In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.
Hmmm...I picked this up knowing there were many mixed reviews with some people loving it, while others struggled so I was determined to make my own mind up. First the setting in Oxford’s Library seem original and different – I love books naturally so any story which has the discovery of a long lost volume as a key plot point will intrigue me. I have to admit the various settings for the story were one my favourite parts with globe-trotting from Oxford to the French country-side to the United States well done with each place having a distinctly different feel and character of its own. I especially liked Diana’s family house which was a great twist on a house with personality!
Our leading lady, Diana is an alchemist historian and a witch – although she doesn’t know much about her powers as she has rejected them ever since the death of her parents. Despite this she still uses magic on a fairly regular basis. However, Diana is also a pretty weak character in my view with plenty of fainting and crying over small things. She also falls in love far too quickly – something that annoys me in YA books and is even less acceptable in adult books! The leading man is a vampire scientist, Matthew who is over-protective and over-bearing – it never seems like he trusts Diana enough to tell her himself of his history or even recent actions and the lack of trust between them doesn’t make the relationship work for me.
With the leading couple not people I can relate to too or root for, it made the whole story difficult for me to continue reading. If one of your heroes is being tortured you are supposed to be worried – not bored. Luckily I actually liked a lot of the secondary characters especially Matthew’s mother ‘Isobelle’ who was feisty and maternal at the same time. Diana’s aunts are also good characters who add some colour to the world and helped me continue reading. The wider world with the mixture of vampires, witches and daemons was interesting and I wanted to know more about what was happening – I love political intrigue and some information on how the wider world was changing would have been fascinating. Instead there were just a lot of assumptions on what the bad guys were up to.
I enjoyed the setting and the secondary characters, but the main relationship really frustrated me and held back my enjoyment of the rest of the story. Will I read the sequel? Not sure...I am curious about what happens next but the ending doesn’t leave me a lot of hope that the areas I liked will get a lot of time in the next book.
Recommended for fans of Andrew Davidson and Jo Walton. 6 out of 10