Penguin Group

Review: The Book of Life

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)
Written by Deborah Harkness
Published on July 15, 2014 by Viking Press
576 pages
Supernatural Fiction

16054217Synopsis:

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

The Book of Life is a marvelous conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy. Deborah Harkness gave the reader a book that resolves storylines plus a wisp of hope that the story isn’t over. I loved every page and I was so sad to see it end. Once again, Ms. Harkness weaves a magical tale of love; however, with The Book of Life, she shows us what it means to be a family.

Throughout The Book of Life, the definition of family and loyalty is put to the test. Diana and Matthew redefine family by calling witches, vampires and daemons all family. I loved how that family had evolved so dramatically since A Discovery of Witches. There was so much distrust and hatred. Now there is love, loyalty and acceptance. Race purity is an ignorance and ancient concept. The sense of family conquered that basic racism.

Diana and Matthew reached their full character potential. Diana became an incredibly strong woman, witch, wife and mother. In A Discovery of Witches, she completely denied who she was and who she could be. By the end, she fully embraces herself and becomes the anchor of her family. Matthew, also, reached his full potential on a different level. He was so cold and detached; now he opens up to Diana and his family. He recognizes his faults and will willingly accept help. He is no longer just Diana’s protector. They are full partners in life and love.

The Book of Life is, by far, my favorite book of the year. I’m hoping, that one day, Deborah Harkness revisits and tells more amazing stories of Diana and Matthew. I’m so not ready to say good-bye. By the way The Book of Life ended, I feel there is possibility that Diana and Matthew will not fade away.

KinxsBookNookScore5

 

A Conversation with Deborah Harkness…And Giveaway!

A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS

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  Q: In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading THE BOOK OF LIFE? There’s quite a bit more lab work in this book!

 A. There is. Welcome back to the present! What I hope readers come to appreciate is that science—past or present—is nothing more than a method for asking and answering questions about the world and our place in it. Once, some of those questions were answered alchemically. Today, they might be answered biochemically and genetically. In the future? Who knows. But Matthew is right in suggesting that there are really remarkably few scientific questions and we have been posing them for a very long time. Two of them are: who am I? why am I here?

 Q: Much of the conflict in the book seems to mirror issues of race and sexuality in our society, and there seems to be a definite moral conclusion to THE BOOK OF LIFE. Could you discuss this? Do you find that a strength of fantasy novels is their ability to not only to allow readers to escape, but to also challenge them to fact important moral issues?

 A. Human beings like to sort and categorize. We have done this since the beginnings of recorded history, and probably well back beyond that point. One of the most common ways to do that is to group things that are “alike” and things that are “different.” Often, we fear what is not like us. Many of the world’s ills have stemmed from someone (or a group of someones) deciding what is different is also dangerous. Witches, women, people of color, people of different faiths, people of different sexual orientations—all have been targets of this process of singling others out and labeling them different and therefore undesirable. Like my interest in exploring what a family is, the issue of difference and respect for difference (rather than fear) informed every page of the All Souls Trilogy. And yes, I do think that dealing with fantastic creatures like daemons, vampires, and witches rather than confronting issues of race or sexuality directly can enable readers to think through these issues in a useful way and perhaps come to different conclusions about members of their own families and communities. As I often say when people ask me why supernatural creatures are so popular these days: witches and vampires are monsters to think with.

Q: From the moment Matthew and a pregnant Diana arrive back at Sept-Tours and reinstate themselves back into a sprawling family of witches and vampires, it becomes clear that the meaning of family will be an important idea for THE BOOK OF LIFE. How does this unify the whole series? Did you draw on your own life?

A. Since time immemorial the family has been an important way for people to organize themselves in the world. In the past, the “traditional” family was a sprawling and blended unit that embraced immediate relatives, in-laws and their immediate families, servants, orphaned children, the children your partner might bring into a family from a previous relationship, and other dependents. Marriage was an equally flexible and elastic concept in many places and times. Given how old my vampires are, and the fact that witches are the keepers of tradition, I wanted to explore from the very first page of the series the truly traditional basis of family:  unqualified love and mutual responsibility. That is certainly the meaning of family that my parents taught me.

Q: While there are entire genres devoted to stories of witches, vampires, and ghosts, the idea of a weaver – a witch who weaves original spells – feels very unique to THE BOOK OF LIFE. What resources helped you gain inspiration for Diana’s uniqueness?

 A. Believe it or not, my inspiration for weaving came from a branch of mathematics called topology. I became intrigued by mathematical theories of mutability to go along with my alchemical theories of mutability and change. Topology is a mathematical study of shapes and spaces that theorizes how far something can be stretched or twisted without breaking. You could say it’s a mathematical theory of connectivity and continuity (two familiar themes to any reader of the All Souls Trilogy). I wondered if I could come up with a theory of magic that could be comfortably contained within mathematics, one in which magic could be seen to shape and twist reality without breaking it. I used fabric as a metaphor for this worldview with threads and colors shaping human perceptions. Weavers became the witches who were talented at seeing and manipulating the underlying fabric. In topology, mathematicians study knots—unbreakable knots with their ends fused together that can be twisted and shaped. Soon the mathematics and mechanics of Diana’s magic came into focus.

Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and Shadow of Night debuted at #1. What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for the All Souls Trilogy? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who have a considerable number of quirks and challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in the world of the Bishops and de Clemonts. Sometimes when I meet readers they ask me how their friends are doing—meaning Diana, or Matthew, or Miriam. That’s an extraordinary experience for a writer.

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Q: Diana and Matthew, once again, move around to quite a number of locations in THE BOOK OF LIFE, including New Haven, New Orleans, and a few of our favorite old haunts like Oxford, Madison, and Sept-Tours. What inspired you to place your characters in these locations? Have you visited them yourself? 

 A. As a writer, I really need to experience the places I write about in my books. I want to know what it smells like, how the air feels when it changes direction, the way the sunlight strikes the windowsill in the morning, the sound of birds and insects. Not every writer may require this, but I do. So I spent time not only in New Haven but undertaking research at the Beinecke Library so that I could understand the rhythms of Diana’s day there. I visited New Orleans several times to imagine my vampires into them. All of the locations I pick are steeped in history and stories about past inhabitants—perfect fuel for any writer’s creative fire.

Q: Did you know back when you wrote A Discovery of Witches how the story would conclude in THE BOOK OF LIFE? Did the direction change once you began the writing process?

 A. I knew how the trilogy would end, but I didn’t know exactly how we would get there. The story was well thought out through the beginning of what became The Book of Life, but the chunk between that beginning and the ending (which is as I envisioned it) did change. In part that was because what I had sketched out was too ambitious and complicated—the perils of being not only a first-time trilogy writer but also a first time author. It was very important to me that I resolve and tie up all the threads already in the story so readers had a satisfying conclusion. Early in the writing of The Book of Life it became clear that this wasn’t going to give me much time to introduce new characters or plot twists. I now understand why so many trilogies have four, five, six—or more—books in them. Finishing the trilogy as a trilogy required a lot of determination and a very thick pair of blinders as I left behind characters and story lines that would take me too far from the central story of Diana, Matthew, and the Book of Life.

 Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the secrets contained in the manuscript are at long last revealed in THE BOOK OF LIFE. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Shadow of Night and A Discovery of Witches have often been compared to young adult fantasy like Twilight, with the caveat that this series is for adults interested in history, science, and academics. Unlike Bella and Edward, Matthew and Diana are card-carrying members of academia who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A Discovery of Witches, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.

 

 

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Book Excerpt: Book of Life

16054217From The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Deborah Harkness, 2014

Chapter 1

Ghosts didn’t have much substance. All they were composed of was memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tours’ round towers, Emily Mather pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.

Does it ever get easier? Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?

Not that I’ve noticed,  Philippe de Clermont replied shortly. He was perched nearby, studying  his own transparent  fingers. Of all the things Philippe disliked about being dead—the inability to touch his wife, Ysabeau; his lack of smell or taste; the fact that he had no muscles for a good sparring match—invisibility topped the list. It was a constant reminder of how inconsequential he had become.

Emily’s face fell, and Philippe silently cursed himself. Since she’d died, the witch had been his constant companion, cutting his loneliness in two. What was he thinking, barking at her as if she were a servant?

Perhaps it will be easier when they don’t need us anymore, Philippe said in a gentler tone. He might be the more experienced ghost, but it was Emily who understood the metaphysics of their situation. What the witch had told him went against everything Philippe believed about the afterworld. He thought the living saw the dead  because they needed something from them: assistance, forgiveness, retribution. Emily insisted these were nothing more than human myths, and it was only when the living moved on and let go that the dead could appear to them.

This information made Ysabeau’s failure to notice him somewhat easier to bear, but not much.

“I can’t wait to see Em’s reaction. She’s going to be so surprised.” Diana’s warm alto floated up to the battlements.

Diana and Matthew, Emily and Philippe said in unison, peering down to the cobbled courtyard that surrounded the château.

There, Philippe said, pointing at the drive. Even dead, he had vampire sight that was sharper than any human’s. He was also still handsomer  than any man had a right to be, with his broad shoulders and devilish grin. He turned the latter on Emily, who couldn’t help grinning  back. They are a fine couple, are they not? Look how much my son has changed.

Vampires weren’t  supposed to be altered by the passing of time, and therefore Emily expected to see the same black hair, so dark it glinted blue; the same mutable gray-green eyes, cool and remote as a winter sea; the same pale skin and wide mouth. There were a few subtle differences, though, as Philippe suggested. Matthew’s hair was shorter, and he had a beard that made him look even more dangerous, like a pirate. She gasped.

