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Herculine is only six-years-old when she watches her mother die horribly and inexplicably. A child alone in the nineteenth-century French countryside, she makes her way to the secluded convent, 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 i Herculine is only six-years-old when she watches her mother die horribly and inexplicably. A child alone in the nineteenth-century French countryside, she makes her way to the secluded convent, 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, forebidding 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 saviors 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.


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Herculine is only six-years-old when she watches her mother die horribly and inexplicably. A child alone in the nineteenth-century French countryside, she makes her way to the secluded convent, 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 i Herculine is only six-years-old when she watches her mother die horribly and inexplicably. A child alone in the nineteenth-century French countryside, she makes her way to the secluded convent, 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, forebidding 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 saviors 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.

30 review for The Book of Shadows

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Please note: I read and reviewed this book in June 2011 from a copy I purchased for myself. I'm just adding some formatting. My response to negative reviews: I'd like to address the various negative reviews I've seen; many people have complained about the eroticism of this book. While there are indeed some sensual scenes, they are much milder than in many books I have read. I think the main problem that people have is with the bisexual aspect of it. If that will bother you, then this is obviously Please note: I read and reviewed this book in June 2011 from a copy I purchased for myself. I'm just adding some formatting. My response to negative reviews: I'd like to address the various negative reviews I've seen; many people have complained about the eroticism of this book. While there are indeed some sensual scenes, they are much milder than in many books I have read. I think the main problem that people have is with the bisexual aspect of it. If that will bother you, then this is obviously not a book you should read. (You should also avoid anything by Gary Jennings) Other people complained that the book was too long, too detailed, boring. This dumbfounds me - the details bring this book to life; the story flows smoothly and I was not ready for the book to end. True, those with the shortened attention span brought on by watching too much TV would probably have trouble with this book, but I expect more from readers. Nevertheless, each person is entitled to his or her own opinion, so let me give you mine - it's better than yours ... ;-) My Synopsis: "The Book of Shadows" is a voyage of discovery for young Herculine, who was orphaned at a young age (she thinks she was 5 or 6) and raised in a convent/boarding school by nuns and among the young ladies being trained there upon the wishes of their families. Herculine never felt a sense of belonging - instead, feeling like an outsider. Shy, withdrawn, and quiet, Herculine had few friends. Then the arrival of Peronette, the Mother Superior's niece, threw everything into disarray. Soon Herculine is accused of witchcraft. Locked into one of the convent's libraries overnight, Herculine is close to despair when a group of people - a succubus, an incubus, a demon and a witch - arrive and help Herculine to escape. Herculine IS a witch, and Sebastiana D'Azur - the witch who rescues Herculine - starts to instruct Herculine on some of the aspects of the Craft. The Characters: I won't go any more into the story than that, so as to avoid any spoilers. Herculine is a very complex character and one I enjoyed getting to know. Sebastiana is a somewhat mysterious character - we learn much of her, but there is much we do not know. Father Louis and Madeline are incubus and succubus, and dis-incarnate. They can take form, but it takes energy to do so. Finally, Asmodei (who is really quite a jerk) is believed by Sebastiana to be a descendant of the demon Asmodeus. My Review: As I stated above, the story flowed smoothly and, for me, it was a relatively quick read. I'd have been done sooner if it weren't that I've been feeling poorly and had to spend so much time sleeping. I found the details to be lush and vibrant, the story coming alive for me in a way few stories have. If you do not feel you would be offended by the few sex scenes (which, again, are pretty tame compared to, say, a romance novel - the only difference is the occasional bisexual aspects of it) and you enjoy a tale of growth and self-discovery, I think you'd like this story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    James

    i try not to hate on too many books. i mean, if i'm going to devote a huge chunk of my time and brain to a book, i always try to find something worthwhile in it. but i hated this book. i tried so, so long to hold onto my fleeting hope that there was something worthwhile in its pages. i told my self (in vain) that it was at the least technically well-written. but lordy, lordy, how BORING it is. a nearly-500 page book made up of 20% story and 80% minutiae. ugh. for the life of it, this book couldn' i try not to hate on too many books. i mean, if i'm going to devote a huge chunk of my time and brain to a book, i always try to find something worthwhile in it. but i hated this book. i tried so, so long to hold onto my fleeting hope that there was something worthwhile in its pages. i told my self (in vain) that it was at the least technically well-written. but lordy, lordy, how BORING it is. a nearly-500 page book made up of 20% story and 80% minutiae. ugh. for the life of it, this book couldn't decide what it wanted to be. does it want to be a gothic horror novel as it claims to be? well, apparently not, because it's absolutely not. does it want to be a chronicle of the french revolution? it spends a good chunk of time doing so, but no, that still doesn't really seem like what it wants to be. does it want to be a french travelogue? here, it spends nearly all of its time doing so, but the biggest fault of all is that it tries to do these things all and it does none of them well. at all. and on top of that, even while it's doing all of those different things stylistically, it's doing too many things story-wise as well. it starts off as the story of a young witch in a convent accused of crimes she didn't commit, jumps to the story of a lascivious priest and his fall from grace, goes back to the witch, turns into the story of another witch and her early life and talents...and that's only within the first couple-hundred pages. it's exhausting to write about and more than exhausting to read. this book was a chore to shame other chores.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Junkie for the Written Word

