Author: Deborah Harkness, 2011.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. History of Science and Alchemy. Mystery.
Other Details: Hardback. 608 pages.
This début novel, which combines paranormal romance with historical mystery, focuses on American historian Diana Bishop, who is in Oxford undertaking research on alchemy at the Bodleian Library. When she opens an obscure manuscript it responds to her in an unusual fashion. The reason for this is that Diana is actually a witch with a powerful lineage. However, following the violent deaths of her parents when she was a child she consciously turned her back on that world. As witches, vampires and daemons sense the significance of Diana's discovery, they gather in Oxford and encroach upon her safely ordered world. Among them is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist, who is of course devastatingly handsome and rich beyond measure. Diana is irresistibly drawn to Matthew and he to her. Together they decide to unlock the secrets of the manuscript. However, in doing so they are not fully aware of the ancient covenant they will break and the dangers awaiting them.
I was so excited when I read the premise for this book, especially as its author is an academic historian with special interest in the history of science and magic during the 16th and 17th centuries. I quickly slapped in a pre-order and could hardly wait for it to arrive through my letter box. However, almost from its opening pages I realised that this wasn't quite what I had hoped for either in style or content and quickly got to the point of wanting to hurl it across the room.
So yes, I had a number of issues with the novel. ( Collapse )
Despite my reservations, I was impressed throughout at how well Harkness integrated history, science and alchemical imagery into the plot. Overall, these aspects were where the novel's strength lay for me as well as in the promise of the direction that the story is taking. In its final pages it does build up a fair head of steam. It is the first in a series (All Souls Trilogy) with no fixed date on when the second will appear though author says on her website she is hoping for a 2012 publication.
Excerpt from the book on author's website - with links to other material.