Review: The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death

I received this as an arc from Netgalley for an honest review.

4.5 chocolate kisses

I am very hard put on how to write this review because this novel is unlike anything that I have ever read before.

It is both a historical and a contemporary novel. That was the easy part.

From the beginning, I had a sense of unease that I can only describe as the feeling I had while watching the movie ‘Alien’ for the first time at a midnight show the night it opened. Later I was to find out that the sound track had channel where they used the sounds of someone trying to catch their breath. So the novel had a delightful tension all the way through it. I just knew something bad was going to happen in the present and the past.

The story developed slowly with the historical and the contemporary meeting with a crescendo. It was excellently done, the characters well drawn and the world building – all I can say is that I am very glad I did not live in 16th century Eastern Europe. The world was a visceral experience, at times I thought perhaps I could even smell the odors from the author’s description.

Quite fab story and I would read this author again. I have a little hope that she will continue with these characters in another story, but there is no cliffhanger and as a stand alone it is fine.

There is some romance, just enough to keep me happy that there was a connection on that level. And in fact, I liked the amount just fine and prefer it at this point in my reading life.

I enjoyed this book because both the historical and the contemporary dealt with the unseen in the spirit world very differently than a normal paranormal or urban fantasy story. The was an awareness that this is not just a normal day, that they were delving in dangerous things and this gave it an edginess that I liked. Maybe it goes on my religious paranormal shelf, but that is not quite right either.

Also, this was a refreshing look at a historical character who was known as a monster and how she came to be that way. This was very satisfying and intriguing because it was a culmination of entitlement, curses, magic that was interwoven into the very fabric of the time and the juxtaposition with historical and contemporary was very telling in how much of the unseen is discarded in contemporary approach to puzzles. It is more empirical – for better or worse.

I recommend this book to people who like dark fantasy.

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