Tag Archives: Salem Witch Trials

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields (And Giveaway)

9th July 2012

*I received this book from Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning…

Deputy Marshal Archie Lean isn’t uncomfortable around dead bodies. He may be new in his position, but he’s not new to crime. Still, the death of Maggie Keene disturbs him. A prostitute laid out in a pentagram with a pitchfork pinning her down, the ritualistic tone unnerves him.

Because of the odd nature of the crime, the doctor on the case, Dr. Steig, enlists the help of Perceval Grey, the son of his old commander. Grey, whose unorthodox manner combined with his status as a Pinkerton detective and his Native American heritage, unnerves Lean even more, until he realizes how well the two work together.

Along with Steig’s niece, historian Helen Prescott, the group uncovers links to the spiritualist societies and old Native American raids as well as the Salem Witch Trials, following the killer’s trail across New England and its history.

Because of the historical narrative, both the current setting and the Salem of years past have to be fleshed out, which does drag down the beginning of the book in terms of pace. However, Shields’ writing is so atmospheric that instead of being bogged down by the history, I was further ensconced in it, wondering how and why the murders tied in to centuries-old killings.

The Truth of All Things is a debut novel and one that likely starts a new series, and for that reason, I was willing to forgive a couple of the less-successful aspects of the book. For example, Lean is married with one child and another on the way, but his home life was in no way fleshed out other than a scene or two where the child played at Archie’s feet and his pregnant wife met him at the door. Additionally, Helen Prescott obviously has a back story that was only hinted at in this novel, and I almost felt like I was missing something key each time the photograph of her child’s father was referenced.

As with any detective novel, however, aside from the mystery itself, the principal characters can make or break a story, and in this novel, Lean and Grey’s tenuous, awkward relationship was fascinating and fun to watch. As part Abenaki, Grey is treated contemptuously, at worst and suspiciously, at best within society, but Lean, eager to prove himself in his own way, quickly sees the value and intelligence in Grey’s methods, and the two slowly forge a friendship and are at ease in one another’s company. Their dialogue and humor was refreshing, particularly when (inevitably) compared to the Holmes/Watson relationship. Instead of being the brawn to Grey’s brain, Lean is well read and able to procure plenty of evidence on his own. Plus, the two rely on Dr. Steig and Helen Prescott as sounding boards, and the conclusion is definitely a team effort.

As much adventure as it is mystery, The Truth of All Things is perfect for a steamy sunny evening with enough suspense that you’ll want to keep on a nightlight or two.

Buy your copy from Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Interested in winning a copy of The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields? Just leave a comment below (with your email address) by Friday the 13th (OooOoooo!) for a chance to win!

UPDATE: Congrats Meg! You won a copy of The Truth of All Things.

Psst! Check out last week’s post to see if you won my giveaway for a BEA tote bag & books.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Review and Giveaway!

5th January 2012

*This book was sent to my by Lindsay at Viking/Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

The first novel in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is Diana Bishop’s story. Linked to witches before her, all the way to Salem, Diana shuns magic…except for every once in a while when her washing machine overflows. She’s stringent, always on guard against it, though her academic studies bely her interests. Diana studies alchemy, those intersections between magic and science. Much to her aunt’s dismay, once Diana’s parents died in Nigeria under mysterious circumstances, Diana has wanted nothing to do with her heritage. However, a strange book she calls for in the Bodleian Library at Oxford will change all that. The book, Ashmole 782, apparently interests all the magical world as its secrets pertain to them, and Diana’s research will lead her much deeper into the world of witches, vampires (and one particular vampire), and daemons than she ever wanted to go.

I have this bad habit. It’s kind of a secret, but when everyone and their mom is reading a particular book or talking about it, I am instantly turned off. Can’t help it. My sister thinks I’m a book snob, but I swear I’m not. You guys see what I read. It’s varied. I don’t only read highbrow books. Anyway, somebody stop this incessant rambling!

So. Discovery of Witches was one of those books. My mom and sis both read it. Every blogger I could imagine read and loved it. It was too much. But the fuss died down, and Lindsay at Viking sent me the paperback. Oh. My. Gosh. I can only liken my response to my total annihilation of Hostess cupcakes, should they ever be near me. It looks a little something like this…

and please, oh please do not Google "animal eating quickly" - it's disturbing

But yeah – that’s about right. I know those Hostess cupcakes aren’t really the best thing for me, but they taste. so. damn. good. Similarly, A Discovery of Witches is not the best thing for me. Why? Because seriously, Diana’s love interest, the vampire Matthew Clairmont, reminds me of one of my eternal loves – Jamie from Outlander, who turns my insides to mush. (Side note: if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you.) I felt like I was making moony eyes every time he walked in the room – Matthew, that is.

Diana meets Matthew when she thinks she’s unobserved in the library and uses just a little magic to pull a book from a high shelf. Instantly, she senses Matthew’s presence. In Harkness’s world, vampires, witches, and daemons don’t associate with one another. However, after Diana has put back Ashmole 782, suddenly the Bodleian library is full of creatures, and Matthew is oddly protective of her. Think Twilight for adults but better written.

That said, I will say there were moments when my gagging from Twilight was brought forth. Similarly to Bella, Diana is often swept into Matthew’s arms somewhat needlessly. Diana is a strong woman, a well-respected academic who has lived on her own and fended for herself. Her personality changes, though, as she and Matthew become involved. Granted, she is overwhelmed at her sudden re-entrance into the magical world and its secrets, but it grated. The story sucked me in nonetheless.

The other thing that bothered me were the sometimes blatant means of exposition. Diana uses the word chimera, but her witch aunt asks what it is, leading to the author’s definition of the creature. First, I already knew what a chimera is, and I was pretty darn sure a witch would as well. To me, this type of explanation is a bit lazy.

BUT. If you’re looking for a can’tputitdownnotgoingtosleepuntilIfinishthisbook, read this one and get ready for the second in the series this July. I assure you I will be.

[P.S. I didn’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve read this, do you see the Outlander parallel? Or is it just me?]

[P.P.S. Don’t miss Steph (from Steph & Tony Investigate) interviewing Deborah Harkness at BookPage. I knew there had to be an Outlander connection.]

Oh wait! I promised a giveaway, didn’t I? Thanks to the people at Viking/Penguin, I am giving away a paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment, including your email address, telling me your biggest literary crush. So go on, do it!