"Write what you know," debut novelists are told, and Professor Deborah Harkness has accordingly set hers in the world of academia.... A bubbling cauldron of illicit desire...all the ingredients for an assured saga that blends romance with fantasy.
Daily Mail (UK)
An inventive addition to the supernatural craze.... Historian Harkness's racy paranormal romance has exciting amounts of spells, kisses and battles, and is recounted with enchanting, page-turning panache.
In Harkness's lively debut, witches, vampires, and demons outnumber humans at Oxford's Bodleian Library, where witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her. Against all occult social propriety, Bishop turns for protection to tall, dark, bloodsucking man-about-town Clairmont. Their research raises questions of evolution and extinction among the living dead, and their romance awakens centuries-old enmities. Harkness imagines a crowded universe where normal and paranormal creatures observe a tenuous peace. "Magic is desire made real," Bishop says after both her desire and magical prowess exceed her expectations. Harkness brings this world to vibrant life and makes the most of the growing popularity of gothic adventure with an ending that keeps the Old Lodge door wide open.
Diana Bishop is a history scholar—and a witch in denial of her powers. Researching the early beginnings of scientific study in Oxford's Bodleian Library, she unwittingly discovers an ancient tome of alchemy and finds herself attracting a great deal of unwanted attention from a startling array of deamons, witches, and other supernatural beings. Among them is the brilliant (and attractive) vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Set in our contemporary world with a magical twist, this sparkling debut by a history professor features a large cast of fascinating characters, and readers will find themselves invested in Diana's success at unlocking the secrets of the manuscript. Although not a nail-biting cliff-hanger, the finale skillfully provides a sense of completion while leaving doors open for the possibility of wonderful sequel adventures. This reviewer, for one, hopes they come soon! Verdict: Destined to be popular with fantasy and paranormal aficionados, this enchanting novel is an essential purchase. Harkness is an author to watch. —Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
(Starred review.) All [the] characters are fully fleshed and unique, which, when combined with the complex and engaging plot, results in one of the better fantasy debuts in recent months. —Jessica Moyer
Harry Potter meets Lestat de Lioncourt. Throw in a time machine, and you've got just about everything you need for a full-kit fantasy. The protagonist is a witch. Her beau is a vampire. If you accept the argument that we've seen entirely too many of both kinds of characters in contemporary fiction, then you're not alone. Yet, though Harkness seems to be arriving very late to a party that one hopes will soon break up, her debut novel has its merits; she writes well, for one thing, and, as a historian at the University of Southern California, she has a scholarly bent that plays out effectively here. Indeed, her tale opens in a library—and not just any library, but the Bodleian at Oxford, pride of England and the world. Diana Bishop is both tenured scholar and witch, and when her book-fetcher hauls up a medieval treatise on alchemy with "a faint, iridescent shimmer that seemed to be escaping from between the pages," she knows what to do with it. Unfortunately, the library is crammed with other witches, some of malevolent intent, and Diana soon finds that books can be dangerous propositions. She's a bit of a geek, and not shy of bragging, either, as when she trumpets the fact that she has "a prodigious, photographic memory" and could read and write before any of the other children of the coven could. Yet she blossoms, as befits a bodice-ripper no matter how learned, once neckbiter and renowned geneticist Matthew Clairmont enters the scene. He's a smoothy, that one, "used to being the only active participant in a conversation," smart and goal-oriented, and a valuable ally in the great mantomachy that follows—and besides, he's a pretty good kisser, too. "It's a vampire thing," he modestly avers. Entertaining, though not in the league of J.K. Rowling—or even Anne Rice. But please, people: no more vamps and wizards, OK?
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