Friday, January 26, 2007

Vampires Galore

The cover designs of this paperback edition of the books themselves make them very appealing... and a temptation someone like myself would find very hard to resist. I knew the general story would be kinda cacat when I read the synopsis on the back cover of the books. Yet, I had read a couple of Nora Roberts' books and they were pretty well-written. Romance, yes - but not the kind of romance that emphasized so much on the "juicy parts" that the actual story fades into oblivion, if there is an actual story at all. And so, with an MPH voucher in my hand, I bought all 3 books in one breath. (Incidentally, a woman queueing behind me at the cashier's asked me what the books were about, probably thinking they must be great stuff, that I would buy all 3! I was thinking, I was just going to buy them, so obviously I haven't read any yet, so how on earth would I know what they'd be about?! But still, out of courtesy, I told her they were a trilogy of fantasy/romance. Then she asked me what "trilogy" means... *sigh*)

*spoilers warning*

The first book is Morrigan's Cross - where an old man begins his tale by describing a sorcerer in twelft-century Ireland, who stood upon a cliff and summoned a storm. I had to admit, it took quite some effort on my part to get through the first few pages as I am definitely not a big fan of fantasy tales (it took me a lot of effort to complete The Hobbit, and halfway through Fellowship of the Ring... never touched the remaining two books at all... hehe) and excessive descriptions of "magicks". The sorcerer, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith, was facing the Vampire Queen, Lilith (see I did say it sounds cacat), challenging her, because she killed and changed his twin brother, Cian. By changed, I mean changed into a vampire. Some clashing took place and Hoyt went away injured, and Cian presumed 'dead'.

Then, the goddess Morrigan appeared before Hoyt, and charged him to defeat Lilith and her army, with only five more to assist him - the witch, the warrior, the scholar, the one of many forms and the one he'd lost. The six of them would form "the circle" which was supposed to fight this war between humans and demons. Six against an army of vampires... it's too hard, too much to ask (this was actually highlighted at many points in the book, especially since Hoyt needed to convince each member of the circle as they came together, which, after a while became tiring).

First, he traveled through time to present day New York City and found the one he'd lost - his brother Cian, still a vampire, but a nearly a thousand years old (still young and handsome, however, because vampires don't age), wealthy and powerful. With Cian, was a huge, black man called King, who would be the warrior. Then, the witch, Glenna, showed up, after getting "visions" and "out-of-body experiences". Lastly, a pair of cousins, Moira the scholar and Larkin the shape-shifter traveled from the mythical land Gaell to join them.

There were lots of details and development in this book that I don't care about: unneccesary and lengthy debate on training, preparation and stuff, arguing and fighting among themselves over petty matters, and argument points being repeated here and there. At one point - where Hoyt and Cian went for a walk and ended up arguing, then fighting each other - I actually rolled my eyes then put the book away for a while. Sien.

From the beginning of the book, it was rather easy to tell that Ms Roberts intended to pair the sorcerer and the witch off. The story emphasized mostly on the two of them, while the others were merely existing. Less than halfway through, Hoyt and Glenna were in love (so fast!) and about three-quarters through, King, their warrior was captured by the vampires in an ambush, then killed and changed into a vampire himself! And there - the first of the circle of six was gone! (really?!) As it turned out, King was never their warrior in the first place. The real warrior appeared towards the end of the first book. She's a demon hunter, who hunted and killed vampires... what, Buffy the Vampire Slayer? No, her name was Blair. (When I read this part I was like... haiyohhh) Before the first book ended, the intended pair had already married. No fun. :(

The second book, Dance of the Gods, more or less continues the training sessions, arguments and fights of the six in the circle. They ambushed the vampires a little, the vampires ambushed them a little... and yes - the limelight has now turned from Hoyt and Glenna to Larkin and Blair, the next pair. (Doesn't take a genius to guess who will pair up in the third book!) It's quite irritating to see Hoyt and Glenna, which I read so much about, suddenly fade into the background. Larkin was portrayed as an adorable, flirtatious man, and Blair the modern day, no-nonsense tough woman. Cian remained the vampire with a style, always having that couldn't-be-bothered attitude. Every time he spoke, he spoke precisely, straight to the point, no sugar-coating. And yes - his words were always saturated with sarcasm. (I really, really like Cian). As for Moira, she was all the time depicted as the quiet scholar who did all the reading in the library, who was soft in training, and not much good for anything else, except being an excellent archer. Well, probably that's that 'the scholar' was supposed to do - study - except that nowhere in the three books was shown how her extensive studying actually helped in the war they were going to fight. There was practically nothing about vampires that she read that Cian (being one himself) didn't already know - and told them about.

Anyway, halfway through the book, the six traveled through the portal called 'Dance of the Gods' to Gaell where the fighting would take place. Moira was to be the next queen of Gaell, whereas Larkin was actually Lord Larkin there. They began to recruit men and women to fight vampires...

*SERIOUS spoilers warning* - if you intend to read the books, please stop reading this post now!

The third book, Valley of Silence, seems to seamlessly continue from where the second book stopped. As I had guessed, admist training, weapons forging, strategy planning, battles, ambushes - Cian and Moira fell in love. They resisted their feelings at first, just as the previous two couples in the circle did (isn't this plot all romance novelists adore...), except they resisted harder, because of what they were - one human, one vampire. However, halfway through the book, Moira couldn't take it anymore and went to seduce Cian. That's a change from the usual - the man (not a man, he kept insisting) had near a thousand years' experience, and had likely that many women before, being seduced by a virgin girl. He resisted pretty hard at first, but she kept pressing on until at last... he cannot tahan liao... and then... you know la. The usual.

There are certains parts in this "romance" between Cian and Moira that I really appreciate. For instance, there is this part where Moira was with Cian in her room, and she chanced a glance into the mirror and saw that she was alone. (Vampires do not reflect in mirrors). It was one single moment that the fact that they could never end up together hit me real hard. (Bravo, Ms Roberts!) I thought my heart would break - so sad, yet so beautiful.

Parts of this book that I don't care much about would be the many political and motivational speeches Moira had to make as Queen of Gaell. I also feel that the narrative on the war is too brief. A war that took almost 3 books to prepare was over in less than 30 pages? It was a bit of a disappointment. Lilith was staked (and therefore turned to dust) by Cian (that's expected, since he's the strongest and most powerful of the six) in less than 2 pages.

Well, the war was won, and none of the six in the circle fell (so miraculously fake... but you can argue that they were the "chosen ones"), and Cian was turned into human by the goddess Morrigan, and he could marry and live with Moira in Gaell. And so the three pairs - Hoyt and Glenna, Larkin and Blair, and Cian and Moira lived happily ever after till the end of their days. (My favourite vampire is now a human?! *sobs*)

Wonderful, happy ending? Well, not by me! The ending is as cacat as the whole idea of a-circle-of-six-fights-an-army-of-vampires. It sort of offsets all the other nice parts of the last book of this trilogy. It's simply too perfect to be satisfying! You already have two happy couples... that's enough! Moira and Cian shouldn't had ended up happy too - that's be too predictable, too boring!
If I were to change the ending, I'd make Moira stay a great, courageous, and unmarried Queen to her death. And Cian, being the stylish, dashing modern-day vampire, would continue in his eternity in his world (our real world, that'd be) while he kept his love and regrets concerning Moira tucked away in a corner of his still heart. There could even be a pseudo-sequel: a story set in the year 3000, about a vampire with a past lost love! Wouldn't that be really lovely? (Please don't start wonder if I have a heart - I do, and it's still beating)

I believe this has got to be one of the longest post I have written! I owe you thanks if you actually read every word from the start till here.

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