Jackdaw Hammond is missing. After helping to destroy the Countess Bathory during her previous adventure, she is possessed by the dark angel Saraquel, and is sleeping rough on London’s streets after attempting to commit suicide. Her friends Felix, Charley and Maggie are desperate to find her. Robert Conway, an exorcist working on behalf of the Vatican, is intent on finding her too. Saraquel must be eliminated, even if that means killing Jackdaw Hammond as well.
Meanwhile, in another timeline, the infamous Elizabethan alchemist John Dee and his partner Edward Kelley have embarked on a voyage to Alexandria, where the legendary Rabbi Loew possesses knowledge that will help defeat Saraquel.
And, in a third timeline, Edward Kelley’s pregnant daughter is menaced by the Countess Bathory, who threatens to rip the child out of her womb if she doesn’t meet the Countess’s sinister demands.
This is the third book in an ongoing series and, unlike many books that are part of a series but can still be read as a standalone by the uninitiated, this is extremely hard going. Maybe if this writer had read the two novels that precede it – The Secrets of Life and Death and The Secrets of Blood and Bone – we would have enjoyed this entry more, but The Secrets of Time and Fate is a frustratingly choppy experience with chapters that hopscotch wildly between their various time periods and characters that are oddly flat and uninteresting. Not even the presence of John Dee and Edward Kelley can liven things up, and the occult elements are unconvincing – in many ways, this feels like a very bland re-tread of The Devil Rides Out with a sprinkling of The Exorcist tossed in for good measure.
It’s a shame, considering what wonderful inspiration the characters of Dee, Kelley and the ‘Blood Countess’ Elizabeth Bathory must provide, that The Secrets of Time and Fate has turned out to be such a yawn. Maybe that’s part of the problem – what we already know about the real lives of Dee, Bathory etc. is already so colourful that any fiction, which is woven around them, has to be exceptionally good or it will suffer by comparison. Similarly, the rest of the cast needs to be equally as charismatic. Unfortunately, they aren’t. The Secrets of Time and Fate is derivate, plodding and curiously uninspired and we’ve all been down this road so many times before that you have to be a much better writer than Rebecca Alexander to make the journey worth undertaking again.
THE SECRETS OF TIME AND FATE / AUTHOR: REBECCA ALEXANDER / PUBLISHER: DEL REY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW