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Happy 2015 to everyone! The holidays gave me a much-needed chance to sit down and finally finish reading this book. It's another one I received from Blogging for Books, though, unlike the last one, this is a bit more within the genres I generally enjoy.

I was intrigued by the description on the website which included a mention of Elizabeth Báthory. For those who have never heard of "The Blood Countess" she is said to have brutally tortured and killed hundreds of girls for her own inscrutable reasons (most likely because she was a complete nutter) in the late 1500s / early 1600s. She's one of history's most famous and most bloodthirsty female serial killers. I find her rather fascinating in a morbid way and was excited to see how the author, Rebecca Alexander, would weave her history into this novel.

The narrative switches back and forth between first-person narration in 1585 by Edward Kelly, assistant to Dr. John Dee, and a third-person narrative following the activities of Professor Felix Guichard and Jackdaw Hammond in 2013.

Both sets of people are finding their lives intertwined in somewhat magical activities that extend the "living" existence of the dead. Kelly and Dee are commissioned by the king of Poland to save his dying niece Elizabeth Bathory by whatever means they can, while hundreds of years later Guichard is aiding in the investigation of mysterious deaths of young girls, and Jackdaw is herself a formerly dead person now trying to save the life of another dying girl.

I really liked the idea behind this book. Showing how Bathory became a monster/murderer and linking it to present day events lent intrigue and depth to the story. However, the narratives didn't always mesh well. I would have liked to see a stronger link between them throughout rather than just passing mentions of John Dee and the final Bathory link solidifying at the end. The issue was that the narratives were basically two separate stories. It might have been a stronger novel if, as the present-day characters discovered things about Bathory or about the history of revenants, that Kelly's narrative revealed them at the same time.

Unfortunately, though I found the book interesting, it had what I feel are numerous flaws which detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The character development was rather flat and the romance was heavy-handed. A lot of interesting material was hinted at in both narratives but wasn't explored--making it feel like the plot was under-developed. And lastly, a half-cooked attempt to explain how supernatural events are possible was thrown in near the end which really should have been left out. I don't feel that readers need to be walked through how supernatural things are possible--that's the point of them being supernatural.
Ultimately, I felt the novel fell short of what it could have been.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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