Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Publisher: Del Rey
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 10th, 2013
Rating: 8/10

Amazon summary:

Krakow, 1585 Summoned by the King of Poland to help save his dying niece, Edward Kelley and his master, alchemist and scholar Dr John Dee, discover a dark secret at the heart of The Countess Bathory's malady. But perhaps the cure will prove more terrifying than the alternative... 

England, 2013 Jackdaw Hammond lives in the shadows, a practitioner and purveyor of occult materials. But when she learns of a young woman found dead on a train, her body covered in arcane symbols, there's no escaping the attention of police consultant Felix Guichard. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.


The Secrets of Life and Death is a fantastic adult book that, I think, falls into several genres. I'd say it's fantasy mixed with horror, kind of like American Horror Story: Coven. That's what it reminded me of, thanks to its adult tone and heavy use of sorcery and magic. I was glued to my Kindle while reading it and couldn't wait for everything to be explained and fall into place.

This book takes place in two two time frames: the Poland in the 1500s and England now. It's intricate and sometimes complicated, but always addictive and very clever. Once I got used to the time jumps at the start of each chapter - alternating between the two centuries - I soon got into a rhythm of seeing a story from two different sets of characters. The parts in the past are quite sinister, dark in tone and explain a lot of the backstory. The 2013 story continues that which was set in motion long ago, bringing it to a contemporary setting and involving a whole host of fascinating characters.

I'm finding it somewhat difficult to talk about The Secrets of Life and Death without spoiling anything; it's one of those books that makes me want to talk to someone about everything that happens and what it means for each person involved. I think I can safely say that this book relies very heavily on the supernatural and the occult and what happens when the two collide. The results are often horrific, but always interesting and right up my horror-loving street.

This is a book I probably wouldn't have picked up had I not received it for review, so I'm really thankful for that because it's one of my recent favourites! It's intelligent and intricately plotted, and I loved the historical aspect of it. I think it deserves a re-read just to fully appreciate all the elements of mystery, to see everything unfolding again. I really recommend this one and I'm looking forward to seeing what Rebecca Alexander writes next!


maya said...

Sounds really interesting, I'll be checking it out. Great review :)

Bookmark Dragon said...

I haven't heard about this book before, but I'm intrigued. Thanks for the review! I'm off to add it to my Goodreads list...