December 12, 2014

Review: The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death
Author: Rebecca Alexander
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Fantasy
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Broadway Books
Source: Publisher for Review


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.
There are times when you read a masterpiece of a book and then attempt to write a review for it. Every word, description, thought, seems unable to grasp the sheer adoration you feel for the novel. This is definitely one of those times for me. I'm not sure what to write in the attempt to reflect my thoughts and feelings towards this phenomenal tour de force. I certainly won't be able to do it enough justice, so I'll say this at the beginning of my review as well as at the end: READ. THIS. BOOK. NOW. I swear you won't regret it and I sincerely hope you find it as magnificent as I did.

The plot of the story is, in short, genius. The author takes some of the most intriguing and fascinating topics (in my opinion) and weaves them together to create a novel that cannot be limited by labels or genres. Some of the aspects in the book are alchemy, magic, the occult, Countess Elizabeth Bathory - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Each of these topics is a favorite of mine - I'll usually read anything that has to do with them. But putting them all together in one story and making a mystery that travels throughout time? Epic. There was no way I could pass this one up and I'm so incredibly thankful that I didn't. The characters were all very realistic - each with their own personality traits, strengths, flaws, weaknesses, desires. I really loved the main character of the story, Jackdaw Hammond. She is a strong female lead for the book and every part of her character is alluring to me. I don't want to do any spoilers, so I'll just say that she's definitely not your ordinary main character in any way. I believe that her afflictions and obstacles that she faces throughout the book make her an entirely new kind of heroine - one that hasn't been seen before. I was able to identify with her right from the start, despite her oddities, and by the end of the book I felt as if I knew her personally. The secondary characters were also well written - both from the past and the ones from the present day. The writing is something I can't possibly try to explain or praise - you'll have to read the book for yourself to understand what I mean. The story jumps between past and present as well as around the globe. It has a fantastic flow and a quick pace that made it so easy to slide into the author's world. The intricate details and vivid imagery throughout the novel, along with the overall dark and gothic feel, was nothing short of perfection. Again, this is from my personal opinion, and I am a huge fan of all things gothic and creepy (which fits this book exactly). I understand that not everyone will feel the same way about the book as I did, which is fine - to each their own. For me, every aspect of this book - no matter how big or small - fit together so impeccably that, as a whole, created a novel of utter perfection. This is by far one of the best books I've ever read and is one that I will re-read several times over. I can't recommend this book any higher to fans of historical fiction, fantasy, paranormal fiction, or readers who like dark subjects such as the occult and magic. As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, if this book sounds appealing to you - drop everything and READ. IT. NOW. You'll be so glad that you did.

  Sheer Perfection! A Definite New All Time Favorite!!
I write fantasy. And crime, and historical, and even a bit of romance. The problem is, they all tend to creep into each book.

I decided when I was very young that I would write stories,and spent a lot of time with sticky tape and stapler trying to work out how to make them into books. I wrote my first novel at nineteen, which was terrible, but I was learning. I finally got my first short stories published in San Francisco when I was twenty-one, but they were ‘nature-based erotica’ so I couldn’t show my family. Then real life got in the way and I was busy bringing up three small children, one of which had a life-limiting illness. I read though: fantasy, crime, historical - even a bit of romance.

Life got much harder when my 33 year old husband died unexpectedly the same year my daughter died, aged 8. For a long time I was paralysed with grief and just wrote non-fiction.

A long time afterwards, I began writing tiny fictions, fragments of stories. I started doing writing courses and that was it, I was novelling again. By the time I had written three novels I was starting an MA. I started two books, a ‘literary’ book which turned into a ghost story, and The Secrets of Life and Death. When I entered the first Mslexia novel writing competition I was thrilled to be placed as one of two runners up. An agent took me on and found the books a publisher. I hope you enjoy reading them because I loved writing them. (Information & picture taken from author's website.)

Author Links:


*I received this book through the Blogging For Books program. A huge thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!*

No comments:

Post a Comment