I finished reading this book at 4 am. Which is always a good sign.
I was torn between giving it 3-4 stars but finally decided on three.
Overall the book was extremely enjoyable. Nora knows how to describe locations like no other, always making me feel like I'm right there; it's like taking a vacation, maybe that's why I took slightly longer to finish it because I just did not want to leave.
As I said during my one comment while I was reading, the characters in general are very stereotypical Nora Roberts. I instantly knew what the role of each one of them would be (with the exception of precious Annika who actually feels fresh and original). Even so, I ended up liking pretty much everyone (Riley and Sasha did get on my nerves a couple of times, but nothing I couldn't forgive) and so I tried to take from each of them something unique that set them apart from other NR characters.
The plot of the book runs along the same lines of other NR paranormal trilogies such as : The key trilogy (trying to find three objects), The circle trilogy (magical creatures), Blood brothers trilogy (my favorite so far), etc. So if you're a die hard NR fan then you'll recognize all of the familiar patterns of her paranormal books and if you're like me, you will still enjoy the hell out of it.
The focus of this first book is on Sasha and Bran and that's the main reason I gave the book 3 stars instead of 4. Sasha and Bran just didn't click for me. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what Bran saw in Sasha. I understood why Sasha felt this pull towards him (as she had been dreaming about him for a while) but Bran... initially he struck me as the type of guy who'd go for someone like Riley. In fact, it felt like his character actually had to change to make him fit with Sasha.
When I first met Bran he was this flirty extrovert who liked to have fun and was slightly carefee (not too much but just the right amount), but, by the end of the book he's this intellectual, badass sorcerer who is too serious for his own good and acts like a dad to the group. It felt like he had to change to be more Sasha's type and that didn't sit well with me. If he had been like that from the start then I wouldn't have had much of a problem, in fact that's exactly how I thought he would be and I was ready for it, but he started as someone else and just ...transformed.
It also felt too much like insta-love, which isn't always bad when there's some sort of spark there (Sawyer&Annika). But there was none of that with Bran and Sasha. I just couldn't see it. I did find them sweet and cute together towards the end of the book, but that was after much struggling to get over the lack of chemistry. Let's just say I didn't keep reading for the romance.
Riley and Doyle also don't strike me as a good combo but they have another two books to build up their relationship and I do see potential in there. I hope Doyle is able to make Riley more likeable to me. There's nothing actually wrong with her character, she's just not the type of person I'm usually friends with.
Honestly, what kept me going and wanting more was seeing Annika interact with everyone. I just fell in love with her the moment she showed up (Pretty sure Sawyer felt the same way). From all the other NR I've read I don't recall a main character like Annika, and was pleasantly surprised to see how she broke the mold of several other heroines in NR books. She was cute, innocent, pure, kickass, and so willing to help and do her best without being obnxiously nice.
She's so smitten with Sawyer, it's adorable because I don't think it's quite romantic yet but she'll get there. And Sawyer, right now he acts more like a big brother towards her (with only a couple moments when he's obviously feeling somehting else) and it's all just SO DAMN SWEET. Just let me quote some of their cute little moments, which don't seem like much, but trust me, they were very adorable."I won't sleep in your bed?"
"What? No." Sawyer caught Bran's amused look, rubbed the back of his neck. "Everybody gets their own room."
"The rulers are giants," Annika began. "Sawyer!" There was a joy- like cartwheels-in the single word.
Sawyer hesitated "You have to hold on to him," he told Annika. "And lean into the turns- not against. Just lean into them a little. Okay?"
"Okay" She got on behind Doyle, and laughed when he turned on the engine. "It roars!"
"Hold on to him," Sawyer repeated, then quickened his steps to catch up to the others "She'll be all right."
I also like how Sawyer, despite being slightly more protective of her, isn't being a creep about all the attention Annika gives him (taking his hand every chance she gets, being close to him, calling his name excitedly and with such fondness in her voice, and protecting him when she can), and in return all he does is treat her gently and with respect. He treats Annika almost in the same brotherly manner he does Riley and Sasha. I have to say he's being more of a gentleman about his attraction towards Annika than Bran was with Sasha. Perhaps it helps that Annika has this child-like innocence to her so Sawyer isn't likely to be too upfront in his approach. It's all insanely adorable and different from the usual approach in NR's books.
Honestly Annika just won the hearts of the men in this book. Not even Doyle was immune to her charm and friendliness that for a moment there I wondered if Doyle and Annika had the potential to be the unlikely couple of the six. Of course I prefer seeing her with Sawyer but this is the first time I ever entertained the thought of having one of the heroines with more than one of the other main characters. She could make it work with any of the three tbh, haha. Oh God. Annika is just that great of a character.
Of course now I can't wait for the second book. HOW LONG AM I GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT TO READ ABOUT MY PRECIOUS ANNIKA AGAIN?
I literally dreamed I had the second book in my hands. I'm sure Annika and Sawyer's story will be the best of the trilogy.