Something light and fluffy. That was what I wished for after the last read, so what better than a romance? That's exactly what one gets when one cracks the pages (or plops the CD into the player) of the first in the Deborah Harkness 'All Souls Trilogy' series. This book spent time on the NYT best seller list when it came out. I'd seen the title on the library shelves, but always shied away. I was thinking that it would probably be taking a page from the 'Twilight' trend of YA chick lit.
I was right. I listened to this in the kitchen, as I performed the nightly dinner ritual. At times, I laughed at how cliche some of the writing becomes. Matthew Clairmont is always ruggedly handsome, with just the right amount of chest showing, knows everything about wine (woman's fave beverage, right?), has the appropriate arrogant attitude and physical strength to throw his woman over his shoulder when she shows any sign of fainting or fatigue. Oh, by the way. he's a vampire.
Diana Bishop is a brilliant history scholar who is deep into research on the mysteries of alchemy. Working at Oxford University, the books are flying off the shelves as she prepares for a scholarly conference at which she is supposed to 'present'. Things get muddled when she discovers a long hidden text that has been lost to civilization for ages in the depths of the Bodelian Library. The moment she touches the book strange forces are unleashed within her. Yup, she's a witch who has been in denial of her powers and the book brings on a power surge, so to speak.
The book escalates from that one incident to unleash a history of vampires, demons, and witches that becomes a name-dropper's paradise. The novel revolves around the steamy relationship that develops between Matthew and Diana and references to actual historical events in history that become linked to the premise that vampires, demons and witches have lived with we, mortals for ages and have been at the center of many of the great advances of civilization. Matthew and Diana become a parallel to Romeo and Juliet, forbidden lovers, a lesson in race relations, so to speak. Vampires and witches don't mix and they will have to fight old taboos to maintain their relationship. Oh, and there's the matter of that book Diana discovered that started the whole mess! It's front and center to the story - a convoluted tale that will take A LOT of telling. Hence, the series.
This is definitely a light and fluffy series - a combination of Outlander meets Harry Potter meets Twilight - a treat for young romance fans ( horny women, is what my husband said, as he passed through the kitchen last week). Harkness builds her story on strong description. She has an obsession with telling her readers the fashion details of both Matthew and Diana, using dialogue over endless cups of tea and glasses of wine as a platform for moving the plot along, and placing the character of Matthew Clairmont at the crucial points in history with very famous historical figures. It gets a bit annoying at times, but I suppose that was half the fun of writing a story such as this! The tales of witches, demons, and vampires are so mythic that they cross over all cultures and civilizations, cutting a ... well, romantic swath.
I finished the audio version over the weekend - probably won't continue on with the series until I need another light read. Don't get me wrong here. There IS a place in everyone's reading life for lighter, undemanding reads that are pure escapism. Harkness has cashed in on a profitable niche with her 'All Souls Trilogy'. More power to her!