This novel is a magnificently ornate story of magic, supernatural beings and love. Actually it's mostly about love. I recommend it to anyone interested in yoghurt weaving.
When I first discovered that Merrick involves vampires, I almost shut the book immediately, since I generally find vampire tales to be either woefully predictable or nauseatingly gothic, or both. However, this book was a pleasant surprise because it filled neither of these qualities. The fact that a number of the main characters are vampires is important, but it doesn't dominate the story. Instead, the story is about a young woman, who has powerful magic – and her relationship with a much older man, her ward in fact – who happens to be one of said vampires.
Now I said that the book is not nauseatingly gothic, but be warned there is still a great deal of rich and colourful romantic language. The narrator goes on and on about Merrick's tender shapely breasts and her delicate clothes and her exquisite character that he loves so tenderly. A great deal of love flows between many of the main characters, which is beautiful, but in places it is also dark and twisted.
We see the vampires in action, feeding on the blood of the dregs of society; we see the witch in action, summoning the spirits of her dead sister (wonderfully named “Honey in the Sunshine”) and others; we see magical objects, such as a mask that allows one to see the dead; and all is watched over by the order of the Talamasca, a rich and powerful set of people who govern and look after the interests of all sorts of magical folk. One of the few gripes I have with the story is that I would have liked to have seen more direct involvement from these people.
I found it easy to follow, despite the fact that it jumps from one time frame to another quite a lot, as it is almost always focused and there are few characters.
All in all, an excellent read if you can put up with the romantic language that dominates it.