I’m a huge fan of romance and fantasy. If both elements can be found in one book, I’m happy. If I can find them in three books, then I’m in heaven. With The Circle Trilogy, I am definitely flying.
We start the story with Hoyt Mac Cionaoith (read as "McKenna") facing the vampyre Lilith, after the latter has killed his twin brother Cian and turned him into a vampyre. Barely alive, Hoyt meets the goddess Morrigan, who tells him that he has to bring together six people (him included) from various times and worlds, in order to defeat Lilith and her minions. Hoyt then travels to present time New York City, and meets the witch Glenna. They then team up with Cian, two people from the world Geall — Moira the scholar and Larkin the shapeshifter, and a Mac Cionaoith descendant, Blair, the warrior.
As with her other trilogies that have magic or the supernatural, the Circle cast is brought together by fate, often with the need to finish a task set to them by a higher, usually powerful being; or the need to immediately vanquish the evil threatening mankind. The circle plays a role here. First, bringing together six people of different beliefs, different worlds and the need to maintain a solid kinship in order to effectively fulfill their quest, completing the circle. Secondly, there is the actual Dance of the Gods, or a stongehenge, which acts as a portal in between worlds. It also serves as the only place that the vampyres cannot enter, being creatures of impure intent. The only exception to this rule is Cian, giving us the idea that somehow he’s not really that changed as he thought he was.
Ms. Roberts has already done the demon hunter and time/world travelling bit with one of her shorter stories ("Worlds Apart"), and uses the same technique here. It effectively brings together the characters, and acts as a major role in the story itself.
I feel that this trilogy is different as it doesn’t seem to concentrate much on the relationships. With the other trilogies, each book concentrates on the story of each pair: overcoming personal struggles, gaining each other’s trust and building a future together while fulfilling the task that has been set for them. With the Circle Trilogy, specifically with the first book Morrigan’s Cross, the focus mainly on the battle, with the story of Hoyt and Glenna acting as sort of a side dish. The first book gives almost equal "screen time" to all the characters, thus making the story of the pair feel a bit hurried. Books 2 (Dance of the Gods) and 3 (Valley of Silence) gives more room for the other pairs to establish their characters and their relationship with each other.
Despite that, I greatly enjoyed this trilogy. First and foremost, it’s a romance story. The characters — despite what I said earlier about development — like most of Ms. Roberts’ characters, are real and memorable. Their pairings are good, and each character is charming. Cian, for all his years as a vampyre, retains a huge part of his human-ness. Hoyt cares deeply for his brother and carries the guilt of not being there for his brother when he was turned to a vampyre. Larkin’s a happy go lucky shape-shifter with a sense of humor and a huge appetite. Blair is a tough, independent chick with a soft heart, as with Moira and Glenna.
Second, it’s fantasy. Magic, time travel and world hopping, mythical beasts and creatures, far off lands — the Circle Trilogy has all that. And Ms. Roberts makes it all work effectively. It’s amusing to see Blair and Glenna try to explain the modern world to Larkin and Hoyt (Moira learned it mostly by reading, taking a shine to the Internet while Larkin getting the taste for Coca-Cola), and it’s also interesting to see Blair’s reaction to Larkin’s changing into a dragon. There’s a heavy reference to Irish mythology, as Ms. Roberts is famous for. But it works, and gives us a delightful tale of adventure, with a bit of the macabre thrown in.
I wouldn’t say that The Circle Trilogy is my favorite from one reading. I’ll probably take me two or three more times before I would love it. It is definitely an enjoyable read, and even those who don’t really read romance would find these stories entertaining.