Is Matthew . . . bigger?

He is. I fattened him up when he and Diana were here in 1590. Books were making him soft. Matthew needed to fight more and read less. Philippe had always contended there was such a thing as too much education. Matthew was living proof of it.

Diana looks different, too. More like her mother, with that long, coppery hair, Em said, acknowledging the most obvious change in her niece.

Diana stumbled on a cobblestone, and Matthew’s hand shot out to steady her. Once, Emily had seen Matthew’s incessant hovering as a sign of vampire overprotectiveness. Now, with the perspicacity of a ghost, she realized that this tendency stemmed from his preternatural  awareness of every change in Diana’s expression, every shift of mood, every sign of fatigue or hunger. Today, however, Matthew’s concern seemed even more focused and acute.

It’s not just Diana’s hair that has changed. Philippe’s face had a look of wonder. Diana is with child—Matthew’s child.

Emily examined her niece more carefully, using the enhanced grasp of truth that death afforded. Philippe was right—in part. You mean “with children.” Diana is having twins.

Twins, Philippe said in an awed voice. He looked away, distracted by the appearance of his wife. Look, here are Ysabeau and Sarah with Sophie and Margaret.

What will happen now, Philippe? Emily asked, her heart growing heavier with anticipation.

Endings. Beginnings, Philippe said with deliberate vagueness. Change.

 Diana has never liked change, Emily said.

That is because Diana is afraid of what she must become, Philippe replied.

 

Marcus Whitmore had faced horrors aplenty since the night in 1781 when Matthew de Clermont made him a vampire. None had prepared him for today’s ordeal: telling Diana Bishop that her beloved aunt, Emily Mather, was dead.

Marcus had received the phone call from Ysabeau while he and Nathaniel Wilson were watching  the television news in the family library. Sophie, Nathaniel’s wife, and their baby, Margaret, were dozing on a nearby sofa.

“The temple,” Ysabeau had said breathlessly, her tone frantic.  “Come. At once.”

Marcus had obeyed his grandmother without question, only taking time to shout for his cousin, Gallowglass, and his Aunt Verin on his way out the door.

The summer half-light of evening had lightened further as he approached the clearing at the top of the mountain,  brightened by the otherworldly power that Marcus glimpsed through the trees. His hair stood at attention at the magic in the air.

Then he scented the presence of a vampire, Gerbert of Aurillac. And someone else—a witch.

A light, purposeful step sounded down the stone corridor, drawing Marcus out of the past and back into the present. The heavy door opened, creaking as it always did.

“Hello, sweetheart.” Marcus  turned from the view of the Auvergne countryside and drew a deep breath. Phoebe Taylor’s scent reminded him of the thicket of lilac bushes that had grown outside the red-painted door of his family’s farm. Delicate and resolute, the fragrance had symbolized the hope of spring after a long Massachusetts winter and conjured up his long- dead mother’s understanding smile. Now it only made Marcus think of the petite, iron-willed woman before him.

“Everything will be all right.” Phoebe reached up and straightened his collar, her olive eyes full of concern. Marcus had taken to wearing more formal clothes than concert T-shirts around the same time he’d started to sign his letters Marcus de Clermont instead of Marcus Whitmore—the name she’d first known him by, before he had told her about vampires, fifteen-hundred-year-old fathers, French castles full of forbidding relatives, and a witch named Diana Bishop. It was, in Marcus’s opinion, nothing short of miraculous that Phoebe had remained at his side.

“No. It won’t.” He caught one of her hands and planted a kiss on the palm. Phoebe didn’t know Matthew. “Stay here with Nathaniel and the rest of them. Please.”

“For the final time, Marcus Whitmore, I will be standing beside you when you greet your father and his wife. I don’t believe we need discuss it further.” Phoebe held out her hand. “Shall we?”

Marcus put his hand in Phoebe’s, but instead of following her out the door as she expected, he tugged her toward him. Phoebe came to rest against his chest, one hand clasped in his and the other pressed to his heart. She looked at him with surprise.

“Very well. But if you come down with me, Phoebe, there are conditions. First, you are with me or with Ysabeau at all times.”

Phoebe opened her mouth to protest, but Marcus’s serious look silenced her.

“Second, if I tell you to leave the room, you will do so. No delay. No questions. Go straight to Fernando. He’ll be in the chapel or the kitchen.” Marcus searched her face and saw a wary acceptance. “Third, do not, under any circumstances, get within arm’s reach of my father. Agreed?”

Phoebe nodded. Like any good diplomat, she was prepared to follow Marcus’s rules—for now. But if Matthew’s father was the monster some in the house seemed to think he was, Phoebe would do what she must.

 

Fernando Gonçalves poured beaten eggs into the hot skillet, blanketing the browned potatoes already in the pan. His tortilla española was one of the few dishes Sarah Bishop would eat, and today of all days the widow needed sustenance.

