Original Sin (Seven Deadly Sins)
Allison Brennan

Ballantine Books
Paperback, 464 pages, $7.99
Review by Sheila Merritt

What is a “paranormal romance?” Allison Brennan’s novel Original Sin is marketed as one. After reading the book, it could be assumed that a paranormal romance involves: Fast and loose playing with Christian doctrine; occult practices; hot and heavy passion; and supernatural secret societies with major issues. Oh, and by the way: The future of the world is at stake. In this tale, Envy is the heavy. Yes, Envy; the embodiment of the sin, incarnate. The other sins will be addressed in, presumably, six sequels to this book. Talk about a built-in franchise. Seizing on the trend for the romantic otherworldly “we are soul mates who can never be a couple” dynamic, author Brennan does a nice job zeroing in on the tastes of readers of the subgenre. She knows her audience, and what they want and expect.

In a mother and daughter power struggle, witches Fiona (mother) and Moira (daughter) face off with mutual antipathy and antagonism. Evil Fiona, uses her abilities for wicked gain, and Moira has been tragically victimized by her mother. Vengeance and merciless maliciousness are venomously volleyed between the duo; with some calamitous collateral damage. The Seven Deadly Sins are being invoked by Fiona and her coven to walk the earth, and create an imbalance in the cosmos. Just a parenthetical reiteration of an aforementioned comment: The future of the world is at stake. This isn’t merely witchy bickering on a grand scale.

Envy is the first activated sin. Its essence prompts the locals of a small town to commit acts of murder and mayhem, as a response to their feelings of covetousness. The Sins are described as psychic leeches: “They’re like legendary vampires, but instead of sucking blood they crave our greatest weaknesses, drawing them to the surface, pushing us to act on our sins, that hurt not only us, but others. And the more we give in, the more we want. The more we need.”

In her struggle to defeat her mother and save the universe, which amounts to the same thing but with an unbalanced personal emphasis, Moira’s strengths and skills are accentuated. She has been trained, à la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in combat and in knowledge of demon behavior and weaknesses. Possessing inherited arcane abilities, she has a strong psychological arsenal from which to draw. Still, of course, she is vulnerable; and hence, not immune to a sensitive, moody/broody Celtic cutie. Moira is a feisty and capable protagonist. She is also a weak in the knees, when it comes to love, romantic heroine. These dichotomies are characteristic attributes in such novels, and are used with abundant abandon it this book.

Author Allison Brennan gets credit for taking a popular trend, and understanding the elements within it that enrapture its many readers. This very calculated novel is written with aplomb. It is shrewd in its assuredness of expectations; a very commercial comprehension.

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