    The preface to this book should have read, "No homo." This book was meticulously researched and for that reason it got an extra star. Most of the time you find someone writing a historical novel set in the 1800s and they somehow know about things like chromosomes and the law of thermodynamics. I will name no names, you know who you are. My main complaints with the book were: A) Sex. Boring perverted sex that served no purpose. If there is a person out there who was getting hot and bothered by the The preface to this book should have read, "No homo." This book was meticulously researched and for that reason it got an extra star. Most of the time you find someone writing a historical novel set in the 1800s and they somehow know about things like chromosomes and the law of thermodynamics. I will name no names, you know who you are. My main complaints with the book were: A) Sex. Boring perverted sex that served no purpose. If there is a person out there who was getting hot and bothered by these sex scenes... well you need more help than the psychological sciences can provide. A 3 hour tv special featuring Dr. Phil, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Oz and Maury would only scratch the surface of how fucked up you are. B) The devil is in the details. Especially when you provide too damn many of them. It was like Gone With the Wind without the epic and sweeping tale to get you through the wagon inventory. C) The hero/heroine had no personality other than afraid/horny. Lick a frog and die already. D) The portrayal of witchcraft is insane. One moment it's not evil and can be used for good and the next moment old hags are having orgies with cloth dildos and unexpectedly causing the french fucking revolution. WTF?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Wait, there's a sequel to this? gtfo. You know what's really sad? When you pick up a book, and it starts amazingly, and you're sucked in right away... because the story is fascinating, and the writing is so lush - a little bit wordy, maybe, but still very pretty. And you're all gleeful that you've found a five-star book, after you've put off reading it for so long because it's 70,000 pages long with the world's tiniest font. When there's ALL THAT, and then you end up giving it TWO STARS. Ugh. The s Wait, there's a sequel to this? gtfo. You know what's really sad? When you pick up a book, and it starts amazingly, and you're sucked in right away... because the story is fascinating, and the writing is so lush - a little bit wordy, maybe, but still very pretty. And you're all gleeful that you've found a five-star book, after you've put off reading it for so long because it's 70,000 pages long with the world's tiniest font. When there's ALL THAT, and then you end up giving it TWO STARS. Ugh. The start was so promising. The first hundred pages or so, with Herculine in the convent, being led astray by Peronette... that was wonderful. When it all began to go pear-shaped for her and suddenly she's being accused of being a witch, that was thrilling and fascinating. And then it just all started to go pear-shaped. So, Herculine's in her barren little cell, and suddenly she wakes up to this kind of Little Princess-like scene, where someone's put out a banquet and a pile of books for her. And the books are all about witch trials and the like. And then we meet the corporeal but 200-year-old Madeleine and Father Louis, and launch into this wildly gratuitous fifty-page sex scene. Okay not quite that long, but IT WENT ON FOREVER. And I was uncomfortable. But then you know me, I'd rather read Enid Blyton. And then, after that, we go into their backstory. For, like, a hundred pages. Like, the book totally launches into this FULL other story which I swear should have just been a book in its own right! And that was interesting enough at least, even if I was a little bit "wtf is the point to this..?" ALSO, it was completely horrifying and gratuitous in its descriptions yet again... like when Father Louis was having his legs crushed, and we go through the smashing of every single one of his bones. DO NOT WANT. Then, okay, the scene where they turn awful Sister Claire into a clone of Herculine, so they can smuggle out the real Herculine and no one will ever be any the wiser, that was insanely awesome and creepy. By this stage, I'd only dropped my five down to a four. Then part two just really started to lose it. And lose me. So they've taken Herculine to the creepy castle in the woods or something, where we also meet Sebastiana (actually, I think she appeared before, to help do away with Sister Claire) and Asmodei, who's a demon. And also a complete and utter twat. And this is when I really start to raise one eyebrow and kind of want to throw the book across the room. Although the bickering between Asmodei and Sebastiana was pretty fun. Though that wasn't really enough to make up for everything else. Oh and did I mention that Madeleine died after she, like, ripped out her own throat? And her ghost/whatever still bleeds profusely, which is the most disgusting and disturbing thing EVER. And then Herculine is given Sebastiana's "book of shadows" to read. And so we get to read along with her too. For, I'm not kidding here, 62 pages. Yeah, that's all, just a quick little FIVE DOZEN PAGE EXCERPT. Which I completely ended up skipping, because it was just so uninteresting I could have wept, omg. It all could have been so easily condensed down into like five pages... or, again, the author could have just damn well written another book. And then, once we were finally out of that, the story just got even more garbled and confused. Apart from the bit where Asmodei tried to poison Herculine, that was mildly exciting. But the rest, I was just totally unaware of what the POINT was until they finally arrived at it... you're just lost for like 150 pages, until finally they go and free Madeleine from her weird bleeding state and return her to her grave and all that shit. Also, the character of Herculine after the excerpt was completely unrecognisable as being the Herculine from the convent. Not just oh, she's a bit older and changed - no, she was entirely different, and it was jarring! And then she got all into cross-dressing and it was weird because by page 400 or something, suddenly it really feels as though you're reading about a male character. I can't actually figure out if that's a clever thing or not. But she was just totally irreconcilable as the girl from the convent, and really started to feel like a young man. Okay, there was a bit more that I actually did like, when she met Arlesienne and was all trying to be gentlemanly, and Arlesienne totally knew she was a girl and decided to give her tips and stuff on how to pass better as a guy. Because it seems that cross-dressing girls are Arlesienne's clientele. I loved the line, "I thought you were a simple woman, a woman a bit shy in the sapphic sense - of these I've known a few." Hee! I could have read a whole book about Arlesienne and her adventures, she was charming and forthright and cheeky. It was nice to have a few enjoyable pages near the end, to sort of get me back into it a little, but in the end there wasn't enough there for me to nudge this up to three stars. This is NOT the kind of book I like. It was too weird as well as being far too long. And it's a shame because it did start so well. I loved convent!Herculine. She referred to another girl as a "bovine little blot", the setting was a good one, it was scary when she was accused... and then it just went wrong, SO wrong. Sigh. :P