Gallowglass sat at the kitchen table, picking drops of wax out of a crack in the ancient boards. With his collar-length blond hair and muscular build, he looked like a morose bear. Tattoos snaked around his forearms and biceps in bright swirls of color. Their subject matter revealed whatever was on Gallowglass’s mind at the moment, for a tattoo lasted only a few months on a vampire. Right now he seemed to be thinking about his roots, for his arms were covered with Celtic knotwork, runes, and fabulous beasts drawn from Norse and Gaelic myths and legends.

“Stop worrying.” Fernando’s voice was as warm and cultured as sherry aged in oak barrels.

Gallowglass looked up for a moment, then returned his attention to the wax.

“No one will prevent Matthew from doing what he must, Gallowglass. Avenging Emily’s death is a matter of honor.” Fernando turned off the heat and joined Gallowglass at the table, bare feet moving silently across the flagstone floors. As he walked, he rolled down the sleeves of his white shirt. It was pristine, in spite of the hours he’d spent in the kitchen that day. He tucked the shirt into the waistband of his jeans and ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair.

“Marcus is going to try to take the blame, you know,” Gallowglass said. “But Emily’s death wasn’t the boy’s fault.”

The scene on the mountain  had been oddly peaceful, considering the circumstances. Gallowglass had arrived at the temple a few moments after Marcus. There had been nothing but silence and the sight of Emily Mather kneeling in- side a circle marked out with pale rocks. The witch Peter Knox had been with her, his hands on her head and a look of anticipation—even  hunger—on his face. Gerbert of Aurillac, the de Clermonts’ nearest vampire neighbor, was looking on with interest.

“Emily!” Sarah’s anguished cry had torn through the silence with such force that even Gerbert stepped back.

Startled, Knox released Emily.  She crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Sarah beat the other witch back with a single, powerful spell that sent Knox flying across the clearing.

“No, Marcus didn’t kill her,” Fernando said, drawing Gallowglass’s attention. “But his negligence—”

“Inexperience,” Gallowglass interjected.

“Negligence,” Fernando repeated, “did play a role in the tragedy. Marcus knows that and accepts responsibility for it.”

“Marcus didn’t ask to be in charge,” Gallowglass grumbled.

“No. I nominated him for the position, and Matthew agreed it was the right decision.” Fernando pressed  Gallowglass’s shoulder briefly and returned to the stove.

“Is that why you came? Because you felt guilty about refusing to lead the brotherhood when Matthew asked for your help?” No one had been more surprised than Gallowglass when Fernando turned up at Sept-Tours. Fernando had avoided the place ever since Gallowglass’s father, Hugh de Clermont, died in the fourteenth century.

“I am here because Matthew was there for me after the French king executed Hugh. I was alone in all the world then, except for my grief.” Fernando’s  tone was harsh. “And I refused to lead the Knights of Lazarus because I am not a de Clermont.”

“You were Father’s mate!” Gallowglass protested. “You are as much a de Clermont as Ysabeau or her children!”

Fernando carefully shut the oven door. “I am Hugh’s mate,” he said, his back still turned. “Your father will never be past tense to me.”

“Sorry, Fernando,”  Gallowglass said, stricken. Though Hugh had been dead for nearly seven centuries,  Fernando had never recovered from the loss. Gallowglass doubted he ever would.

“As for my being a de Clermont,” Fernando continued, still staring at the wall over the stove, “Philippe disagreed.”

Gallowglass resumed his nervous picking at the wax. Fernando poured two glasses of red wine and carried them to the table.

“Here,” he said, thrusting one at Gallowglass. “You’ll need your strength today, too.”

Marthe bustled into the kitchen. Ysabeau’s housekeeper ruled over this part of the château and was not pleased to see intruders  in it. After giving Fernando and Gallowglass sour looks, she sniffed and wrested the oven door open.

“That is my best pan!” she said accusingly.

“I know. That’s why I’m using it,” Fernando replied, taking a sip of wine. “You do not belong in the kitchen, Dom Fernando. Go upstairs. Take Gallowglass with you.” Marthe took a packet of tea and a teapot from the shelf by the sink. Then she noticed the towel-wrapped pot sitting on a tray

next to cups, saucers, milk, and sugar. Her frown deepened. “What is wrong with my being here?” Fernando demanded.

“You are not a servant,” Marthe said. She picked the lid off the top of the pot and sniffed suspiciously at its contents.

“It’s Diana’s favorite. You told me what she liked, remember?” Fernando smiled sadly. “And everyone in this house serves the de Clermonts, Marthe. The only difference is that you, Alain, and Victoire are paid handsomely to do so. The rest of us are expected to be grateful for the privilege.”

“With good reason. Other manjasang dream of being part of this family. See that you remember that in future—and the lemon, Dom Fernando,” Marthe said, placing emphasis on his lordly title. She picked up the tea tray. “By the way, your eggs are burning.”

