N.B. I received this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander is a fascinating novel which juxtaposes modernity with sixteenth century Transylvania—who wouldn’t be intrigued?
Through Edward Kelley’s point of view, we experience not only the exotic customs, foods, and dress of the late Middle Ages, but we also meet the Countess Elisabeth Bathory—likely the world’s premier female serial killer—whose evil exploits the author imbues with occult purposes.
These occult practices carry into the future and affect the lives of the other two point-of-view characters Jackdaw and Felix, who use Kelley’s diary to understand and vanquish the evil that’s survived into the present day.
Despite the many point-of-view shifts, the pacing of the novel was quite good. And the characters, especially Jackdaw, were very engaging. Though like most novels with multiple viewpoints, it takes several chapters to be fully vested in each of the main characters.
One disappointment I had with the book was that in the climax I felt a little distanced from the characters. Another issue was that the author included a passage where Felix explained why he believed in the magic/occult happenings and how the supernatural realm came to be. Obviously, novels are fictional worlds, which the reader has accepted for the sake of the story. So to include a passage trying to make it all seem real drew me out of the story and felt a bit disingenuous.
Aside from those minor objections, this novel was a fun romp through a paranormal view of the past and present. It is the perfect read for an adult curled up in front of the fireplace on a dark night, craving a scary story.