Dear Ms Harkness,
Thank you for restoring my faith in the unputdownability* of a good book. I bought the audiobook version (read by Jennifer Ikeda) in a last-minute shopping spree for a long car journey I wasn't looking forward too (nine hours and rain all the way). I didn't even bother reading the blurb properly but went entirely by the cover (which is great - understated and yet fascinating).
It has been quite some time since I was last this fascinated by a book. I was so engrossed, in fact, that I arrived home and had to go and buy the book on my kindle so I could continue reading in bed (don't have a cd player there).
In fact, I stayed up longer than was wise after such a long journey, got up too early for complete comfort and continued reading until I absolutely had to leave for work. I kept reading at work, too (bad Tessa, I know, but I couldn't help it)(good thing I'm the boss).
Suffice to say, Ms Harkness, you are my new favourite author and I shall be waiting, breath abated, for the sequel to come out.
THE BLURB (according to Amazon):
An epic, richly inventive, historically sweeping, magical romance. When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels...
Diana is a scholar down to her very bones. She lives and breathes her research and is full of historical facts that may or may not be relevant to the plot (I'm NOT going to include any spoilers here if I can help it!!). She's thoroughly convincing, understandable in all her idiosyncracies (like not wanting to use her magic but succumbing on occasion), her preference for solitude and her almost single-minded pursuit of knowledge.
Matthew is fascinating. He's dark, he's handsome, he has something of a dark knight about him (not surprising considering what he is), and Diana quite literally falls into his arms. He has secrets - a seemingly endless array of them - and he seems to detests giving them away. He's cold in more ways than one, towards everyone but Diana, though his rage is white-hot.
Together they face an increasing number of foes while Diana (re)learns her heritage, her power, and they try to unravel the mystery that is Ashmole 782.
The world Ms Harkness creates is fascinating in that it seemed so very real to me, it took me a while to even realize it was a fantasy (I know I know it's in the blurb but still). The magic seeps into the story so subtly, so much without fanfare or ka-bam that you almost need to turn around and check it isn't real, in this world outside of words and pages. I fell into this world (thanks, also, to Ms Ikeda's great reading voice), and I really rather resented the fact that the book had to end.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if you like a realistic sort of fantasy, witches, vampires and intrigue, GO BUY THIS BOOK!!!
10 out of 10 cupcakes!
* I realize that isn't a word but it seems eminently appropriate in this case.