Book Banter: The Secrets of Life and Death

life and deathTitle: The Secrets of Life and Death

Author: Rebecca Alexander

Length: 385 pages

Genre: historical & urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Plot Basics: In 1585 Poland, scholar (or maybe sorceror) John Dee and his apprentice Edward Kelley are commanded by the king to save his niece from a malady that’s also gotten noticed by the Inquisition. In modern day England, Jackdaw Hammond has been staving off death for years. When she saves a teenage girl (like her), she and occult-studies professor Felix Guichard are suddenly trying to unravel the mysteries that Dee and Kelley left behind years ago.

Banter Points: Any time an author can weave a mystery across two time settings, I’m pretty impressed. This book reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian” and in general, Charles deLint. It opens with a bunch of action to hook the reader. I found myself reading big chunks at a time because the chapters switch back and forth between the two time periods. I would often say, “I’ll read two more chapters because I need to know what happens with Jack (or Edward).”

Bummer Points: This book started out so well and then fell apart the longer I read. There were way too many people for a not-even 400 page book. Each time period had a full set of characters and many people were introduced just to complete some action. Because of the amount of action too, the characters that should have been having big emotional reactions to what was going on were very stoic.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Good concept but falters a little on execution. Also, I’d been on this weird string of books all dealing with death (Chris Holm’s Collector series, “As I Lay Dying” for book club, etc.) This one may have fallen at the wrong time for me.


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