Title: Original Sin
Author: Allison Brennan
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 26 Jan 2010
Paperback: 446 pages
Haunted by chilling memories of demonic possession and murder, Moira O’Donnell has spent seven years hunting down her mother, Fiona, whose command of black magic has granted her unprecedented control of the underworld. Now Moira’s global search has led her to a small California town that’s about to become hell on earth.
Tormented by his own terrifying past and driven by powers he can’t explain, ex-seminarian Rafe Cooper joins Moira’s dangerous quest. But Fiona is one devilish step ahead. Hungry for greater power, eternal youth, and stunning beauty, the sorceress is unleashing upon the mortal world the living incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Together with a demonologist, a tough female sheriff, and a pair of star-crossed teenagers, Moira and Rafe are humanity’s last chance to snatch salvation from the howling jaws of damnation.
‘Original Sin’ is a black and white tale of good versus evil. The main character is Moira, the daughter of Fiona, a dark and powerful black witch. Seven years ago, Moira escaped her mother’s evil coven and found sanctuary in The Order of St Michaels, a worldwide group of monasteries dedicated to fighting evil.
Despite escaping, Moira has never found peace. Trained by the monastery to be a warrior, she is a dedicated servant to their fight. The problem is the daughter of a powerful witch, is also a witch. And magic and the use of magic of any kind is evil and corrupts. So Moira has never found acceptance from St Michaels with the exception of from one elderly priest: Father Phillip. Leaving her very alone and often frustrated and angry.
But St Michaels needs Moira, Fiona’s coven has been growing in power its evil spreading. They are performing some of the darkest rituals and releasing some of the most powerful demons and magic from the underworld, and Father Phillip believes that Moira is one of the few people that can stop her.
As part of their mission, The Order take in young orphaned boys often with a calling to the greater cause, and train and nurture them. Be it as a warrior, a demonologist or a priest. There is a calling for them all.
Rafe was one of these boys, a man now, he is yet to find his calling. The monastery in Santa Monica where he lived was attacked by the coven several months ago, and everyone in it was killed except him, leaving Rafe in a coma ever since.
As the book opens the coven are performing one of their most deadliest rituals yet, and unleash a terror onto earth that hasn’t been seen since Adam and Eve were alive.
I have to confess I struggled with this book. The premise of the novel seemed fantastic, and I was really interested in reading it. But there were three really big problems with it for me.
The first is the characterisation and the number of characters. The book is written in the third person, which isn’t a problem at all. But, it swaps character point of view very regularly, more than once a chapter. If this had been between two or three characters or even four this would of been fine, but it was so many characters that it became very difficult to keep track, particularly at the beginning. Because of this the plot became a mash of characters, that made it a very confusing read. It also means that the characterisation even for the main characters was quite shallow and a lot of assumptions seem to have been made.
While Moira is definitely the main protagonist and is the most rounded of them all. There are at least seven other characters that take up the narrative regularly and this excludes various perspectives from people in the town who take up the story just once or twice.
You don’t get any real understanding of who they are which makes it very difficult to identify with them. Moira is often quite terse & snappy and her dialogue switches rapidly from inquisitive to churlish without any explanation as to why, meaning the flow of the dialogue is not as good as it could be. I wanted to understand Moira, but I found that I just couldn’t.
Two of the other main characters are Anthony a demonologist who is in a relationship with the local Deputy Sheriff Skye. Anthony has been raised by St Michaels and wholly distrusts and dislikes Moira because of her past. But Anthony and Skye lead to my second criticism the book, which is its reference to past events. Anthony and Skye are as important as main characters in the novel as Moira. They met and fell in love when Anthony came to help after the monastery in Santa Monica was destroyed. This event is referred to regularly in the novel and has such importance to the narrative that it feels like this is the second book in the series and you’ve missed the first. I kept wondering what exactly had happened and why. How had such an unlikely couple as Anthony and Skye fallen in love and how had Rafe ended up in a coma. While this is explained loosely, it felt like parts of the story were missing.
In fact in parts I got so confused as to what was going on and at the lack of explanation as to why characters were feeling or behaving in a certain way, that if I’m honest if I had not committed to review this book, I would have probably given up on it.
Finally and thirdly is the love story. I liked Rafe, Moira’s love interest, probably the most out of all the characters. But, while I have not gone and taken count, at a guess I would say that Moira and Rafe were in no more than ten chapters together (there are forty one in the novel overall). So there was little time for the author to build any chemistry between them let alone a smouldering love scene. I have seen this book classified as a paranormal romance, personally I don’t think it’s really a romance at all and think it is more likely to appeal to horror and fantasy fans.
The most frustrating thing for me though, is that this book has so much potential. If the author could have cut half the characters out, fleshed out the main ones and took her time to tell the story in two books instead of one, then this could have been a brilliant book (or two).
I think it’s important for me to say that while I have been quite critical of this novel, if you look on Goodreads this book has received some very mixed reviews. It has incited a real diversity of opinion from people loving it and giving it five stars out of five, to people really disliking it. So while it was not for me and I don’t intend on finishing the series, you may very well disagree.
This is a book with a lot of potential. But it never really gets off the ground and becomes lost in web of far too many characters who don’t have enough time to develop. As a result the plot becomes muddled which consequently means you don’t engage or feel connected to the main characters.
I also missed my shades of grey, the concept of magic was too black and white for me. All magic cannot be evil now can it?
SOURCE: Thank you to Meryl L. Moss Media Relations and Ballantine Books for sending BCC this book for review.
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