Fernando leaped up to rescue them.

“As for you,” Marthe  said, fixing her black eyes on Gallowglass, “you did not tell us everything you should have about Matthew and his wife.”

Gallowglass looked down into his wine with a guilty expression.

Madame your grandmother will deal with you later.” On that bonechilling note, Marthe stalked out of the room.

“What have you done now?”  asked Fernando, putting his tortilla— which was not ruined, Alhamdulillah—on the stove. Long experience had taught him that whatever the mess, Gallowglass had made it with good intentions and complete disregard for possible disaster.

“Weeell,” Gallowglass said, drawing out the vowels as only a Scot could, “I might have left one or two things out of the tale.”

“Like what?” Fernando said, catching a whiff of catastrophe among the kitchen’s homely scents.

“Like the fact that Auntie is pregnant—and by none other than Matthew. And the fact that Granddad adopted her as a daughter. Lord, his blood vow was deafening.”  Gallowglass looked reflective. “Do you think we’ll still be able to hear it?”

Fernando stood, openmouthed and silent.

“Don’t look at me that way. It didn’t seem right to share the news about the babe. Women can be funny about such things. And Philippe told Auntie Verin about the blood vow before he died in 1945, and she never said a word either!” Gallowglass said defensively.

A concussion  tore the air, as if a silent bomb had been detonated. Something green and fiery streaked past the kitchen window.

“What the hell was that?” Fernando flung the door open and shielded his eyes against the bright sunlight.

“One pissed-off witch, I imagine.” Gallowglass’s tone was glum. “Sarah must have told Diana and Matthew the news about Emily.”

“Not the explosion. That!” Fernando pointed to Saint-Lucien’s bell tower, which was being circled by a winged, two-legged, fire-breathing creature. Gallowglass rose for a better look.

“That’s Corra. She goes where Auntie goes,” Gallowglass said matter-of- factly.

“But that’s a dragon.” Fernando  turned wild eyes on his stepson.

“Bah! That’s no dragon. Can’t you see she’s only got two legs? Corra is a firedrake.” Gallowglass twisted his arm to show off a tattoo of a winged creature that strongly resembled the airborne beast. “Like this. I might have left out one or two details, but I did warn everybody that Auntie Diana wasn’t going to be the same witch she was before.”

 

“It’s true, honey. Em is dead.” The stress of telling Diana and Matthew was clearly too much for her. Sarah could have sworn that she saw a dragon. Fernando was right. She needed to cut back on the whiskey.

“I don’t believe you.” Diana’s voice was high and sharp with panic. She searched Ysabeau’s grand salon as though she suspected to find Emily hiding behind one of the ornate settees.

“Emily’s  not here, Diana.” Matthew’s  hushed voice was infused  with regret and tenderness as he stepped before her. “She’s gone.”

“No.” Diana tried to push past him and continue her search, but Mat- thew drew her into his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Sarah,” Matthew said, holding Diana tight to his body. “Don’t say you’re sorry!” Diana cried, struggling to free herself from the vampire’s unbreakable hold. She pounded on Matthew’s shoulder with her fist. “Em isn’t dead! This is a nightmare. Wake me up, Matthew—please! I want to wake up and find we’re still in 1591.”

“This isn’t a nightmare,” Sarah said. The long weeks had convinced her that Em’s death was horribly real.

“Then I took a wrong turn—or tied a bad knot in the timewalking spell. This can’t be where we were supposed to end up!” Diana was shaking from head to toe with grief and shock. “Em promised she would never leave with- out saying good-bye.”

“Em didn’t have time to say good-bye—to anyone. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love you.” Sarah reminded herself of this a hundred times a day.

“Diana should sit,” Marcus said, pulling a chair closer to Sarah. In many ways Matthew’s son looked like the same twenty-something surfer who had walked into the Bishop house last October. His leather cord, with its strange assortment of objects gathered over the centuries,  was still tangled in the blond hair at the nape of his neck. The Converse sneakers he loved remained on his feet. The guarded, sad look in his eyes was new, however.

Sarah was grateful for the presence of Marcus and Ysabeau, but the person she really wanted at her side at this moment was Fernando. He’d been her rock during this ordeal.

“Thank you, Marcus,” Matthew said, settling Diana in the seat. Phoebe tried to press a glass of water into Diana’s hand. When Diana just stared at it blankly, Matthew took it and placed it on a nearby table.

All eyes alighted  on Sarah.

Sarah was no good at this kind of thing. Diana was the historian in the family. She would know where to start and how to string the confusing events into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and perhaps even a plausible explanation of why Emily had died.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this,” Diana’s aunt began.

“You don’t have to tell us anything,” Matthew said, his eyes filled with compassion and sympathy. “The explanations can wait.”