  5. 4 out of 5

    Terri Kempton

    You know those trainwreck movies that are bad, but so amusingly bad, you stick with them until the end? This book is like that - in terrible want of an editor, both for redundant and contradictory content and for length (nearly 500 pages) - it's just awful and yet I couldn't walk away. Some points won for an interesting revisioning of Paris before, during, and after the Revolution. Some points docked for overly gruesome accounts of witch trials, tortures, burnings, and beheadings. I'm surprising You know those trainwreck movies that are bad, but so amusingly bad, you stick with them until the end? This book is like that - in terrible want of an editor, both for redundant and contradictory content and for length (nearly 500 pages) - it's just awful and yet I couldn't walk away. Some points won for an interesting revisioning of Paris before, during, and after the Revolution. Some points docked for overly gruesome accounts of witch trials, tortures, burnings, and beheadings. I'm surprisingly neutral about the many silly and overly dramatic sex scenes that tried very, very hard to be kinky - so hard that they succeeded in being kinky but not in being hot OR a part of the plot. Many, many points lost on a deeper level for trying to breathe life into the oldest, most tired stereotypes of witches, ghosts, and Christianity. If you want a timeless story of ghosts and love in the afterlife, read Peter S Beagle's A Fine and Private Place. If you're looking for a historically-based witch story, go for the Juniper and Wise Child books by Monica Furlong.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    Like Rice's Interview with the Vampire, this is sensual and sexual and interweaves a subject of the horror genre--in this case witches--with well-crafted historical fiction. Set in the France of around 1830, this is mostly the first person narrative of Herculine--the very name was a hint of her nature given the famous French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin. She is a man, a woman--and a witch. I found this novel a page turner--the details are lush and vivid without being flowery or overdone, makin Like Rice's Interview with the Vampire, this is sensual and sexual and interweaves a subject of the horror genre--in this case witches--with well-crafted historical fiction. Set in the France of around 1830, this is mostly the first person narrative of Herculine--the very name was a hint of her nature given the famous French hermaphrodite Herculine Barbin. She is a man, a woman--and a witch. I found this novel a page turner--the details are lush and vivid without being flowery or overdone, making you feel transported to another age, and in parts so suspenseful it was hard not to skip ahead to find out what was going to happen. I was particularly impressed with how the author used the lore of witches, both of the traditional kind that has converse with demons, graveyards and curses and the neo-pagan kind that can "draw down the moon." The story, through telling the tale of Herculine's mentor, her "soror mystica," Sebastiana and her companions, the incubi Louis and succubi Madeleine, ranges from the "Burning Times" of the 1600s to the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution to the Bourbon Restoration. A Book of Shadows, we are told, is "a record of life's lessons" and this one makes for an unusual coming of age tale, sometimes deeply weird, but one I found engrossing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    It was well written yet sloppy. Boring yet fascinating. And at the end, bad despite having a few good parts. Calling Herculine's convent C___ was a bad choice he repeated often. On one page alone, he referred to the convent by C____ 3 times, when an adj or verb would have worked better. He does with other places and names but not all. It was just so awful the writing choices made here. I kept looking for intention and failing, I have no idea why he made these choices. I honestly can't remember t It was well written yet sloppy. Boring yet fascinating. And at the end, bad despite having a few good parts. Calling Herculine's convent C___ was a bad choice he repeated often. On one page alone, he referred to the convent by C____ 3 times, when an adj or verb would have worked better. He does with other places and names but not all. It was just so awful the writing choices made here. I kept looking for intention and failing, I have no idea why he made these choices. I honestly can't remember the last time I hated a book so much. That said there is weird imagery, intense torture, and intriguing characters who are never fully fleshed out. The end of the book relies to heavily upon it's diary like format, with the author rushing off like 7 times, so the wrap up was like this is how it ended but it's not ended. I almost ripped that page out. This was given to me by a friend who didn't like it. And I still read it, because he was right, it's starts well, it has beautiful descriptions, and a good premise. But in the end I had to agree with him, this book failed all it's promising starts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dustin Wood

    I respect anyone that works hard. And I have no doubt that good Mr. Reese worked very, very hard on this novel. However, he worked too hard. There is quite a difference in prose that is lush and opens up to the reader as if he or she comes through a thicket to find an verdant magical glade and the sort that becomes obsessed with itself and stumbles haphazardly over its own love of the thesaurus. James Reese lapses into the later of these two quite often. His love of eloquent language is admirabl I respect anyone that works hard. And I have no doubt that good Mr. Reese worked very, very hard on this novel. However, he worked too hard. There is quite a difference in prose that is lush and opens up to the reader as if he or she comes through a thicket to find an verdant magical glade and the sort that becomes obsessed with itself and stumbles haphazardly over its own love of the thesaurus. James Reese lapses into the later of these two quite often. His love of eloquent language is admirable, but overwrought. The premise of this book is sound; the execution of it is maddening.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edwina Callan

