Kindle: 594 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: 8th February 2011
SET IN OXFORD, FRANCE AND NEW YORK STATE
Pitched as a grown up “Twilight” meets “Harry Potter,” Harkness certainly draws on the conventions of the genre in this first of three All Souls novels.
The Blurb: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
I had high hopes for this novel – I’m a sucker for a supernatural adventure romance, but to be honest I struggled with it. The opening is slow and it takes a good third of the book before we get past our heroine researching in various areas of the Bodleian being watched by various creatures. Not exactly the gripping introduction I was wanting.
It is also very frustrating to come across yet another stereotypical macho (but sensitive) leading man – Matthew Clairmont, besides his very contemporary love of yoga, is basically a carbon copy of Edward Cullen and Jamie Fraser, right down to the ‘copper’ hair (this is the new de rigueur barnet colour for leading men it seems) and brooding old fashioned morals. Protective to the point of being annoying, instead of being a foil that allows Diana to shine as a strong leading lady, he ends up seeming to stifle much of what makes her interesting.
The pace certainly picks up in the second half of the novel and I enjoyed the plot once it got going – even if there were moments where I felt I read it before in other books. The Outlander style element that was introduced towards the end of the novel sets up something interesting and I will probably read the next in the series as a beach read. I am incapable of not finishing a series once I start one!
Overall a solid addition to the genre but don’t expect anything particularly new or original.