“No. You both need to know.” Sarah reached for the glass of whiskey that usually sat at her side, but there was nothing there. She looked to Marcus in mute appeal.

“Emily died up at the old temple,” Marcus said, taking up the role of storyteller.

“The temple dedicated to the goddess?”  Diana whispered,  her brow creasing with the effort to concentrate.

“Yes,” Sarah croaked, coughing to dislodge the lump in her throat. “Emily was spending more and more time up there.”

“Was she alone?” Matthew’s expression was no longer warm and understanding, and his tone was frosty.

Silence descended again, this one heavy and awkward.

“Emily wouldn’t let anyone go with her,” Sarah said, steeling herself to be honest. Diana was a witch, too, and would know if she strayed from the truth. “Marcus tried to convince her to take someone with her, but Emily refused.”

“Why did she want to be alone?” Diana said, picking up on Sarah’s own uneasiness. “What was going on, Sarah?”

“Since January, Em had been turning to the higher magics for guidance.” Sarah looked away from Diana’s shocked face. “She was having terrible premonitions of death and disaster and thought they might help her figure out why.”

“But Em always said higher magics were too dark for witches to handle safely,” Diana said, her voice rising again. “She said any witch who thought she was immune to their dangers would find out the hard way just how powerful they were.”

“She spoke from experience,” Sarah said. “They can be addictive. Emily didn’t want you to know she’d felt their lure, honey. She hadn’t touched a scrying stone or tried to summon a spirit for decades.”

“Summon spirits?” Matthew’s eyes narrowed into slits. With his dark beard, he looked truly terrifying.

“I think she was trying to reach Rebecca. If I’d realized how far she’d gone in her attempts, I would have tried harder to stop her.” Sarah’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Peter Knox must have sensed the power Emily was working with, and the higher magics have always fascinated him. Once he found her—”

“Knox?” Matthew spoke softly, but the hairs on the back of Sarah’s neck rose in warning.

“When we found Em, Knox and Gerbert were there, too,” Marcus ex- plained, looking miserable at the admission. “She’d suffered a heart attack. Emily must have been under enormous stress trying to resist whatever Knox was doing. She was barely conscious. I tried to revive her. So did Sarah. But there was nothing either of us could do.”

“Why were Gerbert and Knox here? And what in the world did Knox hope to gain from killing Em?” Diana cried.

“I don’t think Knox was trying to kill her, honey,” Sarah replied. “Knox was reading Emily’s thoughts, or trying his best to. Her last words were, ‘I know the secret of Ashmole 782, and you will never possess it.’”

“Ashmole 782?” Diana looked stunned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Sarah wished her niece had never found that damned manuscript in the Bodleian Library. It was the cause of most of their present problems.

“Knox insisted that the de Clermonts had missing pages from Diana’s manuscript and knew its secrets,” Ysabeau chimed in. “Verin and I told Knox he was mistaken,  but the only thing that distracted him from the subject was the baby. Margaret.”

“Nathaniel and Sophie followed us to the temple. Margaret was with them,” Marcus explained in answer to Matthew’s astonished stare. “Before Emily fell unconscious, Knox saw Margaret  and demanded to know how two daemons had given birth to a baby witch. Knox invoked the covenant. He threatened to take Margaret to the Congregation pending investigation into what he called ‘serious breaches’ of law. While we were trying to revive Emily and get the baby to safety, Gerbert and Knox slipped away.”

Until recently Sarah had always seen the Congregation and the covenant as necessary evils. It was not easy for the three otherworldly species—daemons, vampires, and witches—to live among humans.  All had been targets of human fear and violence at some point in history, and creatures had long ago agreed to a covenant to minimize the risk of their world’s coming to human attention. It limited fraternization between species as well as any participation in human religion or politics. The nine-member Congregation enforced the covenant and made sure that creatures abided by its terms. Now that Diana and Matthew were home, the Congregation could go to hell and take their covenant with them as far as Sarah was concerned.

Diana’s head swung around, and a look of disbelief passed over her face. “Gallowglass?” she breathed as the salon filled with the scent of the sea. “Welcome home, Auntie.” Gallowglass stepped  forward, his  golden beard gleaming where the sunlight struck it. Diana stared at him in astonishment before a sob broke free.

“There, there.” Gallowglass lifted her into a bear hug. “It’s been some time since the sight of me brought a woman to tears. Besides, it really should be me weeping at our reunion. As far as you’re concerned, it’s been only a few days since we spoke. By my reckoning it’s been centuries.”

Something numinous flickered around the edges of Diana’s body, like a candle slowly catching light. Sarah blinked. She really was going to have to lay off the booze.

Matthew and his  nephew exchanged glances.  Matthew’s  expression grew even more concerned as Diana’s  tears increased and the glow surrounding her intensified.

“Let Matthew take you upstairs.” Gallowglass reached into a pocket and pulled out a crumpled yellow bandanna.  He offered this to Diana, carefully shielding her from view.