    Finally finished this one! I can sum this book up in three words ... bore, snore, chore. The first hundred pages or so were pretty good but then it just derailed itself, turned into a travelogue, and droned on and on and on about not much of anything for hundreds and hundreds of pages. My advice is to read through the other reviews before diving into this book, it seems that most readers have not enjoyed this book anymore than I did.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This book… this book!!! Oh my goodness, what a train wreck this book was. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it was SUCH a pain to read. I literally had to force myself every single time. It wasn’t a bad book, mind you. The writing is very beautiful. Which makes it all the more sad because it was so very dreadfully long to read. You see, reading this book was akin to getting a history lesson shoved down your throat. Yes, dear mister author, we realize that you did a lot of research on the hi This book… this book!!! Oh my goodness, what a train wreck this book was. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it was SUCH a pain to read. I literally had to force myself every single time. It wasn’t a bad book, mind you. The writing is very beautiful. Which makes it all the more sad because it was so very dreadfully long to read. You see, reading this book was akin to getting a history lesson shoved down your throat. Yes, dear mister author, we realize that you did a lot of research on the history of witches and 18th century France, well done. But do you really need to include all these tidbits in there that really have no impact whatsoever on the story??? In effect, this book should have been about 300 pages. In reality, it’s over 600 pages long. Why? Because the author loves to hear himself talk (or in this case – write). He rambles on and on… and on. Some of the events in the book, which last literally only a few minutes, are described in over 100 pages. I’m sorry, but really?? If you’re talking about the same thing for more than 15 pages, you’ve lost me. And then there’s the fact that the characters are constantly arguing with each other, so conversations advance at snail pace. One dinner scene in particular, lasts over 3 chapters because people are just interrupting each other constantly. And finally, what is up with the 100-pages interludes with detailed back stories on minor characters??? Really, really unnecessary… So there you have it. Two stars. It should be 1.5, really, as I did not think “it was ok”, but I didn’t hate it either. I think it was this guy’s first novel, and he was still scrambling about a bit. I’m disappointed that the cover displays glowing reviews from Anne Rice and Diana Galbadon though (which made me buy the book in the first place). This is not in the same league as those two at all. On a final note, I’d like to point out some things that – although didn’t really have that much impact on the literary quality of the book – irritated me. First, the not naming of places. What’s up with that?!? He goes like this “I went to C----- and then I stopped in P-------- and this other thing happened in Q-----“. I mean, come on! What is the point of not naming these places?! You name other places in the book, like Ravendhall, Paris, Angers and several more… what is up with not naming those other places? Did you make them up? And if so, who cares? This book is fiction! Nobody expects things to be real!! And the second thing that was oh-so-irritating, was the use of French. And this irks me every single time an author pulls that stunt (which is – sadly – often). If you don’t speak a language fluently, don’t use it in your book. Yes, it may seem cooler (to you) to add a bit of French here in there… make it exotic… but if actual native French speakers read your book, then you just look like an idiot cuz 99% of the time, it’s full of mistakes. Actually, the French in this book was pretty good considering there were no actual grammar mistakes, but what was annoying was that it wasn’t natural at all. Had you asked a native speaker to go over it with you, they would have told you immediately. The constant use of “arrête!” to mean “stop it!” for example. Why yes “arrête” is the imperative form of the verb to stop, in French. However, we very rarely just use it alone like that. We’d say “arrête de crier” (stop screaming) or “arrête de ____” there would be another verb in there. Also, the main character often says “arrête” when she is talking to more than one person, and in that case, it should be the plural form, “arrêtez”. That’s one example, there are many others, but there’s no point in listing them all. I’m sorry if that makes me sound slightly anal-retentive, but it’s really annoying. Yes, your book happens in France, but you’re an English speaker and your book is in English. Nobody actually expects you to write in French. Otherwise, why not write the whole damn thing in French? No? hmm… So anyways, there you have it. My wonderful review. Reading this book was definitely a waste of my time. Although if you like witches, history, and terribly long-winded books, this might just be your cup of tea.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    Mixed feeling about this one... it had potential to be several good things. In the end, however, I feel that it pretty much missed the mark on all of them. In the "positive" column: Blasphemy! Witches! A priest-incubus! A bloody revenant! A hermaphrodite schoolgirl! In the "negative" column... a slow-as-molasses plot that suffers from ADHD, and an inexplicable middle-of-the-road approach to the outrageous subject material. OK, our protagonist is intersex - but this is no "Middlesex." This is not a Mixed feeling about this one... it had potential to be several good things. In the end, however, I feel that it pretty much missed the mark on all of them. In the "positive" column: Blasphemy! Witches! A priest-incubus! A bloody revenant! A hermaphrodite schoolgirl! In the "negative" column... a slow-as-molasses plot that suffers from ADHD, and an inexplicable middle-of-the-road approach to the outrageous subject material. OK, our protagonist is intersex - but this is no "Middlesex." This is not a literary fiction book at all, although the writing style isn't half bad. It's a trashy novel, at heart - but it's not nearly trashy ENOUGH. And when a trashy novel doesn't go all the way it just gets boring. It took me a ridiculously long time to finish this book; it just didn't keep my interest and I kept reading something else instead. A good part of this was the plot's lack of focus. Nearly nothing actually happens in the story proper. Our protagonist, on a sort-of journey of self-discovery, meets various other characters - and then the book tangents off wildly and spends so much time talking about whichever other character's back story that you pretty much forget where you were in the original plot... which wasn't going much of anywhere, anyway. More explicit sex with incubi, more perversion, and maybe a few orgy scenes thrown in could have elevated this book to a certain status... but the opportunity was missed. Reading this sort of felt like watching the R-rated cut of "Pirates." (There's no point, really.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    a_tiffyfit

