|The second book in a trilogy is always a challenging one to pull off successfully. Would anyone say that The Two Towers is their favorite Tolkien book? Probably not. With neither the novelty of the first book nor the satisfactory conclusiveness of the final book, the unfortunate second book is primarily a bridge. Even with that inherent limitation, Dance of the Gods manages to be another impressive effort from Nora Roberts, highlighted by an absolutely delightful and unique hero.
The novel picks up immediately after the conclusion of Morrigan’s Cross. The Circle of Six is complete, comprised of Glenna the witch, Hoyt the sorcerer, Larkin the shape-shifter, Blair the warrior, Moira the scholar and Cian “the one who is lost.” They are determined to lead the charge against the evil Lilith, Queen of the Vampires, and her legion of blood-sucking fiends. Despite their differences – Hoyt is from the past, Larkin and Moira are from a mystical kingdom and Cian is himself a vampire – they have learned to work together as a team. As Blair, the tough-as-nails demon hunter, ruthlessly trains them in combat methods, she and Larkin realize they are attracted to each other. But even though Glenna and Hoyt found their happily-ever-after, Blair doesn’t expect to be half of the next couple to merrily pair off.
For one thing, they’re in the middle of an epic good-vs.-evil battle and don’t have time for a relationship. Thanks to the emotional scars left by an unfeeling father and a fiancé who left when he learned about her true calling, Blair believes she is unlovable. Finally, the most insurmountable obstacle of all is the indisputable fact that she is a 21st century demon-hunter from urban America, Larkin is first cousin to the princess of the kingdom of Geall, and their future paths, if they have any after the impending apocalyptic battle, couldn’t be any more disparate.
Fortunately for Blair, she’s caught the eye of one of the most charming heroes I’ve encountered in years. Larkin is cheerful, resolute, noble and brave. He eats constantly and has an amusing talent for avoiding his turn at the daily kitchen chores. As a shape shifter he provides valuable aid to the team, often risking his life to take the form of a horse, mouse, wolf, hawk or even a dragon. He’s sexy but tender and his strategies to woo Blair and overcome her longtime fear and insecurity are simply delightful. Compared to the somewhat stuffy Hoyt and the tormented Cian, he’s a breath of fresh air.
Blair is a little harder to appreciate; she comes across as a weak variation on Eve Dallas from Nora’s In Death series and frankly, the butt-kicking heroine has been done a few too many times to interest me. But it’s difficult not to get caught up in her joy as she slowly lets Larkin into her heart.
The structure of Dance of the Gods is more episodic than Morrigan’s Cross as the tension builds towards the final showdown in Book Three. There are several glimpses into the horrors of Lilith’s lair, including some grisly scenes of depravity and torture. Midway through the novel, the action shifts from modern day Ireland to the otherworldly Geall. Although it’s entertaining to see Blair and Glenna feeling like fish out of water without modern conveniences (Larkin himself admits that he misses Coke), the kingdom itself is generic fairy tale stock and not terribly intriguing.
A brief scene towards the end of the novel ratchets up the tension between Moira, the scholarly princess, and Cian, the vampire who allegedly is devoid of human feelings. Nora is obviously planning a stunning epic climax to this series, as the prophesied final battle takes place and the final two members of the Circle come together. Only three weeks until Valley of Silence is released, but until then I’ll be happy to re-read Dance of the Gods and wonder why all men can’t be as chivalrous and sexy as Larkin.