on Nov. 3, 2015
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Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the legendary fire star, part of an ancient prophecy. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.
Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.
When a dark threat looms, the six must use their combined powers—including trust, unity, and love—to find the fire star and keep the world on course.
If you’re at all a fan of Nora Roberts, you know that she’s a really prolific writer who is comfortable in several genres or subgenres: straightforward romance, romantic suspense, magical or fantasy romance, and mystery/suspense (the latter as J. D. Robb.) Stars of Fortune falls firmly in the fantasy-romance category, with its own mythos (if a bit vaguely drawn), a quartet of good and bad goddesses, three major magical artifacts (OK, they only really deal with one; the other two are for the other books), and several types of magical creatures (which I can’t discuss specifically because, you know, spoilers.) And several human beings, of course, but even the humans among the six major characters are… unusually gifted.
If all that sounds a lot like Roberts’ Circle Trilogy (Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods, Valley of Silence). . . well, it is. A lot like it, that is. There are enough parallels to make Stars of Fortune and its sequels feel a little formulaic if you’ve read the other trilogy. I hadn’t, the first time I read the Guardians Trilogy, so for me, the “formula” was relatively new. That said, I’d have to agree now that I’ve read them that the Circle Trilogy has the edge; it’s darker, more intense, and the scale is somehow bigger.
But I really like Stars of Fortune anyway. For one thing, I can relate to Sasha, the artist and seer. She doesn’t see herself as a brave person, and in some ways she’s the weakest of the six… but only in some ways. She has an innate kindness, empathy, and an inner core of courage that she doesn’t recognize. She is, as one of the other five says at one point, the glue that holds them together, at least initially. Watching her come to terms with the reality of magic, with her own abilities and those of the others. . . she is the most like me in personality, I think, so her reactions feel the most familiar, the most like my own would be in her situation. Except that I doubt I have her courage.
We spend more time in Sasha’s head than in Bran’s. He’s the magician of the sextet: highly competent, somewhat reticent, and a lot easier to get along with than Hoyt, his counterpart in the Circle Trilogy. I can easily see why he’s attracted to Sasha, but her attraction to him is more nebulous; it seems predicated more on her visions of him in the first chapter than on something that develops over the course of the book. A matter of destiny, rather than choice. But as long as you take that as a given, the relationship works, and Roberts does a pretty good job of maintaining romantic tension even when the ending is a foregone conclusion.
But the meat of the story really isn’t the relationship between the two of them, it’s the relationship between the six of them. The book’s focus is on gathering them together and forging them into a unit — a team, even a family, in a way. And, of course, on finding the first of the three stars, those magical artifacts I mentioned earlier. The sextet does a lot of seeking, and following their first encounter with some rather nasty magical creatures, a lot of training for battle. As in her other magical trilogies, Roberts has put together an interesting mix of characters. Besides Sasha and Bran, there’s Riley, equally skilled in archaelogy, folklore, and combat, and smart-mouthed with it; Sawyer, a boy-next-door type who likes to travel; Annika, a sweetly innocent flower-child whom it would be very easy to underestimate; and Doyle, a fighter and very much a loner, who isn’t thrilled about having to team up with the other five. All of them have secrets, and the sharing (or uncovering) of those secrets is part of the process of turning the group into a cohesive whole.
Speaking of fighting (I did mention it, didn’t I?). . . Even after several readings, I still find the battle scenes a little incoherent; it’s not always clear what’s going on. On further reflection, that’s probably true of being in the middle of a battle, so it may be deliberate. Roberts’ writing style in these more “magical” books differs from her usual romance and romantic suspense style; it’s more impressionistic, painting vivid pictures with broader strokes rather than fine detail. Not that there are not details, but overall, there’s less precision, less clarity than in her other style. Think Monet rather than Rembrandt.
Overall, while I wouldn’t class this series as my absolute favorite Nora Roberts trilogy (that honor goes to the Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy and the Circle Trilogy, in a tie), I’ve enjoyed reading them twice now, and will probably read them again. Keep watching for my reviews of Bay of Sighs and Island of Glass!