‘The Witness’ Nora Roberts

I’ve never read any books by Nora Roberts before and if I’m honest, my reaction to this novel was mixed.

Abigail Lowery has a secret that she guards very carefully. Aged just 16, a moment of teenage rebellion ended disastrously when she witnessed a murder by the Russian mafia. Ever since then she has been in hiding, carefully guarding herself from outsiders and continually putting up barriers. Police chief Brooks Gleeson may be about to change that, but can Abigail let her guard down enough to let someone in? And can she ever be free from the past?

I really enjoyed the first 100 or so pages of this book. It was fast-paced, dramatic, and appeared to set up a scenario that would make for an exciting page-turner. However, after that the pace slowed and the rest of the storyline felt like a bit of a let-down. It focused more on the romance than on the mafia storyline, which seemed to lead absolutely nowhere. Also, when I say romance, I actually found the main male character Brooks to be pushy, controlling and annoying; it felt more like harrassment than romance. 

Overall, a great start but a disappointing ending and a middle section that lacked pace. It wouldn’t put me off reading anything else by Roberts (other reviews I’ve read suggest maybe this isn’t her best) but I wouldn’t read this particular book again.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I downloaded Caraval onto my kindle a while ago now, but had passed it over several times in favour of reading other books. I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it as once I started, I didn’t want to put it down.

Scarlett Dragna and her sister Donatella live on the island of Trisda with their cruel and controlling father. Donatella is passionate and impulsive, whereas Scarlett always thinks of others (mostly her sister) before herself and is willing to undergo an arranged marriage to a man whose name she doesn’t even know if it will ensure safety and security for both her and Tella. The sisters have long been intrigued by the stories they have been told of the mysterious Master Legend and Caraval, the game he runs where magic is reality and wishes can be granted. Scarlett has received tickets for Caraval but as always, duty wins out over desire and her wedding must come first.

Scarlett finds herself tricked by Tella and the mysterious Julian, and is kidnapped and taken off Trisda to another island to become a participant in Caraval. It’s only a game, yet Scarlett finds herself drawn into an increasingly frightening series of events, especially when Tella’s life is placed under threat. It’s impossible to know who to trust in this constantly shifting world, and whilst searching for her sister, Scarlett also finds herself increasingly drawn towards Julian, who has secrets of his own to keep.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this story; it was packed full of adventure, romance and magic. Scarlett was a convincing character; she was strong and capable, yet also full of self-doubt, particularly at the start of the story. As readers we see her grow and develop as the story goes on. The romance between Scarlett and Julian was also well-written and convincing.

The plot contained plenty of twists and turns, and the line between reality and fantasy was often blurred within the story, leaving me guessing and questioning what was ‘real’ and what was part of the game.

A really fun, enjoyable book, I would most definitely recommend Caraval.