Admittedly, I am a Nora Roberts fan. Several of her books, specifically those set in Ireland, rank among my favorites. So, when I saw she has a new trilogy starting that is set in Ireland, and it’s about witches (another favorite subject of mine), I was very excited. While Dark Witch is an entertaining enough read, it did not live up to my level of anticipation.
One thing about this book is that it is definitely a strong starter. We jump right into several chapters of prologue about the original dark witch, Sorcha, and her three children. An evil sorcerer, Cabhan, has been desperate to seduce Sorcha and steal her powers. While I normally would not like such an extended introduction, I enjoyed Sorcha’s action-packed tale. I actually would have happily read an entire book about Sorcha struggling to protect her children, even though she is ailing, while her beloved husband is away. The struggle between Sorcha and Cabhan leads to the witch passing her powers to her three children and their animals, thus setting up the The Cousins of O’Dwyer trilogy.
Dark Witch followers the ancestor of Sorcha’s daughter, an American named Iona Sheehan. Iona has sold her belongings and taken off to Ireland to meet her cousins, Branna and Conner, who are the other two descendants. She has learned a little of the dark witch’s legacy and is interested in claiming her powers and helping her cousins to fight Cabhan, who still lurks around seeking their powers. Iona inherited her powers and an affinity for horses from her ancestor, Teagan. This lands her a job working for the sexy, but gruff, Boyle McGrath at his stables.
One thing that Roberts does incredibly well with her writing is create well-defined characters. Iona is sweet and a little gabby. Boyle is the strong, silent type. Both characters stay consistent for the length of the book. Once you add in the two cousins, their friend Meara, and Cabhan’s descendent, Finbar, there is quite a cast to juggle. Roberts handles the group with ease and manages to keep her characterizations clear on every page. She also does an excellent job writing Irish-sounding dialogue.
However, even though I appreciated Boyle and Iona’s opposites-attract relationship, and their shared love of horses, I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two. It takes almost half of the book to see any real interactions between the two leads. There were a couple of times that Iona and Boyle met earlier on, and sat in the same room without speaking or paying any thought to each other. Then, suddenly, around one hundred and fifty pages in, Iona is rambling on about how attracted she is to him. I think the earlier scenes, particularly the one where the whole gang is hanging out in the pub, could have been used to set some sparks off between the pair and let us start wanting them to get together.
Once Iona and Boyle rather unceremoniously jump into bed, the book experienced a bit of a lull. Actually, in my opinion, it was a pretty big lull. Once Iona and Boyle were together, but before any serious conflict arises, there are about a hundred pages that could have been trimmed way down. The middle of the book is basically Iona and Boyle spending time together, cozy group meals at Branna’s cottage, and the occasional attack from Cabhan. Had this section been tightened up, I would have gotten a greater enjoyment from the book as a whole. Sadly, I grew bored and ended up taking two whole weeks reading more exciting books.
Although Iona and Boyle’s coupling was a little ho-hum, I loved the love-hate interactions between Branna and Fin. There is a history between them, and I think that their book will be great. Roberts has already set them up for a bumpy road working through their past heartaches and trust issues. Branna does not trust him not to turn evil, since Fin is the descendent of Cabhan, and, because of that, ended their previous relationship. I will certainly read their book when it comes out. I assume the final pairing will be the cousin Conner with friend Meara. However, I didn’t see any sort of connection between the two in Dark Witch, so I don’t have high hopes for any book revolving around them.
The setting of Dark Witch helped to improve my feelings toward it. I love all things Ireland and I already find it to be a romantic place, so I would’ve enjoyed nearly any story set there. Roberts’ writing is just atmospheric enough to make you want to run away to the Emerald Isle, without being overly descriptive.
Since I am rarely a fan of paranormal romances, I do have to give praise to Roberts for not taking the magic in this book to an over-the-top level. Cabhan has more showy powers, like turning to fog or a wolf, but the cousins’ magic seems to be much more earthy. It kept Iona’s magical development grounded in reality and I didn’t feel like I was reading some Irish version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch .
If you’re interested in reading a light, paranormal story, enjoy the Irish feel, and don’t mind a book that falls a little short on the romance scale, you will find Dark Witch to be an interesting story about magic, family, and blood feuds. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my love of Robert’s previous forays into Ireland, The Gallaghers of Ardmore and Concannon Sisters series. I’m not sure which of the following books, Shadow Spell or Blood Magick , will be about Branna and Fin, but I will definitely be reading that one.