    Enjoyable, but not wholly satisfying. Left too many unanswered questions and plot holes that needed to be flushed out more. And the ending? Hello Titanic...NO. I know this is supposed to be fantastical, but come on...let's add a little reality, huh? Enjoyable, but not wholly satisfying. Left too many unanswered questions and plot holes that needed to be flushed out more. And the ending? Hello Titanic...NO. I know this is supposed to be fantastical, but come on...let's add a little reality, huh?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Well, I got through it. I finished it and sent it back to the library, where it can stay. I didn't like this book. I wanted to. I wanted to for the historical value, the cool witchcraftery, the gothic EVERYTHING. But I didn't. It got too weird, too graphic, too erotic, too bizarre, and it lost me. Well, I got through it. I finished it and sent it back to the library, where it can stay. I didn't like this book. I wanted to. I wanted to for the historical value, the cool witchcraftery, the gothic EVERYTHING. But I didn't. It got too weird, too graphic, too erotic, too bizarre, and it lost me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christina Francine

    The Book of Shadows James Reese Harper Collins Publishers Inc. http://www.harpercollins.com PB 468 ISBN #0-06-621015-1 Hard Cover Review by Christina Francine How many people were brutally murdered during the Great European Witch Hunt? The numbers are as varied as the opinions and rumors. One theory is from witch hunting propaganda based upon theories from systematic studies from witch trials and speculation. It claims over 50,000 executions. Of that roughly ¾ were women. The other study is based on ac The Book of Shadows James Reese Harper Collins Publishers Inc. http://www.harpercollins.com PB 468 ISBN #0-06-621015-1 Hard Cover Review by Christina Francine How many people were brutally murdered during the Great European Witch Hunt? The numbers are as varied as the opinions and rumors. One theory is from witch hunting propaganda based upon theories from systematic studies from witch trials and speculation. It claims over 50,000 executions. Of that roughly ¾ were women. The other study is based on actual court records with information on gender, social status and occupation. This belief asserts that the numbers from the propaganda is too high, that most of the murderous slaughter was held on boarders of countries, and community based courts dealt more severely with the accused more so that civil or national ones. This study also thinks the number of women killed varies with the country. Either way research finds cruel torture inflicted. Some community-based courts were virtual slaughterhouses; killing 90% of all accused and both found overall that 75-80% were women. Why is it important to study witch-hunts? Because it still goes on today. Africa recently has slain a number of women they claimed were witches. There are also multiple allegations accusing satanic abuse to children made to police officers in North America and the United Kingdom. Historians have compared witch trials to the twentieth-century ‘demonology’ of satanic abuse. ‘The Book of Shadows’ is thrilling entertainment, yet reminds as a sharp, metal lid, of how terrible humans can be to each other. Reese begins his with a dire situation involving six year old Herculine and her bloodied, dying mother. With her last ounce of energy, the girl’s mother points to “the Stone,” a holy house in the French countryside. Herculine is raised by strict nuns to be good and God fearing. It isn’t easy being the only scholarship student and is made to earn her keep. Her grades must never go down either. This she does so well that she later is selected to teach and spend time with the Mother Superior’s niece. This is where trouble begins along with truths and awareness. In the midst of the slaps of reality is confusion, jealousy, lying, and murder. And as if this wasn’t enough for a ripening Herculine, a witch and a couple of ghosts enter her life. This results in further changes of reality. The young woman is thrust into the world of shadows. Now it is up to Herculine to save a tortured soul who took her own life and leaves a literal trail of blood whereever she goes. In order to help, Herculine delves beyond shadows and into what she’s always been, but didn’t know it. Can the soul of Father Louis help? Is he doomed to walk the earth too? What will her savior, Sebastiana the witch, do to help her when a warlock poisons her? Will her protective ruse be found out? Was she saved from accusers to later be persecuted and tortured as a witch? How would she deal with the biggest fact of all, that she is different physically than anyone around her? This is the author’s first novel and an arousing read. His characters are intriguing and believable making readers worry and care. The story is told in third-person and through Herculine’s eyes. It takes place during the early 1800’s in Brittany, Normandy, and Paris before and during the French Revolution. Reader’s attention is grabbed from the first chapter and held until about halfway. Unfortunately, Resse looses pace here. Although still mysterious and enlightening, the gripping urgency is lost leaving readers not as hungry. This story matches it’s eerie cover picture and will bring satisfaction to most supernatural horror fans, especially ones who like this kind of setting, but only if they don’t mind a slower pace. The topic does serve as a reminder too of how animalistic humans can be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    A mixed bunch this book. First of all; I have just read a lot of reviews tha say there was too much sex. On the contrary I think there wasn't actually that much at all. I have certainly read books with a lot more and with more detail. I love the historical aspect and look for books, a good deal of the time that satisfy that need! This book was recomended by one of my favourite authors; Diana Gabaldon so I couldn't wait to try it, and yes there were those parts that were well rooted in historical A mixed bunch this book. First of all; I have just read a lot of reviews tha say there was too much sex. On the contrary I think there wasn't actually that much at all. I have certainly read books with a lot more and with more detail. I love the historical aspect and look for books, a good deal of the time that satisfy that need! This book was recomended by one of my favourite authors; Diana Gabaldon so I couldn't wait to try it, and yes there were those parts that were well rooted in historical content and enjoyable and informative as such. I have to agree though with those reviewers that commented there needs to be more editing with this book; for the first time ever when reading a novel I skimmed through large chunks because it rambled on a lot in places, and yes I also agree that some answers remained un-addressed by the end. I have to say though that I enjoyed some of the charaters very much, in particularly the incubus and sucubus; their stories were sad but intriguing and their personalities quirky tinged with humour which I love. I have purchased the next in the series because I now want to know what happens next to Herculine but I fear I may be skipping bits again and nodding off in places........well, we'll see!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gbolahan

