|It’s easy to recommend a book by Nora Roberts, and The Pagan Stone is a good one. While there are many things that are expected, (great characters, good chemistry and a blend of romance with a story) this story is filled with demons and innovative ideas. This series and in particular, this final installment pulls all that together in a way that engaged me as a reader, and I am not usually fond of the mystical/paranormal. I will say right off, that this only makes sense if you have read the entire “Sign of Seven” trilogy; it will not stand alone.
The Pagan Stone refers to an altar-like stone in the middle of Hawkins Woods, near Hawkins Hollow, Maryland. Not far from Antietam, these woods have been said to be haunted since the time of the Pilgrims. The trilogy covers the story of three young boys who decided to camp in the woods on their tenth birthdays and in doing so, unleashed a demon who visits the hollow for seven days every seven years. During those weeks, people do things that they barely remember, things that are evil, often involving killing or injuring others. The boys, Cal, Fox and Gage, did their best to protect the town. Now they have joined with three women who are connected via genealogy to the tale. Cal, Fox and Gage are descendents of Giles Dent, the guardian, or the good guy. The women, Quinn, Layla and Cybil are descendents of Hester Deale and the demon, the villain of the story. Together they are ready to fight the ultimate battle and try to destroy the demon once and for all.
This story is Gage and Cybil’s story. Gage is the product of a woman who died in childbirth when Gage was just five and a man who turned to alcohol in his grief. He became abusive. If Gage had not had Cal and Fox’s mothers to influence him and provide him with the warmth of a woman, who knows how he would have ended up. Because of his upbringing, Gage left the Hollow at eighteen and only returns during the sevens (as the times are known). In between, he is a gambler and a good one, thanks to the special gift left to him all those years ago by Dent. During their camping trip and their ritual, each of the three came away with the power to heal their own injuries and with another power - Cal to see the past, Fox to see the now and Gage to see into the future. Cybil shares that power of foresight.
Gage and Cybil have watched the other two couples fall in love, and while they realize that they are connected and must work together, neither is open to a long-term relationship. Cybil has always been a wayward soul and for reasons to discover on your own, has little interest in settling down. Quinn is the closest thing she has to a family and has no compelling urge to make one of her own. Cybil and Gage are well matched. They argue, and yet, there is attraction between them. They see the possibilities and see beyond the obvious. This is scary to them both, yet they understand they have to connect in order to fulfill the task they have at hand. I enjoyed their fall into love.
Each of the novels in the trilogy brings a little more to light, and as is appropriate with the final installment, this one pulls it all together. There were some scary moments but I think the first installment Blood Brothers had more. There were some tender moments, but I think the second installment The Hollow had more. The Pagan Stone brought out the secrets and the intricacies of how they could work together and yet each use their own strength. This one pulled in the families and gave us a clearer picture of how these boys grew to the men they are while dealing with both the horror and the day to day.
I read the three books back to back and was fully engaged in each one. The Pagan Stone was a fitting end to a very well done series by Roberts and will stay on my shelf, along with many other of her novels. Some may find Roberts showing us some formulaic tendencies, but for me, there is enough new in her books to seem fresh.