Let me be clear, the only reason I picked this book up is that the TV adaptation of this stars Alex Kingston, and I LOVE Alex Kingston.
Diana Bishop is a witch who has rejected her witchy powers after the death of her parents under mysterious circumstances. She is a scholar and a science historian – and let me tell you, I completely love that the lead is a science historian. She is working at the Bodleian Library when she comes across a mysterious manuscript from the Ashmole collection called Ashmole 782. This long-lost manuscript is somehow enchanted and, for the first time in several centuries it has resurfaced and that too, to an untrained witch who has given up on her powers.
Now, the Bodleian is teeming with other supernatural beings – Daemons and Vampires. One Vampire, in particular, Matthew Clairmont, seems to be stalking her and is obsessed with her. Matthew, as it turns out, is actually a geneticist who has been working on the history of these supernatural beings, and that is why he, too, is interested in the Ashmole 782 because it is supposed to hold the answers to their origins.
As is the tradition of other witch-vampire books, Diana takes an instant dislike to Matthew and his ways, but then she eventually falls in love with him and there begins the romance, which is pretty rushed, in my opinion. For one, I completely hate the way their relationship evolves and the way he patronises her, and how he commands her to do things, though she doesn’t listen to him that frequently. It is always put down to the way vampires usually are; that they are incredibly protective of their women, or the people they love, but to the extent that they expect the women to be very submissive. You have no idea how much I was cringing during some of the scenes, especially *SPOILER* their wedding, where it happens without HER CONSENT! I get it, vampires are ancient beings, but going along with these old, outdated traditions seem really stupid. The characterisation of the vampires could’ve been so much better, but we can’t have everything, now can we?
The universe that Harkness creates, otherwise, is really really good! I like that she weaves in actual alchemical texts and helps to ground the fantastical elements in reality. It’s a really well thought out and immersive universe. Her prose is wonderful, though sometimes it did get a tad annoying and exhausting with certain descriptions and explanations. That being said, I do love the way she talks about history – romantic with a heavy helping of academic, and her love for her field, really does come through in her books.
I adore Diana as a lead character, as stubborn and annoying she can be, that somehow makes her more real and that’s what endears me to her. Ysabeau, on the other hand, Matthew’s mother was such an interesting and amazing character, and the way her relationship with Diana develops over the course of the novel is such a treat. Their interaction towards the end is beautiful and touching, and I need more of that in the future books. I really hope it is there in the next two books.
All that said, I really did like this book and I’m waiting to read the next book. I’m glad that the series is over so that I can just binge-read it without any waiting. Though I am waiting for a while till I get to the next one, and that sounds like it’ll be fun, because *SPOILER* it’s a time travel adventure, and I’m a sucker for time travel romps.