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Original Sin Mass Market Paperback – Jan 26 2010
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About the Author
Allison Brennan is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve romantic thrillers, including The Prey, Speak No Evil, Killing Fear and Sudden Death. Original Sin launches her new supernatural thriller series based on the Seven Deadly Sins. Prior to her writing career, she worked for thirteen years as a consultant in the California State Legislature. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children. A member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and the Horror Writers Association, when she’s not writing or reading, Allison enjoys playing video games and attending her kids sporting events.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was the darkest hour of the night.
Fiona stood within the protective double circle that framed the perfect hexagram within a perfect triangle. Bowls of incense burned within triangles, six of which were perfectly and evenly cast between the inner and outer circles at the apex of each point of the hexagram, smoke slowly rising. Only when the fumes breached the invisible shield did the wind carry them off, swirling violently into the black night. The laws of physics did not apply to Hell’s gateway.
As it is below, so it is above.
The seventh bowl sat in the center, at the base of the altar. The trap was complete.
Her filmy, translucent white gown was unique in its meticulous and detailed silver embroidery. Woven through Fiona’s fiery hair was a knotted scarlet rope. Flames from the black candles at each point of the hexagram were virtually still, a testament to her careful preparation and growing power.
Seven of her coven stood sentry beside the seven triangles. They, too, wore white gowns with nothing beneath. Her obedient daughter Serena was at her left hand. Three men guarded the altar. And the key to the gateway to Hell lay naked upon the altar, covered with only a sacred red sheet. Abby was a beautiful sacrifice, her long, golden hair fanned out beneath her. She had no fear. She’d been taught well.
Fiona listened to Serena speak the ancient words from the Conoscenza, murmuring as if speaking to a lover. She’d searched her entire life for this book of knowledge, the book so many believed to have been destroyed. Fiona had never lost hope, never given up. And now it was hers.
Nine days of fasting, nine days of purification, nine days of denial culminating in tonight and the fulfillment of her promise. With power comes responsibility, and Fiona kept her word. With the knowledge contained in the Conoscenza, her gain would be far greater control and power over the elements, the spirits, the universe. One step closer to immortality. She saw it, tasted it, reveled in the electricity of the forces within her and around her.
As Serena spoke, her servants chanted their response. As she incanted, their voices swelled, fueling Fiona’s power. The energy grew, pulled into their sacred circle. She commanded the wind, she would command all!
This was only the beginning, and there was to be no end.
“Anoint our vessel,” Fiona commanded the three men.
Serena handed Garrett a gold chalice with a mixture of herbs, resins, and human blood. As he dipped his left thumb into the cup, Serena began to turn the supernatu?ral key by reciting from the book. Garrett marked the vessel, ensuring that the Seven would soon be under Fiona’s command.
“As it is below, so it is above,” Fiona intoned. “For every good there is an evil, for every virtue there is a vice.”
Garrett put his thumb on the vessel’s forehead and drew a triangle. One of the women entered the inner circle and lit one of the seven candles, reciting a prayer of obedience.
Fiona continued the ritual, moving from triangle to triangle, with Garrett anointing and Serena reading from the book. He looked at Fiona over the cup, his eyes on fire. His lust, his fever, inspired her and she summoned each woman in turn, each a chosen guardian of one of the Seven.
Serena stepped away from the altar in the middle of the ritual and Fiona whirled around. “No one breaks the circle!”
Fiona looked upon her coven, smiling victoriously. She’d told them the arca would come.
—And the blood of the virtuous will seal the seven, and thee who seals the arca will rule—
Lily Ellis stood outside the double circle. Her long, pale red hair whipped about her face, her fair skin nearly translucent. She was rail thin, a wisp of a girl, but with the power of virtue and a soul dedicated to this moment. Fiona knew the girl’s inner strength would be strong enough, as she had been prepared as the vessel had been. If not, she’d die tonight, and Fiona would find another arca. There were others who had been dedicated; others who could serve her purpose. But the signs weren’t wrong: Lily Ellis was the one.
Fiona whispered to Serena, “Are you ready?”
“Bring her forth.”
