This is another of the reviews that I wanted to pull up from the “archives” because it has a sequel coming out in July of this year. I had no idea going into the novel that it was the first of a series, and, unlike the current trend among paranormal fiction for EVERY book to be the first in a series, seeing the “dun dun dun to be continued!” at the end was both satisfying and frustrating. Not frustrating enough for me to not have pre-ordered the sequel, though.
I had this book in the to be read pile FOREVER, and I’m not sure what prevented me from picking it up sooner. I don’t regret that decision, since it was the perfect piece of completely engrossing summer reading.
Diana Bishop is a Yale historian studying alchemy at Oxford. She also happens to be descended from a long line of Witches, including one of the first to be executed in the Salem witch trials. Diana’s parents met a grisly end when she was very young, causing her to turn her back on her power and seek a more normal life. She’s thrown herself into the study of history, where everything is supposedly black and white and everything has an answer. Or so she thinks, until the day when she places a request for a manuscript that turns out to be enchanted, and has been missing for years.
Her ability to retrieve this document attracts the attention of all manner of paranormal creatures, who believe this book holds the secret to their creation and continued existence. Notably among them are Matthew Clairmont, another noted academic who just happens to be a vampire and totally dreamy, and Peter Knox, a well known and powerful witch who has sinister designs of his own for Diana and her untapped power. The question of who to trust has Diana questioning all she believes she knows about her past and her future.
I won’t go too much further into the plot, so as not to spoil any of the juicy details. It’s abundantly clear that Deborah Harkness had a blast writing her novel, as she’s included a little bit of everything in its pages. Little historical tidbits (like Matthew receiving a home from Henry VIII) made me *nerdsquee!* as I read the pages, while descriptions of even the mundane were poetic. She takes her characters to some amazing locales, and her descriptions of wine are tantalizing enough to make me wish I were a oenophile. Everything in the story has a personality- from the animals, to the supporting cast and even the buildings.
Diana herself is a very interesting heroine to read- she eats like a horse, is a ridiculously accomplished academic, loves yoga, drinks copious amounts of tea and is an equestrienne. I found myself wishing throughout the books pages that we could sit down for a chat in real life. Matthew is swoon-worthy, dashing and overly protective at times. Together the two of them are “Edward and Bella” for grownups, with plenty of sexual tension thrown in. There is no sparkling involved. (Nor is this an obvious piece of former fan-fiction, like the now infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey.”)
I would definitely recommend this one, and I’m going to throw out a BIG SPOILER for you right now: This is the first of a series, so don’t be disappointed by the ending. I certainly would have been had I not known that the plot was going to continue (and OHMIGOD it’s going to be AWESOME. *more nerdsquees!*).