There is so much I want to say about this book, so let's start with this: I loved every single page of it.
Honestly. I would put this on the list as being in my top-3 of 2012 and probably my top-10 of all time books that I've read. That's pretty high praise, because I've read a lot of books in my day. It may be that Harkness hits on every thing that makes me who I am and what I like about a book. She's a historian; the protagonist is a historian; I'm a historian; this book is full of history/academic dorkiness. There's romance. There's paranormal creatures. There's a kick-butt lead female character (who is also a nerd). There's magic. There's beautiful descriptions of place and thing. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with this book at all - except that it ended (and that it's only a trilogy! and that the third book isn't out yet!).
At the Bodleian Library in London, a young scholar named Diana Bishop is standing on the threshold of a major change in her life. Diana is a descendant of an old and distinguished line of witches - and wants nothing to do with witchcraft or magic of any kind. She is also an avid yogi, tea-enthusiest, and rower. However, when she calls up a manuscript she might need for her research she accidentally stirs up a fantastical set of events hundreds of years in the making. The manuscript is a bewitched alchemical text which has seemingly been lost for centuries - and it is one that all sorts of witched, deamons, and vampires have been trying to get their hands on for years. But somehow, Diane is the only one who can get past whatever spells are hiding it deep within the stacks.
Enter the dashing Matthew Clairmont. Matthew is a renown scientist and scholar who has been searching for the exact manuscript Diana calls up from the stacks for centuries. He is also a 1500 year old vampire, a Darwin enthusiast, and a lover of yoga. Matthew feels drawn to Diana from their first meeting and feels the need to protect her from all the other creatures in search of the manuscript. However, something about Matthew initially puts Diana on edge and she tries to keep her distance from him. However, as the two warm up to each other they become an unlikely pair and are on the hunt to discover the secret of the manuscript. As their relationship develops it threatens to unsettle the peace that has existed between all the paranormal creatures and humanity. In the end, Diana's life will never be the same.
I enjoyed the time I spent reading it - the turn of every page - I never wanted to put it down (so much that I read in the backseat of a 15-passenger van for three hours straight!). The character development was astounding. I believed this book - that it could actually exist within our own world. I wish that it existed in our own world. I keep putting off reading the second book (Shadow of Night) because I do not want that one to end and have to wait for the third one to come out (and alas that's the LAST ONE!).
What I love about this book most is that it's entirely a sum of its parts. It's got romance, but it's not just a romance. It's got vampires and daemons, but it's not just a paranormal fiction book. It needs all of the pieces to work, but it's not defined by any one of them Does that make sense? Just read the book, you'll love it. Promise.
Author: Deborah Harkness
Date Read: 21 August 2012
First Line: The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable.
Favorite Line: I've loved you since I decided not to hit you with an oar on the City of Oxford's dock.
Recommended: Entirely, especially for those out there who love a paranormal romance. And it's not really a paranormal romance. It's just an amazing book. High School and above.