    Pretentious rot-gut. A convent named C-----. WHY WON'T HE TELL US THE NAME OF THE DAMNED CONVENT?? And all those DESCRIPTONS. I have had this book with me for years and I pick it every once in a while, aiming to patiently read every word and finally finish the book. I usually spend a few hours, mutter some choice...let's call them course-words at the author and his publishers and fling the piece of...let's call it sheets far away from me. My latest attempt was yesterday. I got cross eyed when the Pretentious rot-gut. A convent named C-----. WHY WON'T HE TELL US THE NAME OF THE DAMNED CONVENT?? And all those DESCRIPTONS. I have had this book with me for years and I pick it every once in a while, aiming to patiently read every word and finally finish the book. I usually spend a few hours, mutter some choice...let's call them course-words at the author and his publishers and fling the piece of...let's call it sheets far away from me. My latest attempt was yesterday. I got cross eyed when the little girl was with her dying mother, and she was deciding to not allow her mother's head turn too far right or too far left or else she would drown. And the stream was flowing, and there was blood, and mother and child were talking in italics without "quotes" and it seemed like telepathy, and the girl was crying, mother dying, them damn italic telepathy and that stream and that blood... Damn. I threw away the book so hard it's spine almost broke. I hoped the author has a telepathic connection To the book so that his own spine too could respond. I'm sticking to Harry Potter for my witchery... I think I'll scroll down and click "like" on any review that gives this book one star.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Carson

    Quite an amazing read. The first section is quite engaging in it's descriptions. It manages to be quite in depth, without being bewildering. I did have trouble with some of the scenes described in the flashbacks. I'm not a great fan of grizzly torture, but in this case of course it's quite relevant. The book is the first book I've read about witchcraft, which does not take a defined political stance on religion, apart of course from more naive fairy tale styled books. There are members of a numb Quite an amazing read. The first section is quite engaging in it's descriptions. It manages to be quite in depth, without being bewildering. I did have trouble with some of the scenes described in the flashbacks. I'm not a great fan of grizzly torture, but in this case of course it's quite relevant. The book is the first book I've read about witchcraft, which does not take a defined political stance on religion, apart of course from more naive fairy tale styled books. There are members of a number of religions in the coven, and the pagan versis christian question is explored without being belaboured. This book is certainly atmospheric, and dreamlike and takes the reader with it, on its journey. Reese manages to build quite a lot of tension in the plot, and leaves a lot unexplained at the end of this first installment, keeping the reader quite eager for more. Most importantly, the story is quite original, and effectively deprives the reader of the arrogance of assumption. There is a surprise around every turn.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Izlinda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The premise of the book seemed very promising and interesting; set in historical France it centers around Herculine at a convent. We get hints of how Herculine is "different" from the other girls, but nothing concrete until midway-ish through the book. Truthfully I could not finish this book as I found the writing a little too awkward (perhaps suitable for the narrative, first-person style, but suffocating) and too flowery. While there are erotic scenes in the book - I admit to flipping through - The premise of the book seemed very promising and interesting; set in historical France it centers around Herculine at a convent. We get hints of how Herculine is "different" from the other girls, but nothing concrete until midway-ish through the book. Truthfully I could not finish this book as I found the writing a little too awkward (perhaps suitable for the narrative, first-person style, but suffocating) and too flowery. While there are erotic scenes in the book - I admit to flipping through - right now I cannot stomach the thought of plowing through this to see why there are some fantastic reviews of this book. If the later part of the book is hooking, I think I would find it uneven writing. Perhaps when I'm bored I will try finishing this book. As it is, I am regretful I spent money buying this from a bookstore without any customer reviews to go by and being my usual cautious self.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This book was laborious to get through. The premise sounded interesting to me; historical fiction with a supernatural twist. Too bad all of the characters were flat and boring! The plot was incredibly slow moving and very muddled. The novel begins with a young French girl in a school run by nuns. She was orphaned at a young age. From there it gets crazy. Is she really a he? Nope, a hermaphrodite. She winds up outcasted by the other students and is forced to try to flee for her life. She is “resc This book was laborious to get through. The premise sounded interesting to me; historical fiction with a supernatural twist. Too bad all of the characters were flat and boring! The plot was incredibly slow moving and very muddled. The novel begins with a young French girl in a school run by nuns. She was orphaned at a young age. From there it gets crazy. Is she really a he? Nope, a hermaphrodite. She winds up outcasted by the other students and is forced to try to flee for her life. She is “rescued” by a group consisting of a witch, 2 ghosts, and a demon. They inform her that she is a witch, and a powerful one. From there it’s a story about this girl finding out about her powers. Her story of self discovery is boring, however. Nothing in this novel was able to grip me for very long. But, by the time I thought about putting it down, I was already about 200 pages in. So I skimmed to the end and didn’t miss a thing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenna

