Last Autumn I reviewed Rebecca Alexander’s book The Secrets of Life and Death – loved it. This sequel is just as good, maybe even better. I don’t how it’s possible to describe an urban fantasy tale of revenants, werewolves and dark family secrets as “cozy” but oops – I did anyway. Both of Alexander’s books share the same earthy, cuppa-tea, toast-on-the-hearth, wool-shawled goodness – with a vampire and a warding sigil or two tossed in for suspense. There’s even a magic garden this time!
So we’re back with Jack, Sadie and Maggie, holed up – after Book One’s harrowing battle with the bloodthirsty Countess Elizabeth Báthory – at a burned-out Cottage in England’s Lake District. Cheers to Alexander for a sequel that doesn’t waste time “reviewing events” of the previous novel or info-dumping to catch up the reader (not needed – at least not for me – or perhaps deftly not obvious?). We’re dropped into the twisty mystery right off: someone has killed the previous owner of Bee Cottage, probably because she was a hedge witch in possession of a spell book that holds the secrets of an immortality elixir. No doubt the killer’s part of the ominous Dannick family next door, whose youngest member Callum is dying.
Meanwhile! Felix is off in New Orleans (spurned by Jack, who’s afraid of her love for him and her potential to become a vampire) investigating creepy blood drinking cults to find a cure for Jack’s increasing – well, is it vitality or demonic possession? And – like the first book, this one also follows the 16th century adventures (misadventures?) of the God-fearing Edward Kelley, who’s in Venice investigating a wolfish human family, the ancestors of the Dannicks. And later, he winds up hunting his nemesis Báthory, while in present day, Jack begins to understand her own horrible fate.
There’s much more – a pet raven, masked balls, wild wolf packs, Sadie’s mystical and physical connection to the garden. Things get a bit convoluted with muddled theories of magical genetic inheritance (I couldn’t quite reconcile myself to that – it’s either magic or it’s science and I’m a tough bird to convince the two can be literally or fictionally combined unless everybody’s mistaking one for the other, which isn’t the deal here…I don’t think), and I wish Felix and Maggie’s characters were more developed, but none of this derailed the story or the suspense.
I didn’t realize, until almost near the end of The Secrets of Blood and Bone, that what I appreciate most about Alexander’s books is this: they’re about resourceful women who look out for each other. Women who are imperfect, kindhearted, often fragile, stubborn, bound to the natural world, and quietly (or sometimes loudly) heroic. Where are more novels like this? I’m waiting for Book Three…
I received a copy of this book as a free ARC from Netgalley.