I always make it a point to read various reviews, both good and bad, before I post a review here. I’ve already posted an impulsive review on Goodreads earlier because I couldn’t help but rant about it, but now that I’ve kind of got it out of my system over there, I’ll explain why I feel the way I feel here. Note that I struggle to keep the content of this blog on a mature and logical level. So let’s keep it civil, shall we?
I didn’t like it (in varying degrees. Take that statement how you will).
How I managed 579 pages of this book, I don’t know. But I do know that Harkness somehow kept me strung along for the entire long and strenuous ride. Allow me to summarize this story to you:
Let me go over the pros before I discuss the cons. Harkness is a very smart person. She has a vast story in her mind and she enjoys writing. Her use of language is intelligent, and for a reader like myself who won’t judge a few slips in scientific facts or history (unless it’s blatant), she does the job well. Diana, the main character, is also intellectual, independent, and clever, while simultaneously being oblivious, needy for her love interest, and willfully frustrating.
And there ends the pros, and commence the cons. Because the more time I spend away from this book, the more issues begin to raise their questionable heads.
First, if you’re familiar with my feelings on American Gods, you know how I love anticlimactic endings. And like another book I read this year, this book is missing the final climax. There is none. None at all. What is there is the queue for book two. Well, I’m sorry to say, this is where the book should have begun. These 579 pages should have been condensed into 250 pages.
Because second, the book spends paragraphs and pages and chapters upon wine, what clothes to wear, food being cooked and eaten, what MC had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what kind of paperwork MC is working on, the various movements of everyone and everything in a room, what kind of wood the walls are made of, the history of castles, wine, the trees, and on, and on.
Example: there is a meeting and the participants decide to disperse and meet up again somewhere else. So the following chapter is spent saying good-bye to six people. Twelve pages. Six people. An entire chapter. Twelve pages. The good-byes are hardly relevant other than Harkness writing down every word of small-talk between every character.
She doesn’t even show half the action in the book (even though she’s good at it when she does). MC is left out of conversations. Granted 95% of the book is written in 1st POV. Four chapters are written from 3rd POV, and most of them are in the first half of the book. It was somewhat frustrating, but okay, I can deal.
Third, forgive me for this prejudice, but I’m just not into plots that depend upon the love interest. The blurb of this book is misleading. I thought this was going to be a story about alchemy. Instead, this book is about the forbidden romance between a witch and a vampire. I don’t mind the traits Harkness has given her supernaturals, but Matthew the vampire is far too romanticized for my liking. Never mind that he becomes a totally different character once he admits to being hopelessly in love with MC. I’m sorry. I like classic vampires, not this modern dreary sweep-you-off-your-feet so-called bloodsucker. Mathieu the vampire can eat food. He imbibes copious amounts of wine. Granted, it’s no real sustenance for him, but that’s just part of the curse, right?
Fourth, there were just some plot details that just didn’t ring right to me.
- Two witches can outsmart nine super-powerful supernaturals?
- Vampires are supposedly dying off, but then it’s never brought up again.
- In fact, we lose all contact with current affairs around the halfway point.
- Daemons act like the peanut gallery until some special ones show up at the end. How convenient.
- Characters come and go, never to return again. Oh well.
- There are apparently lots of children in upstate NY. (I’ve spent time up there. Most of the upstate NY population is considerably spread out.)
- There is a war going on in the latter half of the story. But there isn’t any fighting. But it’s a war.
- MC’s remaining family members, ghosts and all, know everything, yet don’t know everything. Or choose not to…
- MC spends the latter half of the book trying to get down and dirty with Matthew. He resists every time.
- In fact, both characters seem to gain magical powers by the end of book, but in the process, lose their original personality.
- MC is (surprise) probably the most powerful witch ever.
- And Matthew is probably the most powerful vampire ever.
And most importantly, will she ever get her hands on this alchemy book? That was the main reason I kept reading. She has this alchemy book in her hands in chapter one… and upon dismissing it, she never ever gets it back.
tl;dr: Writers, unless it’s relevant to the plot, avoid the small talk. Avoid describing every single detail of every inanimate and/or animate object in the setting unless it’s relevant to the plot. And please, for the love of all that is good in the world, have some sort of climax at the end of the book.