A witch who rejected her magic after the brutal death of her parents, Diana Bishop is a historian researching alchemy at Oxford. One day in the Bodleian library, she calls up a manuscript called Ashmole 782 that has been bewitched. Unnerved and frightened by the manuscript, she returns it to the stacks. However, her actions have not gone unnoticed—she’s drawn the attention of other creatures (witches, vampires and daemons) who flock to the library. It turns out that Diana has unwittingly found the lost manuscript that contains the secrets about the origins of creatures. Ashmole 782 is much desired but has been lost for centuries—protected by powerful magic that has kept it safe until Diana unearthed it. As various creatures begin to position themselves to seize the manuscript, Diana finds an unlikely ally and protector in a 1,500-year-old vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Although she’s been warned to never trust a vampire, Diana finds herself confused by her feelings for Matthew. As her relationship with Matthew develops and a war for the manuscript begins to take shape, Diana is forced to examine her past, accept her powerful witch heritage and confront her feelings about her own magical abilities.
This was an enjoyable read but—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—it was no Twilight. I really didn’t get all hung up on Matthew like I did on Edward Cullen (which might say more about me than it does about the book). Although I enjoyed the fun that Harkness has with witches, vampires and daemons, the book didn’t generate much heat (sexual or otherwise). Everything seemed to happen too fast and easily. At one point, Diana gets into a bit of a jam but then tada! she gets out of it pretty easily. I guess I needed her to suffer more or for Diana and Matthew to experience more angst. It sounds like a strange thing to say, but what I guess I’m getting at is that I didn’t feel a sense of danger or menace in the books to give it emotional heft.
What was most enjoyable about the book was how Harkness reimagined the various creatures of witches, vampires and daemons. One of my favorite parts was the house owned by Diana’s aunts. The house has feelings and gets ready for visitors by creating new rooms for them to stay in. Another fun aspect was when Diana decides to prepare a meal for Matthew and tries to figure out how to cook for a vampire.I think Harkness tried to create more modern believable back stories for creatures, but she doesn’t quite have the imagination and fun that, say, J.K. Rowling had with the Harry Potter books.
Another area that might appeal to readers of a certain type was the historical tidbits that Harkness throws into the mix. It is obvious that she did some research to provide Diana with a plausible career as a historian studying the history of alchemy. The book is full of historical references, and Matthew is forever making casual references along the lines of “Oh Pope Blah Blah Blah… yeah, he was a vampire.”
Readers should also know that this is the first book of a planned trilogy. I was under the impression it was a standalone book and, as I was reading, I kept thinking “How in the world is she going to wrap this up in the pages remaining?” It wasn’t until the final pages—which ends with a very big cliffhanger—that I realized this was the first book in a series. The second book is out now (Shadow of Night), and while I do plan on reading it at some point, I didn’t rush out to get it.
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