The Secrets of Life and Death, by Rebecca Alexander

20588643Jackdaw Hammond has been living on borrowed time for more than a decade. Now she’s trying to help another girl avoid her own untimely fate. In addition to this story, Rebecca Alexander also gives us another tale of Elizabeth Báthory in The Secrets of Life and Death.

The Secrets of Life and Death is narrated by three people. Felix Guichard is an expert in religions. He was called in when a dead girl was discovered with esoteric symbols written all over her. This girl lead him to Jackdaw, a mostly mysterious woman who eventually clues him into what’s going on. The symbols on the dead girl can keep people alive after they’re supposed to be dead. Together, they learn that “borrowed timers,” also called revenants, are being hunted by a terrifying witch and by the Catholic Inquisition. The third narrator is Edward Kelley (making yet another fictional appearance), who tells the story of how he and Doctor John Dee used magic to preserve the life of Elizabeth Báthory in 1585.

Kelley and Dee’s part of the story was, to be honest, better than the story Jackdaw and Felix give us. I would have devoured a book that was just Kelley and Dee and Báthory. It’s richer in detail. Comparatively, Jackdaw and Felix’s story feels too easy and too shallow. Kelley and Dee discover the infernally-inspired life-extension magic; Jackdaw and Felix just copy what they found in Kelley’s surviving papers. Jackdaw and Felix’s final confrontation with the Big Bad succeeds more by luck than skill. Their part of the book also suffers by being hobbled with a clumsy love story.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 7 October 2014.


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