Serena walked to the edge of the circle. She’d been cleansed and could not break the circle without harm, but Fiona was certain Lily Ellis did not know this, nor that once Lily entered the circle she would not be allowed to leave until the ritual was complete. And when the Seven were trapped, Fiona would have the power of legions of demons on her side, and elevate herself to a mortal god. Closer to victory over death, victory over age, victory over humanity.
“We will not harm you.”
Lily said, her voice shaking, “Pul-please let her go.”
“You would take her place?” Serena asked.
Serena understood the power of words. Would take her place was not an offering or an exchange, it was a question. Because no one could save Abby. She was the sacrifice through which the Seven would come forth; Abby was the key that unsealed the prison. She had been recruited because she was the arca’s closest friend and blood relative, a cousin. Both only daughters of witches who were only daughters of witches. Not necessary for the ritual, but Fiona preferred balance and rhythm in her rituals, and Lily and Abby provided a nice, even canvas.
The girl’s lips trembled. She had not dressed for the chill, her arms pulling her thin sweater tight around her. The fog rose from the ocean, rolling over the edge of the cliffs toward their circle. “Please—”
“Would you?” Serena asked.
Tears glistened in the candlelight. “Y-Yes.”
Serena put out her hand, palm up.
Lily hesitated. Fiona closed her eyes and pictured the surroundings. She sent out her Third Eye, her psychic self, looking for anyone lurking in the cypress. Beyond that was open space, cliffs, and the highway more than a mile to the west. Open space protected them. There was no one to stop her. She’d know long before anyone could get close. Victory was in her grasp. Power swelled in her breast.
Lily had to cross the circle of her own free will.
She had to agree to taste the forbidden fruit.
Lily looked around at the cloaked men and women. Nervous, scared, uncertain. Fiona nodded to Garrett. He pushed back his hood and turned to face Lily.
The arca gasped. “Pastor Garrett—”
“Come, child.” He opened his arms to her, palms up like Serena. Welcoming. Benign. His strikingly handsome face seduced women of all ages to do exactly what he wanted.
Lily swallowed, then stepped into the circle. She stopped, her face twisted in fearful confusion as the stillness of the air within the circle surprised her.
Serena removed the extra gown from her shoulders and said, “Wear this.”
Lily looked around, her eyes darting nervously from Garrett to the other men.
Serena laughed lightly. “Would you like them to close their eyes?”
She nodded, shaking. Fiona put up her hand and nodded to the men. “The arca commands privacy.”
Ian and Richard closed their eyes. Garrett smiled at Fiona as he put his hood back on, then closed his as well. She allowed him to gloat. Fiona had been skeptical of a seventeen-year-old virgin, but Garrett was never wrong about these things.
The girl took off her clothes, not meeting the eyes of the women who watched. Abby, a willing participant only because she didn’t know that her death was required, said, “Lily, there’s nothing to be scared about.”
“Abby—” Lily glanced around, her big, brown eyes wide, the reflection of the candles making them seem bottomless. “Please, let’s go.”
“No,” Abby said, irritated. “I thought you wanted to share this with me.”
Lily opened her mouth to speak, but Fiona could not allow her to cast doubt within Abby. Fiona said, “Relax, Abby, you need to be perfectly calm in order to achieve your elevated state.”
“The anointing,” Fiona said.
Serena had a small gold triangle-shaped box in her hand. The box contained a resin, made in part with blood of a newborn goat, olive oil, scammony, myrrh, and civet. The recipe came from the Conoscenza to aid the Seven in finding the arca once they were released. Serena marked Lily with the seven signs, on her forehead, each hand, her heart, her stomach, her pubis, and her left hip. There was an opening in the gown at each point so the mark wouldn’t be concealed. At each step, Serena whispered the commands, in Latin so the girl wouldn’t be afraid.
Garrett handed Serena a closed ball of simmering henbane. Serena opened it, allowing the hallucinogenic fumes to flow into Lily’s senses. One. Two. Three.
She closed the ball, handed it back to Garrett, and took Lily’s hand. The henbane would keep her compliant, for Fiona couldn’t have her fight back now. The wine she would soon drink—willingly or not—would attract the Seven to her, like a bitch in heat attracts a male dog. If the Seven escaped the arca it would be impossible to recapture all of them. At this momentous time, there was no room for error.
