
In the next group, we have Arlys, Fred and Chuck. Arlys is a TV reporter and an immune human, doing her best in the circumstances to provide hope to those who still watch TV. Fred is a Faerie, Arlys’ friend and personal evil-detector. Chuck is a hacker with a Humvee and a can-do attitude.
Finally, in the third group, we have Rachel, Jonah and Katie. Rachel is a strong-willed doctor, whereas Jonah is a depressed doctor in search of hope. Both can sense when someone will die or live. Katie is a woman with twins who comes to their hospital during the pandemic.
Any more information on these characters and I will give too much of the story away. Needless to say, there are plenty of main characters and certainly a lot more side characters to look forward to.
Nora Roberts’ writing style is a balance between simple and complex. Depending on what is being described or discussed, the narration or dialogue can change.
For most of the novel, Nora Roberts’ will narrate in her personality, but sometimes in the personality of one of the characters. It’s a bounce between the third-person narration which discusses general story points to third-person narration in the personality of a certain character to discuss a certain scene.
In this way, Nora Roberts makes full use of the many characters she has, providing insight into their thoughts while remaining disconnected in third-person narrative, so you get a bigger picture.
I have to admit, this is the first Nora Roberts book I’ve read and it took me a while to make sense of the style.
Personal Thoughts on Year One
With that said, it’s now time for my personal opinion on Year One. Straight off the bat, I found the story didn’t work for me for several reasons. Of course, having looked at other reviews to compare, I am in the minority.
Despite that, here are my thoughts.
The characters, many of their scenes and most of their dialogues came off as unnecessary. With an abundance of characters, it is difficult to give anyone special attention to establish a connection between them and the reader or simply justify their necessity. Of course, I will simply attribute this to the fact that this is a series and their development will come in later novels.
About halfway through, this fault is realised and most of the focus shifts to Max and Lana’s story.
When it comes to description and dialogue, it becomes clear where Nora Roberts’ interest lies. When it comes to describing fight scenes or backstories, the style shifts to something straightforward and way too disconnected for what they are. However, small-talk goes on for pages, involving a lot of repetition and mind-numbing details that serve no purpose.
Either due to Nora Roberts’ writing style or poor editing, this repetition is coupled with ‘gaps’ in the writing. Dialogues involving three or more characters, as I’ve discussed in a previous article, can easily turn into a confusing mess when the writer doesn’t make it clear who is speaking.
A writer can make it clear by using speaker tags when the dialogue circles, meaning characters take turns speaking, or by establishing back and forths between two characters, so no additional tags are necessary. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen during several dialogues. There isn’t personality in most character’s dialogue, so that isn’t there to help either.
Of course, that’s just dialogue, these gaps appear during other sequences as well. Luckily, I can only count the gaps on two hands.
Finally, there are clashes in tone.
It should be said that Year One includes gore, language and more serious themes, such as the rape of a minor. Of course, Year One is written for adults and you can find any of these in other books. I have no problem with reading such scenes or dialogues, especially since this is a post-apocalypse where characters are either good or evil, there is rarely an in-between.
However, what I could not understand was the constant clash of tones when it came to dealing with these serious issues. The tone of the novel shifts so quickly from the so-positive-it-might-as-well-be-a-young-adult-novel to the over-the-top-shock-factor writing style. One moment you’re reading a cringey child-like dialogue and the next you are given a blunt, forced dialogue on rape.
As you can imagine, my suspension of disbelief was broken early in the story, so with each additional clash, I found myself rolling my eyes and saying, ‘But of course, why not?’ instead of gasping in horror.
I think I’ve said enough when it comes to the story. I feel that the concept is an interesting one. A post-apocalypse with fantasy elements isn’t something new, but Nora Roberts puts her own spin on it, which I can appreciate.
Unfortunately, bland or unrealistic characters, mundane small-talk, less-than-fun fight scenes and more effort put in romance scenes than actually important scenes made this a woefully poor story.
I am clearly in the minority. However, as I said before when you already have a large fanbase, the reviews can easily be swayed in your favour.
If you are already a fan of Nora Roberts, you will most likely enjoy Year One and the next two novels in the series. As you can guess, I won’t be reading the next two novels, as the first simply didn’t work for me.
I hope you enjoyed this review and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!
Be sure to follow!