The bottom line: if you liked Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, you’ll probably really like this one.
However, the long explanation is a lot more complicated. I liked parts of this book, and others not so much. But my fundamental problem with the book is that I thought a good third to half of this book was wholly unnecessary.
Because of the conflicts set up in A Discovery of Witches, and because Diana needs help figuring out what kind of witch she is (and to control her magic), Matthew and Diana travel to the past. To England, circa 1590. Which brings me to my first annoyance: too often, I felt Harkness was using her status as a historian to show off. I kept feeling that she set the book in the past not because it best served the story (though in some ways, it did), but because she knows history and wanted to incorporate it. However, too often I was pulled out of the story because of her name dropping (Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, to name a few) and all the historical detail. It made it difficult to just enjoy the story.
Matthew and Diana aren’t in England very long before they cause a ruckus and get sent to Sept Tours, Matthew’s ancestral home, where his dead father is still very much alive. And who forces them to get married. (In way too many pages. Followed by many, many more pages of [not graphic, or even titillating] married sex.) Back to England they go, where (in some of the best passages) Diana begins to figure out that she’s a unique sort of witch, and gets a handle on her magic. Oh, and gets pregnant by the vampire.
Before you think that Harkness went all Breaking Dawn on us, she didn’t. Oh, sure, there are influences: Matthew is just as protective and oppressive as Edward; apparently it’s in a vampire’s “nature.” The difference is that rather than being pushed around, Diana takes him on. Thank heavens for that; in many, many ways, Diana as a character is the best part of this novel. She’s strong, interesting, clever, inquisitive and plain fun to be around as a character.
There’s more, of course: It’s a nearly 600-page book, and Harkness finds ways to fill those pages out. And it’s not a bad book, per se: I did finish it. Because even with all the extra historical stuff, and the roundabout plotting, I am invested in Matthew and Diana’s story. Which means I’m already asking when the next one will be out.
Rated: Moderate for some swearing, and a lot of married (non-graphic, though some things are insinuated) sex.