I try to avoid posting negative reviews to this blog series, but I also said in my goals list that I would make sure to review each and every one of the 26 books I read for the Goodreads challenge this year. In this case, at least, I feel pretty darned confident that my one negative review likely isn’t going to hurt a big name like Nora. With that said – onward to the review!
So I know I mentioned this way back in my review of THE OBSESSION, but Nora Roberts has been one of my long time comfort authors. The way she writes female friendships and the normally at least partially formulaic storylines are easy for me to fall into on a day when I might not have the brain for a new super detailed and twisty plotted book. Her books are familiar, and I go into them knowing I’ll have a happy ending waiting for me at the end of whatever plot she throws at me.
With that said, however, ISLAND OF GLASS (and the rest of the Guardians trilogy) felt just a little TOO familiar for my taste. Normally her trilogies have been my faves in the past, but the Guardians trilogy felt very much like a more Greek Islands focused re-hashing of the Circle trilogy which she just finished up in 2006, with details matching up super closely on everything from the ancient female antagonist who grows uglier/older when she’s attacked so she drinks blood to heal and has the power to darken the sun so her minions can attack (I mean SERIOUSLY way too similar here), to the journey between worlds, to everyone ending up in an estate in Ireland, to the mix of almost every paranormal main character every in an immortal warrior (vampire in Circle trilogy), happy go lucky mermaid shifter (happy go lucky male shifter in Circle trilogy), badass female warrior/werewolf (vampire hunter in Circle trilogy), and mage/sorcerer character who pairs with the seer/witch character (same as in Circle).
One of the goddesses even explains this in the third book in one of the most meta parts of a romance novel that I think I’ve ever read. The quote is something along the lines of “You wondered why you are all so different. Why not all sorcerers or all warriors, but it was because of balance,” which, considering Nora managed to keep her earlier trilogies pretty darned balanced while keeping to one central paranormal theme, ended up reading more like the author taking a moment to respond to complaints about this issue that were brought up in reviews of the first book of the series. Regardless, it doesn’t strike me as balanced: it strikes me as cluttered and far too similar to the Circle trilogy.
Hell, even some of the “twists/rewards” in the end were again solved in almost identical ways to the way they were in the Circle books, and at times it even felt like the sentences/paragraphs of those reveals/romances had almost been pulled directly from the earlier trilogy with just the names and appearances shifted slightly. It kept me from feeling any of the usual enjoyment or wonder about what might come next in the story. Yes, her books might be formulaic, but they were never repetitive if that makes sense, and that’s how this one felt.
Also, though this is possibly just a pet peeve of mine, the mythology in this is pulled from half a dozen places with multiple moon goddesses from various pantheons tossed together into one fantasy lore that didn’t really feel coherently like any one world: Arianrhond (Celtic), Celene (Greek & misspelled from “Selene”), and Luna (Roman). Again, “cluttered” is the word that comes to mind, and that’s just sad to have to use to describe a book/series by an author I usually love.
So yeah, over all this book was a disappointing end to a disappointing series. I really hope she pays attention to the reviews to this (and the Circle for that matter) and dials down the mass of fantasy elements for whatever her next trilogy ends up being. I miss the focus that The Seven, Key of Light, and Three Sisters Island trilogies had.