Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.
I thought the plot was rather bloated, and I didn't like the Mary Sue protagonist nor the cardboard cliche vampire hero. I was also dismayed by the frequent appearances of new characters, pointless magical powers, and deus ex machina devices. And did I mention how needlessly loooong this book was? I wanted to stop but at about 250 pages in I felt like I had to know how it all resolved. And then I wasn't particularly satisfied by the ending - the (non)resolution of sexual tension annoyed me.
To give Harkness a modicum of credit, the settings were well portrayed, and the descriptions of manuscripts in the library at Oxford were fascinating. But why is this book getting such accolades (from snobbish literary reviewers even) when so many other good urban fantasies are not? Is it the veneer of alchemy and academia, or the endless descriptions of wine?
As the previous reviewer said, it's like Da Vinci Code, Twilight, and The Historian all mixed together--so if you're a fan of at least one you should definitely read this. It smacks slightly of a smug, scholarly air, and this doesn't mesh so well with the physical romance aspects of the book. Overall, though, it's a good adventure story and Harkness manages to come up with some original stuff about vampires and witches. I liked the tie-in to the Salem witches and trials too.
One part "The Da Vinci Code" and one part "Twilight", this novel kept me reading long into the night to see what happens next. Romance fans will appreciate the love story more than I did, but it was the secret world of witches, demons, and vampires that really grabbed me. Harkness (herself a historian) swirls magic and history into one delicious mixture of mystery and danger. I also really enjoyed the use of medieval alchemy books and emblems. I would have liked the alchemical illustrations to be recreated in the book itself, but I guess you can't have everything.