2017 READING CHALLENGE RECOMMENDATIONS
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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 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 crimesunimaginable.
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 rootsof a gruesome Revolution are finally revealed--can she understand who and what she truly is. Until then, she must simply trust ... and learn.
A work of stunning originality, gorgeous terror, and lush, disturbing beauty, James Reese's "The Book of Shadows" is a miraculous achievement -- a richly atmospheric, superbly rendered novel that brings to life epochs as colorful as they are chaotic. Rich with unforgettable characters and startling events, it is a masterwork of the imagination that will stand with the novels of A. S. Byatt and Anne Rice, Bram Stoker's "Dracula," and other classic literature of shadowy sensuality.
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