41 pages 1 hour read

Nora Roberts

The Awakening

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


The Awakening (2020) is an adult fantasy novel by Nora Roberts and the first in the Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy, which describes how Breen Kelly, a young woman raised in the US, discovers her birthright and claims her powers as a protector of a hidden magickal realm. Roberts is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has published over 200 novels of romance, women’s fiction, and fantasy under her own name, in addition to a futuristic police procedural series under the name J. D. Robb. The Awakening first appeared from St. Martin’s Press.

This guide references the St. Martin’s mass market paperback edition published in 2022.

Plot Summary

In a prologue set in the Valley of the Fey, Keegan O’Broin dives into a lake and sees a young red-haired woman offering him the sword that will make him chieftain and protector of the realm of Talamh. In present-day Philadelphia, Breen Kelly, a middle-school teacher, discovers that her mother has hidden money sent to Breen by her absent father, amounting to nearly $4 million. Fed up with the way her mother has always limited her options and made her feel unworthy, Breen quits her job and decides to spend the summer in Ireland searching for her father, Eian Kelly. Her best friend and roommate, Marco, goes with her.

Breen is dazzled by the landscape of Ireland, where she has increasingly vivid dreams about a green world of forests and waterfalls where strangers—an older woman, a warrior on a black horse—tell her to awaken. She meets a young woman who lets her fly her hawk, but, when Breen tries to locate the woman later, there’s no one by her name at the falconry school.

At a village pub, Breen meets a man who tells her how her parents met and gives her a picture of her father with his bandmates. Breen falls in love with the picturesque cottage by the sea that she’s rented for the summer. When Marco returns home, Breen settles into a rhythm of writing, exploring, and learning to garden. On a walk one day, she follows a dog who leads her to a stately tree in the forest. Breen climbs the branches, then falls through to a different world.

She wakes in an unfamiliar field, feeling dizzy. A farmer and his sister help her, then take her to a cottage to meet a woman named Mairghread (Marg), who says she is Breen’s grandmother. Breen, Marg says, was born in this cottage. Eian was Marg’s son but has since died. Breen learns that Marg is a Fey, one of the Wise, and has a difficult time accepting that. Marg asks Morena, the woman with the falcon, to take Breen home, and Morena reveals that she is one of the Sidhe and can fly. Back at her cottage with her dog, Breen has no idea how to write about any of this in her blog. She tries to return to her normal life until Marg comes to visit.

Breen returns to Talamh and learns more about the place and its people. She visits her father’s grave and meets Keegan, Talamh’s leader and protector. Breen enjoys meeting the various magickal creatures that inhabit Talamh. They broke away from the persecutions of the earth world and created a peaceful, pastoral society free from technology, industry, and pollution. Breen learns magicks from her grandmother, and Keegan trains her how to fight. Breen’s grandfather, Odran, is an evil god who killed her father and wants to use Breen’s power to rule Talamh as well as the human world, and Breen needs to be strong enough to stop him.

Breen tries to balance her lives in two worlds: her magickal training and growing love for Talamh, and her successful writing career that she’s developing in the earth world. As she begins a romantic relationship with Keegan, Breen feels increasingly torn between the two places. She has people she loves in Philadelphia and a chance to pursue the career of her dreams, but she also feels an obligation to protect Talamh, especially as Odran amasses power and plans an attack. When Breen returns to Philadelphia to set her human affairs in order, Keegan follows to demand she fulfill her duty to Talamh. Marco, who thinks Breen is in trouble, follows Breen into the portal in a cliffhanger ending that sets up the second book in the Dragon Heart Legacy series, The Becoming.