Serena brought Lily to the altar and laid her on her back, the top of her head touching Abby’s head. One was a vessel through which the demons would enter the world, the other was a container where they would be trapped.
It was perfect.
“Abby,” Lily whispered.
“Silence,” Fiona ordered. “It has begun.”
She continued the ritual she’d begun before the arca arrived, the growing tension and excitement filling her with physical and spiritual power.
Fiona would succeed where other, weaker magicians had failed. For centuries, individual witches and covens had attempted to locate the Conoscenza and failed. Attempted to find the Tree of Life and failed. Many had died in their failures.
Fiona would not fail. She would not die.
She would live forever.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the prequel, we learn about Father Phillip & St Michael's, find out why Anthony came to Santa Luisa, how he met Sky, how the 7 demons were released, and why Rafe was in a coma. I can't imagine reading the remaining books without this background and am baffled that neither Amazon nor Allison's website points out that it's a prequel!
Moira discovers her mother and her coven in the small town of Santa Louisa and travels there knowing she may die in a confrontation with her. She discovers evidence that her mother and the coven have been conducting rituals drawing evil to this small town.
When Fiona, Moira's mother, attempts to summon and trap the demons from hell known as the seven deadly sins, something goes terribly wrong and the demons are released on earth to wreak havoc. Moira and her allies may be the only hope in trapping the demons and sending them back to hell.
There were a few characters that stood out for me. Moira first of all, was a great heroine. Courageous doesn't even begin to describe her. She has to face down her own mother, who is a powerful witch hell bent on capturing and using her or destroying her. Not only does Moira face her mother but she battles the most vile demons from hell. Anthony, a demonologist, comes off hard and jaded. He's angry and doesn't trust Moira blaming her for the death of his friend and her former lover. Although he distrusts Moira he still works with her for the greater good. Rafe, Moira's love interest is brother from the Monetary. He was a bit a of a mystery to me and I never really could get a handle on his character. While committed to the cause and key to the plot, he seemed to take a backseat in character. I never really understood where the romantic connection between Rafe and Moira originated or why it evolved though. Fiona is the villain of all villains. She is evil, self centered and worst of all uses her own children in the pursuit of power.
This book was billed as a paranormal romance however the romance was very light taking a backseat to the more prevalent mystery and suspense aspect of the book. If you're looking for a more traditional paranormal romance then you may be disappointed in Original Sin. Being a romance lover myself, I will say that I didn't miss the romance angle at all as the plot was strong and the characterization good and I think the tiny bit of romance was not needed at all.
Original Sin worked for me on several different levels. The suspense build-up alone was enough to keep me turning the pages and the mystery held right up until the very end. I will admit, it took me about 6 chapters to really get into it but once the action started I did not want to put this book down.
If you read this book and find yourself as frustrated with it as I did, consider skipping ahead to page 60 and read the seven pages of Moira's flashback explaining her history with her mother and her role in the coven etc. I don't know why the author didn't include that passage much earlier in the story as very little makes sense without that background information.
The most powerful witch in the world has spent her life searching for the Book of Knowledge in order to summon the Seven Deadly Sins, embodied by powerful fallen angels, from the bowels of Hell to do her bidding. The only one capable of stopping her is her daughter Moira. Original Sin opens with Moira plagued by horrific nightmares full of human sacrifices and on the run from her mother as she seeks out information to kill her. Aided by the priest who is the closest thing to a father she's ever known, a demonologist (and his sheriff girlfriend)who blames her for the death of his brother, and the mysterious Rafe, Moira the the only hope the world has left.
I really wanted to like this book. A lot of reviewers who I typically agree with loved it. Me not so much. The writing is fairly generic and the beginning of the book frustratingly unclear in terms of character motivations. But even later on when certain things were explained, the story was needlessly complicated. Fiona, Moira's mother is constantly talking about killing her daughter, yet when she gets the opportunity she decides to come back later!?!
And as is typical of thrillers, there are a lot of characters and POV's going on in this book, often several per chapter. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. Guess which one Original Sin is? Perhaps if the characters had been more sharply defined they would have made more of an impact, but I read this entire book in one day yet I couldn't remember who was who without flipping back again and again.
One unique aspect of the world building in Original Sin is that Magic, in and of itself, is categorically evil. Witches are likewise bad without exception. Well, except for Moira who has shunned her powers.
