”Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries – and she is the only creature who can break its spell. “
Thoughts: I did so much gushing on my first read of Deborah Harkness’ debut novel that I will spare you the details because they have not changed at all on my second reading. In fact, reading versus listening to the story makes for a completely new experience, one I find much more satisfying. Jennifer Ikeda does an admirable job narrating this complicated story filled with a variety of genders, accents, and languages. Indeed, she does a more than admirable job. Her understanding of Diana is remarkable, capturing her pragmatism, wonder, doubts, power, and love with surprising aptitude. She maneuvers through old French, Latin, Occitan, and the other myriad of languages spoken by Matthew and his family with ease, even if her accent of any is not quite fluent. Her voice is fluid and pleasant, making it a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience, and her versions of Matthew, Marcus, Hamish, Isabeau, and the rest of the cast are all but perfect. Indeed, her entire performance does much to enhance this absolutely wonderful story of history, magic, and love.
Ms. Ikeda’s narration is a wonderful reminder of how much I adore this story of witches, vampires, demons, and history. It was surprising how much I had forgotten but a complete joy to refresh my memory on such a well-written tale. It loses nothing on a re-read. If anything, it becomes even more enjoyable as I found myself gasping with delight, smiling with joy, shuddering with fear, and fighting down nausea from worry all over again. Even more important, the re-read becomes essential to refresh one’s memory of such an intricate story prior to reading the sequel. Now that the story is fresh within my mind, I can finally start the next book with greedy abandon, knowing that it will take a disaster for me to lose my enthusiasm and love of Diana, Matthew and all of the other Clairmonts and Bishops.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.