    I liked this book just enough to grab the second one in the series. That being said...For most of the book, I found myself thinking what the hell? At several points I was asked what I was reading. I have to tell you, I lied. Its an ok read, but youd be pretty embarrassed if someone said, "You know that book you were reading? I got it and oh my goodness, what were you thinking reading that?!" There was a lot of sex in this book. A lot. Not the normal kind either; The kind that makes you feel dirt I liked this book just enough to grab the second one in the series. That being said...For most of the book, I found myself thinking what the hell? At several points I was asked what I was reading. I have to tell you, I lied. Its an ok read, but youd be pretty embarrassed if someone said, "You know that book you were reading? I got it and oh my goodness, what were you thinking reading that?!" There was a lot of sex in this book. A lot. Not the normal kind either; The kind that makes you feel dirty just for reading about it. I really didnt want to, but my brain kept making me go back and reread parts to make sure I really read that correctly. And of course...I had. All in all, I wont recommend this book to anyone but if you do happen upon it, make sure that no one knows you are reading it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha Tomala

    Too much description! This is the first thought as I read this book. I love the storyline and the originality put into Herculine but really? Half this book was pages upon pages of useless description. I could not keep a clear image in my mind of what was going on because of the wordiness. The back stories of each character were interesting, I especially liked the succubus and incubus' stories. Sabine's was rather dull and uneventful though it did provide a good baseline for how witches act/are or Too much description! This is the first thought as I read this book. I love the storyline and the originality put into Herculine but really? Half this book was pages upon pages of useless description. I could not keep a clear image in my mind of what was going on because of the wordiness. The back stories of each character were interesting, I especially liked the succubus and incubus' stories. Sabine's was rather dull and uneventful though it did provide a good baseline for how witches act/are organized which I'm sure was its purpose. Overall I would say this book is worth reading if you can get through the details. You may need to skim, I confess I did this on some parts, but it is a wonderful storyline.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Naphtali Gaither

    I really, really enjoyed this book. It was well researched, the language was poetic, and the characters were complex. The only thing that prevented me from giving it five stars was Reese's endless digressions that would just drone on for pages at a time. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was well researched, the language was poetic, and the characters were complex. The only thing that prevented me from giving it five stars was Reese's endless digressions that would just drone on for pages at a time.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    There is a ‘perfect’ foursome of books that have reigned over my shelves for years. While I am generally not one to indulge in rereads, these are the books that find their way back into my hands (and my imagination) every few years. Clive Barker’s Imajica is one of them; Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey is another; Raptor by Gary Jennings is the third; and The Book of Shadows by James Reese is the last. I freely admit, the first time I tried reading this, I abandoned it. It’s heavy with purple There is a ‘perfect’ foursome of books that have reigned over my shelves for years. While I am generally not one to indulge in rereads, these are the books that find their way back into my hands (and my imagination) every few years. Clive Barker’s Imajica is one of them; Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey is another; Raptor by Gary Jennings is the third; and The Book of Shadows by James Reese is the last. I freely admit, the first time I tried reading this, I abandoned it. It’s heavy with purple prose, it’s slowly and awkwardly paced, and trying to discern a linear plot is almost futile. And yet, something about it . . . something about Herculine and Sebastiana . . . about Madeleine and Father Louis . . . kept tempting me back for another attempt to find my way into its pages. It’s hardly a page-turner, not the kind of book you sit down with and breeze through over a weekend, but there is something wondrous to be said about a book that was written to be savored, lingered over, appreciated, and enjoyed as the mood strikes you. It’s a book that has never taken me less than a few months to read through, but it is one that I love more with each reread. It is Herculine who drew me to the book, and Herculine in whom I become so much more emotionally invested with each read. She begins the book as a young orphan, and we watch as she grows up in a dark and drafty convent that teaches her to be afraid of her desires, ashamed of her body. Bereft of even the most basic compassion and understanding, she is left to struggle through shocking revelations about herself, coming to know herself as a witch and a hermaphrodite (intersex) through blood and confusion before being whisked away by a witch, a demon, an incubus, and a bloody ghost who lead her in the magical, mystical, journey towards her own erotic maturity. I loved how Reese dealt with first revealing and then exploring her gender, making it something substantial and significant, but never sensationalizing it. The way he bookends her blossoming with the awkward, taboo dabbling with another student in the convent early in the book against the more mature, compassionate affections of a professional lady late in the book is utterly beautiful in what it has to say about self-acceptance and empowerment. This is a story both Gothic and sensual, blasphemous and erotic, a book that has been regularly compared to Anne Rice, but which is really more akin to Clive Barker. Like Rice, Reese deals with heavy themes of witchcraft and mythology, but like Barker he substitutes spirit and spirituality for the trappings and hypocrisy of Christianity. Yes, it meanders between subjects and often loses itself to longer and more frequent flashbacks, but once you begin to see the connections, once you realize how and why Herculine’s story is tied as much to Madeleine as Sebastiana – all three of them tied by tides of blood – the beauty of Reese’s intricate narrative weaves become apparent. The Book of Shadows is a book that demands a lot of the reader, requiring an open mind as well as an open heart. It challenges our assumptions about faith and humanity as much as it does our expectations of narrative prose, and it asks us to be sympathetic not just to those ostracized from polite society but those damned by it as well. After years of scouring used bookstores I finally have copies of The Book of Spirits and The Witchery on my shelf, so the next time Herculine calls to me, it will be to continue her journey not begin it again. https://www.sallybend.com/2020/07/fan...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bat'El Shimoni

