BOOK REVIEW | The Secrets of Life and Death


Rating: 4/5 stars

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**I received this book as a review copy through Random House’s Blogging for Book program**

Summary from Barnes and Noble:

In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret–She’s Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won’t rest until they’ve taken the magic that keeps her alive….

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess’ malady, is the magic that might be able to save her…
As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee’s assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.


It took me a while to pick this book up off my shelf.  After initially requesting it I found myself not terribly drawn to it like I thought I would be.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I did pick it up.  I flew through this book in a matter of days and although it did drag in some places (let’s be honest what book doesn’t)  I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Some of the things that worked the best in this book were the shorter chapters, which made the novel flow better and the twining together of the themes of the book.  From magic, alchemy and the occult I thought that the author did a phenomenal job of bringing each of these pieces together.  The only other book that I have read that accomplished a task like this was Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and that book is now one of my must-reads for all of my bookish friends.  I felt that the fact that her book covered topics that have had a strong pull for people over a large span of time made the transition between the two time periods in the book much easy to comprehend.  Normally in books with time travel, or split time frames, it gets difficult to transition seamlessly from one time period to the next.  So I applaud this author for taking the time to make sure that her plot was not only interesting but was something that was relevant and intriguing for both time periods.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the characters.  While sometimes I found the characters to be a bit dull, for the most part I was very drawn to all of the characters in this book.  The fact that each of the characters had desires, strengths, flaws and weaknesses that were very apparent in the way they acted and handled situations made the more interesting and allowed me to relate to the characters themselves.  These characteristics are what brought them to life and made them fly off the page.

Overall I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in it!  Definitely a great read.


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