Year One by Nora RobertsChronicles of The One #1
Published on December 5, 2017 by St. Martin's Press
Genres: Dystopian, Urban Fantasy
It began on New Year’s Eve.
The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.
Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.
As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.
In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.
The end has come. The beginning comes next.
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I started out absolutely in love with this book.
My expectation was that this would be some combination of a dystopian and an urban fantasy. Which I got, but almost in a chunked form. The beginning starts off much like the calm before the storm. You watch the world through a number of character eyes as the scenes transition around the world until IT happens. The Doom. And wow, did Roberts really pack a punch with those opening chapters. Year One starts out perfectly eerie and terrifying as the world we know it descends into the apocalypse.
And then. . . I’m not sure what happened but everything transitions into urban fantasy nonsense. From the emergence of the Doom (yes, that’s what it’s called), some individuals who have survived find themselves with a multitude of powers. Cool, but not anything new in the execution unfortunately. I love a good urban fantasy but it was a bit of a shock once the creepiness faded into magical superpowers ruling the world.
I thought Roberts handled the characters well overall, but not as much individually. Year One takes a depressing world and puts it into perspective from 4 primary characters with a horde of others thrown into the mix. Moving between perspectives, drawing on the characters’ emotions and pushing those feelings through the page into the reader. . . it worked. It really did. But at the individual level, the characters fell a bit flat, one-dimensional as the “good” characters are really good and the “bad” characters are really bad. I needed less certainty on who was on what side and more moral ambiguity. I enjoy questioning characters and seeing them be a little of both good and bad.
Now I know Nora Roberts is a pretty big author (understatement?) but the only other books I’ve read by her are her Circle series which are fantasy/romance. I recall really enjoying them and perhaps too much time has passed and I’ve forgotten why I liked them but Year One just didn’t live up to my expectations. The writing isn’t bad but it wasn’t great either and felt a bit choppy. This style worked for the dystopian section of the novel but once it changed over to more of the urban fantasy elements something wasn’t clicking.
I’m honestly just disappointed because I started this book and was immediately hooked. I needed to know what goes wrong, what happens, what is this approaching Doom and why has it come. And then that all dropped off and while the rest of the book isn’t bad, I’d call it a change from amazing to average. If you’re interested in Year One for the paranormal/supernatural elements, I don’t think that will be a problem for you but if you’re seeking a supernatural dystopian then you may want to think about it. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book as a whole but you will, at the very least, get a decently written book.