Alone among the young girls taught by nuns at a convent school in nineteenth-century France, orphaned Herculine has neither wealth nor social connections. When she's accused of being a witch, the shy student is locked up with no hope of escape ... until her rescue by a real witch, the beautiful, mysterious Sebastiana. Swept away to the witch's manor, Herculine will enter a fantastic, erotic world to discover her true nature -- and her destiny -- in this breathtaking, darkly sensual first novel.
Summary of the Book. (Taken from inside the cover)
Herculine is only six years old when she sees her mother die horribly and inexplicably. A child alone in the nineteenth-century French countryside, she makes her way to the secluded convent at C---, where she is taken in as a foundling orphan and raised by nuns who teach the children of the privileged to fear a wrathful God. But shy, unworldly Herculine is not like the others in this cold, forbidding place. And when she is led down a dark path by a rebellious fellow student, she soon finds herself convicted of crimes unimaginable.
But death at the hands of the ignorant and falsely pious is not to be Herculine's lot. Held captive in the convent library, she is visited by four unexpected saviours with timeless needs of their own: the incubus priest Father Louis; the tragic, damned beauty Madeleine; the demonic Asmodei; and Sebastiana d'Azur, a witch. By dawn, Herculine is free yet forever changed as she follows her liberators into a world of sensuous pleasures and great mysteries both wondrous and strange.
Secreted away in Sebastiana's once-grand manor high above the Breton sands, Herculine sets out to find out why she has been "chosen" and for what purpose. Her quest- ripe with erotic discovery, dark magic, heresy, and blood- propels her headlong through the perils of the age, across borders between the living and the dead, and back through a time when hysteria and madness reigned, when noble heads were impaled and paraded through the streets of Paris. For only when her mysterious mission is completed- and the terrible otherworldly roots of a gruesome Revolution are finally revealed- can she understand who and what she truly is. Until then, she must simply trust... and learn.
This book was a little slow starting for me, or perhaps it was just that I found the setting of a convent to be a little dreary at the start. Later I realised it was just necessary that the scene be set in a very detailed way and it helped me appreciate it a little more.
One of the many things I loved about this book, is the authors use of so many delectable words. It is one of those books which begs to be read aloud and on many occassions I did that, even though I were the only one listening. The vocabulary he uses and the vivid descriptions simply trip off the tongue in a way that is so rare.
One of my favourite paragraphs gives a wonderful example of his skill with painting a picture for the reader:
The sun had begun it's descent: that ancient place seemed goldcast...no, candied: awash in butterscotch and honey; with the river and the sun and the still air conspiring to set the scene to shimmering, as if beneath a rain of grated citrus rind and crystallized sugar.
This is one of those books which is just filled with passages which are a pleasure to read and which promise to linger for some time after. I dearly hope there is a sequel to this book as much was left unanswered.
Another of my favourite lines in the book was: His fingers teased my body; his smile teased my soul. I am not sure why my mind grasped that line with such determination to remember it but this is definitely a book that teases the heart and senses with it's content and teases the mind long after the final page is turned.
Definitely a keeper, for me.
Author's website: http://www.jamesreesebooks.com/
On checking the website, I was thrilled to learn that The Book of Shadows is book one of a Trilogy. The other two books being The Book of Spirits and The Witchery.