    In all honesty, I really loved the book on its onset. I was enchanted by Herculine's sensual self-discovery, her initial awkwardness, her character design and her voice. I was enamored by the author's writing style, at how he was able to write Herculine as an authentic person in relation to her incredible plot and setting. I was endlessly fascinated by the details of the convent and at the usage of initials when referring to some places (it made it seem more authentic). As a fan of graphic gore, In all honesty, I really loved the book on its onset. I was enchanted by Herculine's sensual self-discovery, her initial awkwardness, her character design and her voice. I was enamored by the author's writing style, at how he was able to write Herculine as an authentic person in relation to her incredible plot and setting. I was endlessly fascinated by the details of the convent and at the usage of initials when referring to some places (it made it seem more authentic). As a fan of graphic gore, I was amazed at the details of the torture scenes, of Father Louis' trial, and the mindset of the people within that specific time period. That said, I put only two stars because the portrayal of gender dynamics was what put me off. I highly disagree with the notion that sex is nothing more than a power play where the submissive will be wholly submissive to the dominant in all aspects of their being - sexual, financial, psychological and the like. I highly disliked Teotochi's dynamic with Niccolo, at how he could not escape from her. I also disliked Sebastiana's dynamic with her "boy", at how he was presented as a sex object and not as her equal. I believe that this book was written in part with a female empowerment undertone, which is a good thing for me as a woman. But for women to be empowered via putting men under our feet, that is a concept I highly despise. Because of that, even though I highly appreciate the book as a fine work of art, I rate it with only two stars and resolve not to read the other books in the series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lorna Beecroft

    I finished this book even though I really didn't enjoy it just because the premise was good, and I just kept thinking, this will get better, and I will get to the part where it all becomes worth it, however, I just never got there. I ended up just scanning many of pages just to get to the point. I really hate to give bad ratings, but this could be and should be so much better. It was a lot of effort to read for not a lot of actual enjoyment. It was very well researched, and I did enjoy that, but I finished this book even though I really didn't enjoy it just because the premise was good, and I just kept thinking, this will get better, and I will get to the part where it all becomes worth it, however, I just never got there. I ended up just scanning many of pages just to get to the point. I really hate to give bad ratings, but this could be and should be so much better. It was a lot of effort to read for not a lot of actual enjoyment. It was very well researched, and I did enjoy that, but there was just so much that was just plain annoying. Like, for heaven's sake, do you really have to call places by a letter followed by a blank like (the convent was in C_____) Give them a name for eff sake! It only added to the annoyance!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Krish Grey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read this book back in, oh, 2001 or so, and at the time I was a young teen and didn’t know the content I was getting into. I finished reading it and while over all I enjoyed it I just wasn’t ready to love it. I gave my copy away after I finished it and now I regret that. I’d like to read it again with a mature mind. From what I remember this is a unique MC that I’d like to see more of. While there are many representations of gender fluidity and non binary or intersex, this is the only characte I read this book back in, oh, 2001 or so, and at the time I was a young teen and didn’t know the content I was getting into. I finished reading it and while over all I enjoyed it I just wasn’t ready to love it. I gave my copy away after I finished it and now I regret that. I’d like to read it again with a mature mind. From what I remember this is a unique MC that I’d like to see more of. While there are many representations of gender fluidity and non binary or intersex, this is the only character I remember specifically being a hermaphrodite (and I don’t know if that words had been updated, but it is the only one I know for the description). I plan on rereading and picking up the sequel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bryön

    I feel in love with these two books and Herculine. Reading it you are vaulted into this world of Herculine. From school, Sebastianas home, to hearing the bells on the ships in the harbor. I’ve reread these books over and over. I’ve read many books that can take a reader into their world but this one actually broke my heart that would never meet these characters. Since the day I started it I would tell any other readers to please read it. James attention to detail and dept descriptions are so fan I feel in love with these two books and Herculine. Reading it you are vaulted into this world of Herculine. From school, Sebastianas home, to hearing the bells on the ships in the harbor. I’ve reread these books over and over. I’ve read many books that can take a reader into their world but this one actually broke my heart that would never meet these characters. Since the day I started it I would tell any other readers to please read it. James attention to detail and dept descriptions are so fantastic. Bravo Mr Reese. Bravo. Please PLEASE continue this story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lizcouture

    Fantastic read!! It’s not a book to fumble through at all. The book was researched very well with some memorable characters, believable plot and climax. It was well thoughtout and executed. True, the book is not for everyone. But it was for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Pivonka

    First half interesting. Last 1/6 almost unreadable. Heavy on describing the French Revolution (unrelated to the storyline) and obscure rural French towns as they travelled through, the plot and the point fell apart. I had to skip ahead by whole pages in order to finish.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Quirks59m

    The writing was good,(1star for the writing), but the story was not to my taste. Too much eroticism and too much meandering off topic. I kept trying, only 60 some odd pages left - but just couldn't finish. The writing was good,(1star for the writing), but the story was not to my taste. Too much eroticism and too much meandering off topic. I kept trying, only 60 some odd pages left - but just couldn't finish.

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