“Is she all right?” Sarah asked.

“Just a wee bit tired,” Gallowglass said as he and Matthew hustled Diana off toward Matthew’s remote tower rooms.

Once Diana and Matthew were gone, Sarah’s fragile composure cracked, and she began to weep. Reliving the events of Em’s death was a daily occur- rence, but having to do so with Diana was even more painful. Fernando appeared, his expression concerned.

“It’s all right, Sarah. Let it out,” Fernando murmured, drawing her close. “Where were you when I needed you?” Sarah demanded  as her weeping turned to sobs.

“I’m  here now,” Fernando said, rocking her gently. “And Diana and Matthew  are safely home.”

 

 

“I can’t stop shaking.” Diana’s teeth were chattering, and her limbs were jerking as if pulled by invisible strings. Gallowglass pressed his lips together, standing back while Matthew wrapped a blanket tight around his wife.

“That’s the shock, mon coeur,” Matthew murmured, pressing a kiss to her cheek. It wasn’t just the death of Emily but the memories of the earlier, traumatic loss of her parents that were causing her distress. He rubbed her arms, the blanket moving against her flesh. “Can you get some wine, Gallowglass?”

“I shouldn’t. The babies . . .” Diana began. Her expression turned wild and her tears returned. “They’ll never know Em. Our children will grow up not knowing Em.”

“Here.” Gallowglass thrust  a silver flask in Matthew’s  direction. His uncle looked at him gratefully.

“Even better,” Matthew said, pulling the stopper free. “Just a sip, Diana. It won’t hurt the twins, and it will help calm you. I’ll have Marthe bring up some black tea with plenty of sugar.”

“I’m going to kill Peter Knox,” Diana said fiercely after she’d taken a sip of whiskey. The light around her grew brighter.

“Not today you’re not,” Matthew said firmly, handing the flask back to Gallowglass.

“Has Auntie’s glaem been this bright since you returned?” Gallowglass hadn’t seen Diana Bishop since 1591, but he didn’t recall it being this notice- able.

“Yes. She’s been wearing a disguising spell. The shock must have knocked it out of place,” Matthew said, lowering her onto the sofa. “Diana wanted Emily and Sarah to enjoy the fact that they were going to be grandmothers before they started asking questions about her increased power.”

Gallowglass bit back an oath.

“Better?” Matthew asked, drawing Diana’s fingers to his lips.

Diana nodded. Her teeth were still chattering, Gallowglass noted. It made him ache to think about the effort it must be taking for her to control herself.

“I am so sorry about Emily,” Matthew said, cupping her face between his hands.

“Is it our fault? Did we stay in the past too long, like Dad said?” Diana spoke so softly it was hard for even Gallowglass to hear.

“Of course not,” Gallowglass replied, his voice brusque. “Peter Knox did this. Nobody else is to blame.”

“Let’s not worry about who’s to blame,” Matthew said, but his eyes were angry.

Gallowglass gave him a nod of understanding. Matthew would have plenty to say about Knox and Gerbert—later. Right now he was concerned with his wife.

“Emily would want you to focus on taking care of yourself and Sarah. That’s enough for now.” Matthew brushed back the coppery strands that were stuck to Diana’s cheeks by the salt from her tears.

“I should go back downstairs,” Diana said, drawing Gallowglass’s bright yellow bandanna to her eyes. “Sarah needs me.”

“Let’s stay up here a bit longer. Wait for Marthe to bring the tea,” Mat- thew said, sitting down next to her. Diana slumped against him, her breath hiccupping in and out as she tried to hold back the tears.

“I’ll leave you two,” Gallowglass said gruffly. Matthew nodded in silent thanks.

“Thank you, Gallowglass,” Diana said, holding out the bandanna. “Keep it,” he said, turning for the stairs.

“We’re alone. You don’t have to be strong now,” Matthew murmured to Diana as Gallowglass descended the twisting staircase.

Gallowglass left Matthew and Diana twined together in an unbreakable knot, their faces twisted  with pain and sorrow, each giving the other the comfort they could not find for themselves.

 

I should never have summoned you here. I should have found another way to get my answers. Emily turned to face her closest friend. You should be with Stephen.

I’d rather be here with my daughter than anywhere else, Rebecca Bishop said. Stephen understands. She turned back to the sight of Diana and Matthew, still locked in their sorrowful embrace.

Do not fear. Matthew will take care of her, Philippe said. He was still trying to figure out Rebecca Bishop—she was an unusually challenging creature, and as skilled at keeping secrets as any vampire.

They’ll take care of each other, Rebecca  said, her hand over her heart, just as I knew they would.

Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Published by Berkely Trade

Published on April 2, 2013

384 Pages

Fiction

Synopsis:

When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different  people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and even more unexpectedly, with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of Atlanta money – for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the world charm of The Alexander, and, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke – and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings – it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments – all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey.

