01/07/2012. Contributed by Sarah Bruch
pub: Headline . 592 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-75538-473-0.
check out website: www.headline.co.uk
This is the second book in the 'All Souls Trilogy' following on from 'A Discovery Of Witches'. I would suggest that these books are read in order, I don't think they're built for reading independently.
We jump into this book straight from 'A Discovery Of Witches', along with Diana and Matthew, into the reign of Elizabeth I with no preamble. It's as if we never left them on that massive cliff-hanger. Diana and Matthew are on two quests. Firstly, to discover the whereabouts of Ashmole 782 after having seen and lost this document in the previous book. They are also trying to discover some witches that have the ability to train Diana in her magical skills, this is pretty much an essential as Diana doesn't know how to get them back to the present day! Neither of these quests are easy by any means, what with all the political intrigue, the witch hunts and the volatile nature of Queen Elizabeth I. Being in this time period gives Diana the chance to learn more about alchemy at a time when alchemical experiments were actually taking place. Throughout, Diana and Matthew are coming to realise just how much their love could test creatures both in the Elizabethan Era and back in the present day after having launched into their love affair with very little thought in the previous book.
To be honest, I'm really not sure what else to say about the contents of this book. This is one of the reasons I love and hate reading pre-publication copies of books. I love that I get to read books before everyone else, it's like going to a movie premier but better I actually did a little dance when I realised this book had arrived! However, I hate that I'm never sure how much of the story to give away in reviews. I'd hate it if I had the book ruined by a reviewer, so I'm guessing a lot of the people reading this would hate it, too. I can say that we meet loads of characters, some of whom I expected, others I was surprised by in a good way.
This book combines two of my favourite genres, historical and urban fantasy, and it does it in an almost perfect way not often found in other books. Throughout this book. the feeling of place and time are really present and the reader really feels a part of history. Diana is a great person to be learning about this time period with as she has lots of knowledge, but not too much. She really has a steep learning curve and brings the reader along for the ride. I enjoyed the fact that she made mistakes, unlike other time travelling books where people seem to fit in immediately. She has to learn how to speak and how to write in order to fit in with everyone else. Diana meets a great deal of historical characters, most of whom I recognised, some of whom I had to research. This book has definitely piqued my interest in learning about this historical period.
I enjoyed reading about Matthew's history and, boy, does he have a lot of it! He seems to have been caught up in almost every historical happening in the past few hundred years! Hearing his stories as and when Diana finds out more about him makes him seem more human and more of a rounded character.
I did find it odd that Matthew seems to know and be acquaintances with a great deal of historical characters of significance in this time period. I realise he has lived a long time but how did he manage to befriend so many highly influential people? I suppose he is meant to be from the upper classes so it might ring true, however he is also meant to be part of groups that are meant to lay low and not influence human history. I can understand why Deborah Harkness decided to put so many historical characters into her novel, they do make it interesting but maybe there were just a few too many to be realistic.
The only other thing I dislike about this novel and, this is just a personal taste thing, is Diana's name. Personally, I find it doesn't suit her character, but again I can see why Harkness gave her the name as she uses it within the storylines a lot in this novel.
Something I have learnt the hard way is that this book is not one for reading in bed...it's really heavy when it falls on you if you manage to drift off, plus it's almost impossible to find a good point to stop reading. Having said this, Harkness' style is very easy to read so this massive tome is easily gobbled up and digested, although not in one sitting! Beware, if you start this book, you might want to book some time off from the real world if you're anything like me you will not want to stop reading it for any length of time!
Overall, I loved this book and I can't wait for the next one. Although it makes me a little sad to think there will only be another one in this series. I hope Harkness has another set of books as good as this set up her sleeve.
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