I got sent this book for review and I am very glad I gave it a chance. Although I was familiar with Nora Roberts I never got the chance to read any of her books. A magic-fueled book was probably the best way to get started and I now know why she is so loved.
With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.
Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.
When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.
Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…Iona is a very enjoyable character. Partly this is due to the fact that the reader doesn't see her struggle to decide whether to come to Ireland or not. By starting her book with a fresh start rather than the run-up to a fresh start the reader can join Iona from the get go without the chance of getting annoyed at her interior monologue. The reader can get as curious as Iona, can discover things alongside her and be just as excited as she is. Iona, therefore, is a heroine that you can simply adore. Roberts shifts her narratorial focus around quite freely, briefly focusing on each character as a chapter, and the novel, progresses. This means the reader has a very good view of each character's thoughts and emotions while the narrative never loses suspense. Roberts leaves plenty up in the air while grounding her characters firmly, not only through words but also through actions. Although each of the characters are good on their own, I enjoyed it most when Roberts united them all. There are some great moments of friendship and family love. The only thing that was a bit off was a look at some characters in the beginning, who just seemed too perfect. Is that even a good thing to complain about?
One of my favourite things about this book is the magic. Roberts manages to create something that feels both natural and traditional. What I mean by this is that Roberts clearly has taken inspiration from the Gaelic and Celtic cultures that exist in Ireland and worked it into a very modern setting. Next to the traditional, Roberts also makes her characters draw from their internal strength and the love and friendship they surround themselves with. This was one of the main things I appreciated about the book. Iona has problems, with herself, with others, but always approaches the word in an expectant, cheerful way. Although at times she does this as a mask, it comes from the heart, and this is a really important trait for a character to have. Despite being hurt, it is important to not give up on the world. It's a great message to carry away from a book and it's one of the reasons why I would recommend Dark Witch to others!
Despite being a relative Roberts-virgin I had high expectations of her writing style and I wasn't disappointed. I read this book within a few hours, which is not something I often do. I wanted to know how it ended, badly, and the writing didn't do anything to stop me. Roberts writing style is easy to read and fluid, there doesn't seem to be a sentence that doesn't either add to the progression of the story or to giving needed background. Her descriptions of the Irish landscape are stunning and she manages to bring the experience of magic really close to the reader. Roberts doesn't clog up the narrative with unnecessary information and allows enough room for lightness when the plot gets darker. She sets up some clear storylines for the coming books and although at times I wished that perhaps there was more resolved in this book, it definitely serves to make the reader anticipate the sequel.
I give this book...
I highly recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a contemporary urban fantasy read. Not only does it have magic and romance, but above all it favours friendship as a key element in anyone's life. If you're looking for great female leads and an engaging story line, pick up Dark Witch. The next book in The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy came out this March and the final book, Blood Magick, will come out on the 28th of October. I'll definitely be reading these!