This first thing that grabbed me about this book was the title. It had Downton Abbey in it and I’m a DA junkie. I was so sad when Season 3 ended and I have to wait until next January for Season 4. However, low and behold here is novel set in present day about watching and bonding over Downton Abbey. I just had to read it. And guess what? I LOVED IT!!!!

Wendy Wax has written some wonderful characters in Samantha, Clair, Brooke and Edward. Each has their own story and problems. I never felt that any character’s issue overshadowed the rest. All plotlines were so well-balanced and I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page. I really enjoyed how each plotline developed to its conclusion. Ms. Wax was able to give each character his/her own happy ending.

The blooming friendship between Samantha, Claire and Brooke was at the heart of the book. I liked how three very different women were able to bond and help each other through some very difficult times. I thought Ms. Wax portrayed female friendship in a very positive light. No cattiness, just genuine friendship.

Edward is a wonderful character. He is the glue that keeps everyone together. He gives Samantha, Clair and Brooke strength that they never knew they had. The ladies rely on him for so many different things and they will don’t realize it. He is the epitome of the English gentleman, even though he could be considered “in service.”

Downton Abbey is mainly just the reason for the women to meet and bond. There is some discussion of the series but not much. I wished there was more. The funniest part of the book was when Edward had all the ladies take a Downton quiz to find out which character they were. I won’t give away any secrets but the results will surprise you.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey is a wonderful book and I highly recommend reading it.

KinxsBookNookScore5

Review: Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni (Angelology #2)
Published by Penguin Group (Viking)
Released on March 26, 2013
302 pages
Fantasy
Received hardcover from publisher for review

Synopsis:

Hailed by USA Today as “a thrill ride best described as The Da Vinci Code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Danielle Trussoni’s bestselling first novel, Angelology, wove biblical lore, the Orpheus myth, and Milton’s Rebel Angels into a present-day world tinged with the divine supernatural. The novel plunged two endearing loners—art historian V. A. Verlaine and Evangeline, a beautiful young nun—into an ancient battle between a secret society and mankind’s most insidious enemies: angel-human hybrids known as the Nephilim.

Now a decade has passed since Verlaine saw Evangeline alight from the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of her wings a betrayal that haunts him still. The Nephilim are again on the rise, scheming to construct their own paradise—the Angelopolis—and ruthlessly pursued by Verlaine in his new calling as an angel hunter. But when Evangeline materializes, Verlaine is besieged by doubts that will only grow as forces more powerful than even the Nephilim draw them from Paris to Saint Petersburg and deep into the provinces of Siberia and the Black Sea coast. A high-octane tale of abduction and liberation, treasure seeking and divine warfare, Angelopolis plumbs Russia’s imperial past, modern genetics, and the archangel Gabriel’s famous visitations to conceive a fresh tableau of history and myth that will, once again, enthrall readers the world over.

In Angelopolis, Danielle Trussoni continues her wonderful Angelology trilogy that will take you places that you never dreamed of. The war continues but who are the heroes and the villains? After you read this book, which side will you be on?

The story begins with Verlaine, ten years after he last saw Evangeline. He is now a extremely dedicated angel hunter. He hunts, captures and kills every angel that he comes across. His mission is clear until he sees Evangeline again. I love his internal conflict. Once again, which side will he choose. Ms. Trussoni has written his character to be obsessive in dealing with Evangeline. She is his addiction. Can he hunt her down like all his other conquests or will he submit to her seductive and beautiful nature? His struggle is intense and will take him to Russia and delve deeper into angelology lore.

I love that Ms. Trussoni took the readers to Russia. To me, angels and Romanovs fit perfectly together. Her references to the royal family and Rasputin pulls you further into the war between angels and humans. During the Romanov reign, Russia seemed so Gothic; the perfect backdrop for angelic warfare. Ms. Trussoni’s choice of Russia fits perfectly with the struggle of angelic resurrection; the rise and fall, and rise again, of Russia.

Unlike in Angelology, I found more sympathy for the Nephilim in Angelopolis. The horrific methods of angelologists put their justifications in doubt. Even Verlaine, at a specific moment, was able to feel some guilt and sympathy about their treatment. Specifically, there is a angel prison deep in the Siberian tundra. The conditions are horrible and treatment of the angels is even worse. Experimentation and torture are the norm. Even in war, is that acceptable? It makes you think, which side am I on?

New angels are introduced that will further confuse your loyalties; pure angels whose goals are unknown. In the end, Verlaine and Evangeline must make difficult choices. Will their choices end the world as they know it? The third book should answer that question and I can’t wait to read it!

   

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The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Where Are the Dinos?
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Long Live the King
To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Bad News for a Ghost
The Next Pendragon
Caroline Bingley
My Beloved World
Royal Mistress
My Dear Sophy
The Wild Girl
To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started
Hades: Lord of the Dead
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