There is also a lot of Biblical references and Catholic theology tweaked and borrowed from here, as well as the traditional concepts of Heaven and Hell. I'm not a Catholic so I can't comment on how accurate any of that is.
Overall, Original Sin is a bloated thriller with paranormal trappings and a slew of flat characters. The dialogue is occasionally cringe worthy, the action sequences relentless without seeming to advance the story, and the romance (little that there is) forced. Not exactly a glowing endorsement. I'm giving this book 2 bats out of 5 only because this book qualifies more as `not good' as opposed to simply `bad.'
Sexual Content: One vague, brief sex scene. One extended and graphic sex scene
Review: Moira is a witch. A witch descended from a long line of magic and evil. Her mother conceived her for the soul purpose of sacrificing her to Hell to be used as a conduit between the worlds. A goddess her mother had said, one that walks both worlds, yet none. Moira knew the truth though, she wouldn't be a goddess, she would be a slave. She escaped and found solace with her mother's enemy, the priests of the order of St. Michael's. She learned to battle the forces of evil, she learned faith and she also learned to love.
Her mother would not stop until she was either found, or destroyed. And all it took was one error on Moira's part, and everything she had came crashing down upon her and she barely escaped with her life. Her life, faith and reputation in tatters, Moira sets off to do the one thing she was destined to do, find and kill her mother. Her mother Fiona has other plans though...
Original Sin surprised me. Within the first two chapters I was actually getting to the point where I thought I might have to put it aside. It was moving slowly, well written but nothing was sucking me in. Boy was I surprised as I got deeper in the book and couldn't put the thing down! Action sequence after action sequence, Original Sin, definitely wasn't boring anymore. I'm very glad I didn't give in and push it to the side. Original Sin has it all, great characters, fast moving plot, detailed background, excellent tone and chills and thrills to make you want to run to the nearest church and say a few Hail Marys.
Reviewer Fact #42, raised Catholic, very Catholic (didn't go to a day of public school) and the Catholic religion is a big focus of this novel, and it was done well. Nothing like reading about warrior priests to bring back childhood memories. Some of those Jesuits looked like they've taken down a demon or two. Beside bringing out repressed Catholic memories the book did more than just entertain. Well worth the money, and from what I could tell, very easy to find, since I saw rows and rows of the book at every store I went to this weekend, from Rite Aid to Sam's.
Recommendations: Adult book for adult readers, there is violence, sex and a smidge of cursing. This is not what I would call a Paranormal Romance, there are a lot of "I Love Yous" from various characters, but the romance is not the main focus, it is the battle between good an evil. A nice introductory PNR if you are a fan of thrillers. Fans of horror, authors like Koontz and King should take a look.
The heroine, Moira, is brilliant. She is tough but has a past that makes her vulnerable. She is a powerful witch that no longer practices the craft. She has some major mommy issues, I mean, she's on the run from AND hunting her mother. Courageous doesn't even cover it, she is trained to fight those that summon demons from hell with black magic. Tackling that and your own mother? This is one strong woman. And it is up to her and her allies to stop the seven deadly sins and send them back to hell after they've been released to distribute chaos everywhere.
Now, secondary characters. Whoo, Fiona- Moira's mother- villain of all villains. She makes Cruella DeVil look like a puppy. This awful, self centered, evil woman uses her own children to pursue power. Who covets power over their own children? We also have Angry Anthony the demonologist and Rafe, Moira's love interest. I couldn't quite get a grip on Rafe, he wasn't around that much. It was hard to swallow the evolution of Moira and Rafe's connection but it was there nevertheless. Being dubbed a paranormal romance, I was surprised at the love connection taking such a backseat in the plot. This doesn't bug me out, I don't need romance to be at the forefront, a little light connection like the one here is sufficient enough for me! I think even those of you who love a traditional romance won't be put off due to great characters and an intense plot.
After I got through the initial start to the story, the suspense kept me going. I love good suspense. So, give this book a try- even if the first couple chapters are frustrating, it is worth it in the end. Great mystery and suspense. I recommend this book to those who love the paranormal, but if you're new to the genre don't start with this one. Save it for later :)
PS. I actually vote this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but there are no halves on Amazon! [...]