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Book Review: The Devil’s Diadem
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The Book Slave   |  
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The Devils DiademThe Devil’s Diadem
Paperback | Kindle
Written by Sara Douglass
HarperCollins Voyager
Release Date: July 26, 2011

Set in 12th century England, The Devil’s Diadem is the story of Maeb Longtofte, whose mother died too soon and whose father ditched her to serve the Knights of Templar only to come home and die, leaving her with nothing but rags and a name of somewhat low ranking nobility. She’s an orphan with no place to live and no dowry to attract a potential husband. It is her noble name that affords her the opportunity to serve Lady Adelie, Countess of Pengraic. Thus begins Maeb’s roller coaster ride to infamy and riches. But there’s a catch. Actually, there are several catches and twists and turns so mind-blowing, you’ll never predict what will happen next.

Sara Douglass is a master of foreshadowing. The tension is palpable in the very first scene when Maeb meets the Earl of Pengraic, a gruff, most unwelcoming man who immediately regards Maeb with disdain and suspicion, possibly because he walks in on her meeting his devastatingly handsome son, Lord Stephen, while the two are making goo-goo eyes at each other.

The Devil’s Diadem features kings and other nobility; knights in gleaming armor riding horses dripping in diamonds; murderous marauders; imps that smell like excrement; a plague with furry, yellow fungus; bloodshed, tears, love and sex; innocents that get swept up in tragedy; kirtles and elaborate hair; and maps of the Old World. And, of course, Douglass’ signature glossary at the end, which I found unnecessary as she does a good enough job explaining things via main character Maeb’s voice. It’s a nice touch, though.

A truly gifted storyteller, Douglass paints such lush, vivid descriptions of every scene that intimately connect the reader to the time, place, and people from beginning to end with zero lag time in between. The Devil’s Diadem is exceedingly well-written and extremely hard to put down.

The characters are all richly drawn and endearing, even the background ones, including Maeb’s horse, Dulcette. It’s a magical story with more plot twists and complex mysteries than the Coney Island Cyclone has clackity wooden slats, both being equal in the sheer force of their creation. From one page to the next, you never see what’s coming. While complex and action-packed, Douglass takes great care that the reader never gets lost in the tumult. It’s a true edge-of-your-seat kind of read.

Fantastic? Yes. And yet it all sounds perfectly plausible within the world of The Devil’s Diadem. You’ll wonder throughout if Maeb is just an innocent pawn in a devilish game of keep away or if she really is a team player for the wrong side. Truth is, you don’t quite know who is on which side, good or evil, but you’ll root for them all nonetheless, save for the few outright scoundrels. Will Maeb bring about the total annihilation of England or does she hold the key to its salvation? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Sara Douglass is the author of the Axis and Wayfarer Redemption trilogies. This standalone book is a marvelous introduction to her work for the uninitiated that left me breathless at the end and eager to read more of her work. Find out more at www.SaraDouglass.com.

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